I spent a lot of time growing up waiting for the right moment.
I graduated college with the dream of impacting the lives of others by working on health care reform. I had grand plans to complete a master's degree, PhD, and work for Medicare, Medicaid, Department of Health and Human Services, or maybe even NIH as a groundbreaking, forward-thinking, out-of-the-box, just a little bit crazy, researcher!
And... the stars never aligned for one reason alone. It's hard to explain, so I've got a screenshot below:
The above image is my student loan balance as of today, December 17, 2019. When I look at it, I don't know whether to be proud, sad, cry, ashamed, embarrassed. I don't ask myself if it was worth it anymore, I cannot change the past. I know that I am extremely proud of myself for pushing through and completing my education - but if I could go back to when I was 17-years-old deciding whether or not to attend Penn, would I make the same choice knowing what I know now? (I think I probably would have....but that's a story for another time). Would I decide to complete my master's degree as quickly knowing what I know now? Who knows. After my first few years of working at the bedside, I knew I needed to return to school in order to tackle problems in health care at a systemic, national level. I don't regret what I have accomplished, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there are days when I look at these numbers and struggling to come to terms with the reality of what this picture (quite literally) does to my financial goals of buying a home and having kids.
This is a very brief answer to the question - why now? Because if not now - then when? The stars will not align properly to a point where financially I feel comfortable enough to jump head-first into a PhD program, as much as I would absolutely love to at this moment.
So instead of feeling stuck - I started thinking out-of-the-box. What could I do now to impact the lives of others? To bring real, lasting change to address the problems of the communities around me? How could I help others in the way I so desperately wanted? The answer? Run for Congress.
Making this decision wasn't easy. After committing, a wave of self-doubt almost threatened to wash away the whole campaign. Am I prepared enough? Do I have enough experience? How can I prove to people that I am committed to this role, that I am not here to be a figurehead - but to work hard and change the world?
Here - I can look at my student debt numbers and know that I have been influenced and trained by some of the most wonderful, critical thinkers in the world - nurses at Penn and the nurses I work with everyday. Those are the people who inspire me. Throughout history, nurses have been called upon to make something out of nothing, solve problems with limited resources, and lead the path to change.
At the risk of sounding too cliche, I believe that everything in my life has led me to this path. And I'm finally stepping-up and being brave enough to take it.