“My decision to go back to school and reinvent myself was not based directly on bettering my family’s life. But I knew that if I could change my path and make myself happier professionally, that life would then get better for my family. “
Megan Robinson is 36 years old and lives in Pingree Grove – a suburb of Chicago, IL USA with her husband, Shane. She is a Registered Nurse working in a cardiac care unit at a local hospital and a clinical preceptor to both nursing students and newly hired nurses. The couple has celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary this summer and can also celebrate another unique partnership, supporting each other in taking charge and creating a healthier, more fulfilling and happier life for themselves and their daughters; Mia who is 9 years old and Molly who is five and a half.
Megan’s story shows that we all, regardless of age, titles, income, education or backgrounds are capable of becoming life designers.
Megan made a plan to re-invent her work life by making the decision to go back to school. As a couple, Megan and her husband began eating healthier, quit smoking, and preparing for literal and figurative marathons. While Megan’s husband trained to crush 26.2 miles – he supported her while she ran her own “marathon” juggling demanding full times studies and family life with two young children.
How was your life before?
“Life was fine, I thought. Our girls were four and a half and about to turn one-year-old. We’d recently built a new, modest home in a suburban development geared toward young families.
My husband and I both had steady jobs with good pay. Like my sister, my husband and I were working together for a manufacturing company that was partially owned by my father. This wasn’t always the most peaceful arrangement. I liked working with my family members, but that also lead to occasional tension and maybe even over-exposure. For example, if my husband and I had an at-work disagreement, it would carry over to home life. This didn’t cause any serious problems in the marriage, but it did make for a few uncomfortable evenings at home. Or, if we had a disagreement at home, we had to work together the next day at the office. I do love my family, but it was just too much sometimes. I liked the job I was doing, but didn’t love it.
What significant changes did you make?
My father was reaching retirement age, and needed to gauge my interest in continuing to work for the company in the long term. When I had the choice to leave the family business and go to school, I knew that I was setting myself up for a career that I would enjoy for the rest of my working years. I would not have been happy working behind a desk in an office environment. That’s just not me.
I had previously considered going back to school to study nursing, but did not have the time or money to do so. My grandfather passed away right around this time, and he left me some money in a trust. I decided to use that money to take time away from work and head back to school full time.
In January of 2012, I went back to school to study nursing. I had previously graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2002. I always had an interest in science and medicine, and had completed many science courses to finish my degree. However, it had been so long since then, that I had to repeat a few courses and update my transcripts. My youngest was about to turn one, I worked part time, was a part time college student and a full time wife and mother of two girls. Life got a little crazy.
In 2013 and 2014, I entered the nursing program full time. I was in class two to three days a week, in clinical rotations once or twice a week and studied every night well into the night. My kids would sit across the table from me and color or do their homework while I studied for exams. They would be my “patients” as I practiced my physical assessment skills. Being that they were both so young, they did not remember a time when mommy was not in school.
My husband Shane did make a change as well. He and I started eating right and he starting exercising regularly with a trainer. He lost a great deal of weight and improved his health. As a result of his motivation, I also have quit smoking and made better lifestyle choices. He even finished the Chicago Marathon in 2015. He’s also been working on starting a career in real estate. He has taken the classes and is currently studying to take his real estate broker’s exam.
Shane was a tremendous support throughout my change. While I was extremely busy with school, clinicals, homework and studying late into the night, he would do his best to keep the kids occupied when I needed a little extra quiet time. He patiently listened to me when I was stressed out and afraid that I had made the wrong choice, or that I wouldn’t be good enough as a nurse. On graduation day, I could hear him yelling from the seats as they announced my name and I crossed the stage. He’s been my #1 supporter through this. I hope that I can offer the same support to him as he completes his career change as well.
What was the motivation for the change?
I was aiming to create long-term professional pride and satisfaction. I was initially scared to make a change and move away from the safe, predictable route. However, I knew that my family and I had to make this sacrifice in order to build a better life in the long-term. I knew that I had the full support of my husband and children to make the change. My grandmother, parents and my sister backed me up 110%. I was very fortunate to have been able to go back to school.
My decision to go back to school and reinvent myself was not based directly on bettering my family’s life. But I knew that if I could change my path and make myself happier professionally, that life would then get better for my family. While they were not at the center of my decision, our family was impacted greatly, and for the better, by my choice to make a change. As a result of this change, I have more time to spend with my husband and kids, as I currently work three 12-hours shifts a week. I have four days at home to spend with them, take them to school and go to their sports practices, games and other activities.
I look forward to someday having the time (and money) to travel both in the States and abroad.
What had been holding you back?
I wasn’t able to make the time or the financial commitment to going back to school full time. Having my grandfather’s gift to use to take the time off of work made all the difference.
Important side note: I had previously attempted nursing school back in 2002, after I had graduated from University. Nursing school was so different than any other educational program I had entered. I had always done well in school and got good grades, but this was especially tough. I was intimidated and let myself quit in my first of the four semesters in the program. At the time, I was struggling to find my adult identity. This challenge totally broke my focus, and I withdrew from the program. At the time, I thought that was the right decision. I worked a number of jobs before I worked for my father, but did not begin to build a career. In retrospect, I may have been afraid of failure in giving nursing school a second chance. I had a husband and a family to consider. I couldn’t let them down.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Time and sleep. It was very difficult to go through nursing school as an adult student with a young family at home.
… and what tools, support, or mentors did you have?
My husband, children and parents were my most important support system. My nursing instructors and classmates were key to my success in school. One of the most important mentors that I have had in my journey was my first nursing instructor, Mrs. Joanne Bohne. She has since retired from teaching, but has a genuine love of providing excellent, compassionate nursing care and the drive to teach the next generation how to do so. She offered to me her unwavering support and guidance as I progressed beyond her classroom, through the nursing program until I graduated with high honors. We’ve kept in touch since graduation and she continues to inspire me to do great things.
What is the best tip you can pass on to others?
Don’t focus on the fear of making a change. It will cripple your efforts and keep you from making the change. Also, build and foster a positive support system while making this change. You may find yourself desperately seeking support and guidance and you will need to have this support system in place. Do not be afraid or too proud to ask for help; this is NOT a sign of weakness.
How do you define success?
Happiness, genuine happiness. Money and material things cannot make you happy. I feel that I’ve earned a deep, personal sense of accomplishment in graduating from nursing school and finding a job that I love. I take a sense of pride in what I do when I am at work. My kids also think that my job is pretty cool. My little one even wants to be a “heart nurse” when she grows up.
DO THE WORK
Megan and her husband took the time to do the work and change their life. This is also the essense of the Good Life Designed online course, which offers six lessons to get to the root of who you are, what you want to do in life, and how to do it.
Check also: www.thegoodlifedesigned.com
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