April 28th, 2012
Casanova’s early ambition was to be a priest. One of my early ambitions—besides being a gypsy—was to be a nurse. This was because I read a lot about Florence Nightingale and I wanted to help people. I pictured myself walking among rows of men (cute guys) and I would have a lamp in my hand (Florence did in pictures) and I would be like an angel. Just being a nurse was going to transform me from a somewhat demonic child, to an angelic young woman. This in fact, never happened.
Florence Nightingale did her work during the Crimean War which was 1853-1856 and as I recall from history lessons, the first real modern war as we think of war—with trenches, modern strategies for warfare and telegraphs to inform generals of what was going on, but more importantly, it was the first war that was covered by the news. Once war was covered by the newspaper on a week by week basis, the deaths, the battles, the casualties, then you had the inevitable factor: People discussed war and wanted it to end.
Of course, that didn’t stop the countries of Europe from engaging in World War I which resulted in 15 million deaths and 15 million wounded. But World War II saw the deaths of 60 million people which was 2.5 % of the world’s population.
Back to my Florence Nightingale dream. I had plans to be a nurse and before I went to college I decided to work as an assistant at a nursing home. Let’s just say that it didn’t work out. There were problems:
1. I didn’t like bad smells; they made me throw up.
2. I really didn’t like cleaning up after people
3. I didn’t like being around anyone who was sick, hurt or lying in bed for more than a couple of minutes. Then I wanted to leave.
4. I didn’t get along with the other nurses.
5. I really didn’t like antiseptic smells, hospital smells or the outfits we had to wear.
In fact, nothing about it appealed to me. I have the greatest respect for nursing and people who work in hospitals, and I’m glad there are nurses and doctors, but it’s different to imagine doing something than actually doing it.
I was never in danger of the “Florence Nightingale effect,” when someone falls in love with the patient they are nursing while care giving. I can be all nice when someone is sick but only for a minute or two to get them water or even a piece of toast; that’s my limit. Then I hasten out of the room without a trace of Nightingale in me.
When I ask my students what they consider to be a sexy profession, the guys things women who work in modeling or cheerleaders would be fun to date. The girls like the idea of dating astronauts, pilots or the guys who ride the killer whales at Seaworld. That’s a small group. What about electricians, Target managers, or even lawyers?
By the end of 2007, there were over a million lawyers in the U.S., but there are only a few astronauts and guys working at Seaworld. Likewise how many models and cheerleaders are available? Might be better to set your sights on waitresses, nurses, or better yet, office managers, doctors or lawyers.
Writing and editing has turned out to be a better profession for me than nursing. It’s interesting to watch my kids choosing what they want to do when grow up and to think about how we can all still choose again and again to change our lives.