89: Makes Me Happy

89: Makes Me Happy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Makes Me Happy

The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.

~Max Lerner

War was raged in our house in late July with less than a month to go before my first day of college. It was a battle of wills, my mom’s and my own, over where I was to attend. She wanted me to attend the prestigious nursing school to which I was originally accepted, and I wanted to go to a small, private writing college with a student body of fewer than 300 students. Every night for two weeks, we argued, yelled, bickered, and gave silent treatments until both parties went to bed with regrets and frustrations.

It was mostly my fault. Since my junior year of high school, I had aimed toward being a nurse. I took all the science and anatomy courses, applied for nursing scholarships, and even worked as a volunteer in my town’s local hospital. My goal, or so I told everyone, was to work on Mercy Ships, healing the sick and being Superwoman to the world.

Yet, as graduation and college neared, it all sounded hollow. Treating the sick and healing the hurt was a noble endeavor, but not what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. I could picture myself in scrubs, making rounds, and taking temperatures, but I couldn’t picture myself happy. It wasn’t the future I wanted.

Then, it dawned on me. I had been creating and writing stories for as long as I could remember. Even at four years old, I had my dad write as I told him the stories I had molded in my mind. It was my outlet, my element, and my medium of expression. I had written for my high school’s newspaper and attended a writing camp over the previous summer. I loved it, and writing was what I had always pictured myself doing as a hobby. Now, it had become much more than a hobby. It was going to be my career. It had to be.

Try telling your parents you have decided to give up a secure medical career for the unstable life of a writer. I can almost guarantee it will not go over well.

My dad acted as mediator between his feuding females, trying to make one see the other’s point of view. Neither side budged, and as time grew shorter, so did our tempers. Just saying the word “college” was enough to set off a whole new round of yelling. The tension was thick enough to cut, and the phrase “elephant in the living room” came to mean so much more to me.

It finally reached its breaking point when my mom informed me that if I did not attend the nursing school, she would not pay for any college expenses.

My desire was put to the test. Was writing really that important to me? Would I be willing to put in the effort and personal sacrifice to do what I loved?

For several days, as my mom’s ultimatum settled in, I wrestled with those questions. The more I thought and tried to picture what my future would become, the more I realized that writing was not only what I wanted to do, but what I needed to do.

What cemented my decision was when my dad quoted Thurmond Whitman, who said, “Do not ask what the world needs. Instead ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

On August 1st, Mom and I sat down at the dinner table and I told her that she had every right to choose where to spend her money, just like I had every right to decide where I wanted to go to school. If it was her choice to not finance any of my college education, then I would take a year off to work and earn money so I could go to the college I wanted.

I withdrew from the nursing program and began to prepare myself for a year of work and penny-pinching. It wasn’t a joyful choice, but it was a step toward achieving my dreams of writing for the masses.

Yet standing by my decision to be a writer had proven my conviction to my mom. She had seen through the years how writing had affected me and now realized that it wasn’t just a passing whim. Finally, we were at peace, and she decided that if writing was what I really wanted to do, then she would support me both emotionally and financially. Her support has meant the world to me.

Before that time, I had never stood up against my parents on any major decision. Choosing which college to attend allowed me to become a separate and complete adult away from my parents. College doesn’t just give you an education, it helps shape the person you become. I am now finished with my first semester as a Professional Writing major and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

~Nan Johnson

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