Thursday, December 1, 2011

Welcome to the Real World

I'm feeling so badly for my sister H tonight, but also a little bothered.  As a reminder, she is seven years younger than me, and is in her last year of nursing school.  She's one of those people who it took her awhile to see the benefits of a college education, and as a result she's been waitressing since she was 18, and is finally (hopefully) on track to get her Bachelor's degree in May.

When I saw her about a month ago, she confessed to me that one of her clinicals this semester was not going well.  According to her, the professor took an immediate dislike to her on Day 1 when she showed up with all of her arm tattoos showing.  (She must have 20 tattoos on her body in total.  It's absurd.)  The professor told her to cover them up in the future.  I can't say I blame the professor.  She then neglected to turn in an assignment on time, and the professor wrote her up, and she started crying and turned around and walked off, and the professor didn't take that well, and things started snowballing.  The professor doesn't like her.  I got a message from H today -- a warning, in fact -- that she thinks this professor is going to fail her.  She assured me that she has tried to talk to the professor privately, etc., but that is going nowhere.

Here's what I want to say:  "Welcome to the Real World!"

Here's what I said:  "Hang in there.  I'm thinking of you."  (Well, more than that, but you get the idea.)

H has never had to grow up.  I love her dearly, and I'm not posting all of this so you'll think I'm a complete bitch or unsympathetic, but....she's 30 years old and her life has been all about fun.  She's been waitressing, which she is very good at, getting tattoos, going on vacations, partying with her friends, and being helped along a lot along the way by my mom.  Oh, and me.  I'm not blameless.  Three weeks ago I "loaned" her $3,000 because her gas had been turned off and she had no money but still had tuition payments to make.  I can't help it -- she's my baby sister.  My mom has always bailed her out in the past, paid her medical insurance, paid her medical copays, given her cheap deals on her old cars (oops, I did that, too), given her money when she needed extra, etc.  Dealing with her in this way hasn't helped her.  In fact, I think it has hurt her.  It's very hard when you have the extra money or you don't need the old car, to just help her out.  I don't like to see her struggle, and neither does my mom.  As a result, H has been able to float along in life, and to never really have to deal with reality or acting like an adult.  Someone always bails her out if she gets in trouble or spends too much money vacationing and having fun and as a result can't pay her mortgage.   

She doesn't understand adult things that are very obvious to me.  Like, if you have a bunch of tattoos on your arms, wear long sleeves for your first day of clinical.  Make a good impression.  Like, hey, you should be looking for a job by now for when you graduate in May.  All of your classmates were doing this a year ago, and had a summer internship in nursing.  What were you doing?  I think she thinks hospitals are going to come looking for her once she has her degree.  It's bizarre.  Like, when you have an assignment, turn it in on time.  Like, if you are ready to burst into tears, politely say "Can I take a minute, please," to go off and gather youself and don't just storm off.  You know, adult, responsible things.  Adult ways of handling things.   

I've expressed some of this to her before, but I don't like to give her unsolicited opinions like my mom does, because it really irritates H when my mom does that.  I'd prefer to let her figure it out on her own, unless she asks for my advice.  (After all, I did.  My other sister did.  My brother did.)  However, in her little utopian world, everyone is nice.  That isn't the real world, though.  I've had to work with and for some complete assholes.  I'm regularly dealing with complete asshole opposing counsel.  At least two new associates at my firm likely think I am a complete bitch, although if they talk to the older associates they will find out they will learn a lot from me.  I expect a lot.  Maybe this professor does also.  I deal with Judges who I think are idiots and who threaten to sanction me for stupid things.  I also deal with Judges who are smarter than me, and I've gotten slammed and embarrassed in court.  People yell at me at work.  I yell at them back.  Personality conflicts are not uncommon.  That's life.  Not everyone is going to like you.  However, as a professional, you deal with it.  Even if you are a crying type of person (which I am, too), you hold it back and excuse yourself to get yourself together, and then you deal with the problem.

I can't help her with this.  In some ways, it might be good for her to fail the class and have to retake it to get her degree.  I worry, though, that if she does fail it, she won't finish.  It's odd, because she is completely gorgeous and has a body I would kill for and was constantly praised and coddled as a kid, yet she has the lowest self esteem.  Part of the reason she didn't go to college for so long was because she didn't think she was smart.  Well, she is smart.  She's gotten all As and Bs so far in nursing school.  But this is the class that is the challenge.  Most people I know had that one class that was a nightmare.  I know I did.  I about died when I studied my ass off and got a D, but que sera sera, right?  Did it affect me in the long term?  No.  And now I can talk about that stupid class I failed my senior year in college.  Failing this class could do her in, though, as far as motivation to finish.  She's that type of person.  She thinks everyone is conspiring against her success and will just give up.  I guess I'm not like that.      

I really hope the professor is just pushing her, and will end up passing her in the end.  At minimum, this is a good experience for her to go through.  I don't think she quite gets that when she starts working somewhere other than a bar that she may have to deal with some condescending doctors and nurses.  She might have to deal with a boss who dislikes her for no reason.  That happens.  Maybe this will open her eyes.  At worst, she retakes the class.  I've realized as I've gotten older that sometimes things aren't as big of a deal as you think.  So what if she has to retake the class and she graduates a little later?  Who cares?  That will be a huge disappointment to her, since she is looking forward to graduating in May, and I know she will be horribly embarrassed, but...I don't know.  I feel awful for her, but at the same time, I want to just say "Welcome to reality."   


  1. Your sister reminds me of that old friend of mine that I hate answering her calls. Everyone is out to get her. She's the baby and her parents and husband have spoiled her rotten. Every job she's ever had, she ended up taking something personally, causing drama and quit. Every major she had in school she dropped when the going got tough. She's wasted tens of thousands of dollars on half-assed attempts at college. I think she just wanted to get married and be taken care of but her husband can't keep up with her spending and now their daughter is autistic, requiring expensive care.
    Finally at 32, she's in nursing school. Ha! Her mom and grandmother were both RNs. She's actually doing really well but I too fear that she won't be able to handle the real job when the time comes.
    I don't know what to tell you about your sis. What's meant to be will happen and you may have to bust out some tough love on her if she decides to quit school. I would be soooo pissed if she quit so close to graduating. That kind of self-defeating insanity can't be coddled.

  2. Sounds a little like my ex-roommate. She was 30 going on 15. She has a masters in library science but she can't get a job in her field because she screwed up her internship so bad that her supervisor won't be a reference. When she told me this, I asked what happened. Of course, the story was much more drawn out that this, but what it boils down to is: Her supervisor expected her to be where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there and to do what she was supposed to do. And she apparently couldn't handle that. She claimed these were "expectations" that no one told her about. I couldn't help myself and blurted out, "Sounds like the expectations at every job I've ever had." But to listen to her, this supervisor just didn't like her.

    So, all through high school & college, I was a super student. Like, As in everything. And then my senior year of college, I took a photojournalism class that was a joke. Like, we seriously spent whole class periods with the professor trying to google a company that his former students had started for photographers to buy & sell gear (we never found it). And it was at 8am on a Wednesday morning. And I just stopped going. And about half-way through the semester, I was buried in my thesis and I stopped turning in my photojournalism assignments. I met with the professor, but obviously he didn't really have a lot of kind thoughts for me, since I never showed up in class. He gave me an extension, but I didn't get my ass in gear. So, he failed me. And I DESERVED that F. It was my one and only F. Had I been smart, I would have withdrawn from the class before it got so bad. But I didn't. I just stopped going to class and stopped doing the work. It was MY fault. I would have been surprised if he HADN'T failed me.

    It drives me nuts when people don't take responsibility for their screw-ups.

  3. In defense of your ex-roommate FAE, getting library jobs is really difficult right now. People aren't retiring and cities, states, and universities have hiring freezes. I graduated in 2008 and have yet to use my MLS despite positive references from my internship. Oh well, work is work.

    Still, I think we've all dealt with entitled people who just don't get that sometimes you have to work for stuff. It can be hard to work with them as coworkers and hard to know and empathize with them as loved ones.