Not…Yet: On Growth, Patience, and Self-Compassion as a New Nurse

When I first started voice lessons, my hopes weren’t too high for myself. I certainly was not going to become that self-deceived girl on American Idol who thought she could sing, only to convince all 29.3 million pairs of ears listening in America that even warbling would be considered a long shot. Let’s be honest. If my teacher could just help me sing in tune more consistently, perhaps help improve my tone, and help me hit those high notes without tearing up my vocal cords, he would make my miracle-worker list. I was sure I didn’t have any ability to produce vibrato because only the specially-gifted people can do that, and there was definitely no way I had any ear for harmonies. But after a few years of lessons, this voice teacher has proven me wrong, and I am convinced that what has made him such a good and effective teacher is his strong belief in the process of growth. This makes him wonderfully patient and gracious as a teacher. Every lesson ends with him sincerely raving about how much I’ve improved since thirty minutes, two weeks, two months, a year ago. Every time one of his younger students blurts in a fit of frustration, “I can’t do this!!”…he always asks them to end that sentence with the short but transformative word, “yet.”  “I can’t do this…!  ….yet.” A renewed glimmer of hope. An extra measure of patience. Faith in the process.

One of the many, many reasons I went into nursing was because I felt that I had stopped growing in my professional life. I honestly enjoyed what I did before nursing. I was competent at my job and worked with great people, but I was so stagnant. I had stopped learning. I was becoming dull. So it was exhilarating to dive back into the books, to learn new and amazing things, to be stretched again. But given that the last three years of my life have been nothing but one steep learning curve after another, I had also forgotten how terribly uncomfortable it can be to grow. It’s kind of like puberty. Your clothes just don’t fit or feel right on your skin like they used to. Your voice is not as it was, so you’re always embarrassed, uncertain, awkward. You feel like people notice all your imperfections, and notice them profoundly. You’re growing and changing and it’s just so uncomfortable.

But that little word yet is what lifts my chin on those days marked with a particularly high number of foibles. I have deep appreciation for all the preceptors and mentors and coworkers and friends who always insert that word yet to close out the end of my more discouraging days. And the beauty of that little word is its ability to punctuate the end of so many different sentences – sentences about work, about singing, about building relationships, about being a better wife, about growing into a person of greater integrity.

And lest you think me naïve, I’m not saying that trusting the process, ending sentences with yet, necessarily means I’m going to become a rock star in any or all these areas of my life. But it gives me hope that by the grace of God, change for good can happen when I’m willing to let my voice teacher correct me. On the same things. Over and over again. When I’m willing to go through my really hard days at work so that I can learn to think critically and apply new skills. When I’m willing to be vulnerable with my husband and apologize for how my shortcomings hurt him, and give grace for how his shortcomings affect me.

And so I find that, under the grace of God, walking courageously and humbly through the process itself is the only way to actually experience the transformative power of that little word, yet. I am praying for greater courage and a humbler heart.

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