It was plainly naive of me to imagine that embarking on a postgraduate nursing program would catapult me back to the heady and carefree days of studentship. I firmly believed it would be a racy year devoted to excess alcohol consumption and an inexhaustible supply of unbridled liaisons. The reality erred more on the side of reclusive state, tearfulness, and a bothersome aggression disorder. Furthermore, my awkward completion of an initial academic assignment precipitated an unsightly photocopier’s dermatitis, which necessitated steroid treatment and further confirmed my suspicions that I would remain sober and chaste for the duration of the program.
A SPECTACLE OF WORD PROCESSING WISDOM
Resigning myself to a fate similar to that of an enclosed order, I decided that the acquisition of a computer would clinch my success in the academic arena. I had no doubt that a computer, which boasted “predictive text” would dutifully interpret and transmit my unconcieved thoughts. On the contrary, the computer showed blatant disregard for my commands and displayed serious intent to misrepresent my genius. In an effort to console myself I sparkled at the idea of securing a pair of reading glasses that would make me look profound and inspire my writing, but was torn between tortoise-shell and horn-rimmed glasses. Not requiring a prescription I eventually settled on a Groucho Marx-like pair that I acquired in a euro shop. Naturally, as a solemn word technician I speedily deemed the accompanying nose and moustache surplus to my requirements. Having sustained successive injuries while wearing these glasses, it became obvious that this “Marxist” approach was misguided. Following serious prompting from my academic advisor and the emergency room physician, I surrendered myself to the necessary evil of actually reading nursing literature to instigate my writing.
THE LIBRARY AND THE LABYRINTH
Possessing only murky memories of the library from my undergraduate years, I was rendered inept and bumbling in this mind-boggling environment. My mature recollection of the library was that it was a place visited upon only by the medical profession and skinflints scrounging a read of the Irish Times. I was convinced it would not cater for a 30-something year old, born-again nursing student with academic notions clearly above her station.
...I sparkled at the idea of securing a pair of reading glasses that would make me look profound and inspire my writing, but was torn between tortoise-shell and horn-rimmed glasses.
Copious botched attempts to locate relevant articles along dusty shelves and unrewarding rummages around the World Wide Web reinforced the hopeless conclusion that I was indeed unmatched to the task. Having exhaustively perused this den of academia, I wanted nothing more than to press a gin and tonic against my lips and resume my abandoned life of watching mindless, never-ending soap operas.
RUSHED AND RASHED
To compound the matter, the vastness of nursing literature was certainly not in agreement with the time constraints of the program. Owing to the constant time pressure, my car was frequently abandoned as close to the hospital library as possible. For that reason it was not unusual to find my windshield dashed with parking violation stickers, which led to grave obstruction of my driving view. Consequently, I could only negotiate corners that I had committed to memory. Needless to say, a shadow swooped down upon the prospect of me basking in even a glimmer of success. The only glow that was now apparent was from the momentum of my nervous eczema competing with my unremitting photocopier’s dermatitis. Concurrently the presence of acid reflux problems began to rear their unpalatable head. Education was adversely affecting my health.
LOGIC AND LITHIUM
If locating the appropriate information for academic assignments posed a threat to my well being, it was nothing compared to the constipating process of logic, reason, and deliberation. My initial attempts were dependent on the sacrilegious act of replicating the work of others. Fortunately, during the trial assignment phase, I received the benefit of exorcism to cleanse me of my pesky inclination to plagiarism. I narrowly averted eternal damnation.
Recognizing my literary weaknesses, I desperately directed my efforts toward gleaning points for meticulous punctuation, neatness, careful referencing, and spelling my name correctly. My efforts rapidly developed into a niggling obsessive-compulsive disorder wherein I was roused from sleep at 3.00 am by the irrepressible urge to replace a semicolon by a comma. My hard work was rewarded by being chased around the sitting room by my mother and a complete stranger who claimed they wanted to give me a flu injection.
In hindsight I suspect it was lithium. I resisted valiantly but subsequently received the obscured form in my lamb chops.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Happily, all was not lost, as the benefit of mind-altering medication led me to the discovery of link words. These invaluable transition words bestowed a sense of finesse upon my assignments and firmly transformed my prose into poetry. I was undone, transfixed by the academic experience and dedicated to the boundless possibilities of literary expression. Laboring tirelessly in my soundproofed and padded basement to recreate the perfect assignment, I became so submerged that if I was disturbed from my precious work, a growling aggressive side to my personality became apparent accompanied by brief interludes of wanting to write the assignment in bile and bind it in blood red. My family cautioned that there was a fine line between industrious and crazy and I was flirting with it outrageously. Nonetheless, they indulged me for quite some time and, confidently attired in riot gear, they offered me snacks, cups of tea, and the occasional lamb chop through a hatch in the basement door.
DICKENS AND THE ROMANIAN MEDIUM
Reconciling my clinical placements with the strain of my academic commitments also proved problematic. I was constantly exhausted. Inevitably, I would arrive in the clinical area bleary eyed, displaying curious involuntary movements which, by midday, progressed to a state of intractable drooling. I felt compelled to photocopy and to critically analyze at a whim.
I spoke in the same way that I wrote. Consequently, I was misunderstood by all; however, nevertheless, moreover terminology was clearly starting to infuriate my nursing colleagues. Fortunately, the assistance of a translator was offered to diffuse the situation. Disappointingly, my dependence on extravagant means of articulation was beyond the competence of the translator. It was decided that because I was communicating like a contemporary in Dickensian times, I might benefit more from the services of a medium. Ultimately, my challenging behavior and the costs of the dubious skills of the Romanian medium proved too expensive for the already creaking Irish healthcare system. To prevent the situation from becoming more volatile, I was tactfully assigned to the isolation bays.
THE FLOPPY DISKETTE AND THE HARD DRIVE
As if things were not combustive enough, the hospital was laid under siege by the threat of an incendiary device. Following evacuation from the hospital, I discovered to my horror that I had left a floppy diskette containing my most recent assignment inside the building. I swiftly applied the ingenious use of hospital linen to clandestinely reenter the intensive care unit and, clenching the precious floppy disc triumphantly between my teeth, I dangled. The army, civil defense forces, and fire brigade services thundered the insightful warning, “Hold on, hold on!” Helpless to their recommendation, I descended into the arms of two stunned ambulance drivers. In the process of being carried away by stretcher, I announced somewhat dazed to the baffled crowd and television crews, “Mayhem, chaos, and disorder. My work here is done.” When my senses returned I was convinced of the merits of saving my work to the hard drive.
PRESENTING THE PERFORMANCE
Acquiring presentation skills was also essential for the completion of my studies and proved equally as dramatic as my highflying antics. Having researched the matter thoroughly, I understood that vital to delivering an outstanding presentation was to capture the audience’s attention from the onset. Initially, I tinkereed with the idea of donning a high-visibility jacket and somersaulting my way into the introduction. Instead, I feigned an Oscar-worthy fainting attack. With my audience consisting of nurses, it was little wonder that my plan rapidly backfired. Without delay I was overzealously sprinkled with sparkling water, repeatedly smacked in the face, and generously doused with smelling salts. By the time I was ushered back on camera I looked like a misfortunate who was strung out on crack cocaine. Nonetheless, I was confident that the days and nights spent practicing my presentation with my cousin’s karaoke machine would definitely pay dividends. However, the audience became restless as I unthinkingly began my presentation by humming and swaying to the melody of The Weather Girls’It’s Raining Men.
I understood that vital to delivering an outstanding presentation was to capture the audience’s attention from the onset. Instead, I feigned an Oscar-worthy fainting attack.
Wincing at my blunder, I secretly willed aliens to take me away in a flying saucer. I stumbled my way through the presentation in a self-punishing fashion to a cringe worthy conclusion. Acknowledging the happy-go-lucky psychopathic glint in my eyes, the audience insisted timidly that my academic speaking abilities only needed to be tweaked.
My ongoing struggle with computers, deadlines, and the library ensured that my blistering skin condition persisted unabated, provoking a steroid-induced hump and morbid facial hair. Accordingly, I was not surprised that the aliens ignored my plea to take me into their travel craft or that the provincial newspaper declined at my invitation to publish my graduation photo. However, I did receive offers for my photos from various medical books and a traveling circus from Piccadilly. It was painfully obvious to me that I would have been far more attractive as a saucy, gin-guzzling minx than an astute academic.