Graduated! What next?

    Graduate: 6. -verb (used without object): to receive a degree or diploma on completing a course of study (often fol. by from): She graduated from college in 1995.

Which is exactly what happened a few weeks ago, on May 29th, at Carnegie Hall, with all of the usual pomp and circumstance. And there was MUCH rejoicing! (w00t!) But first, I’ve got to tell you the story of how I almost missed my graduation, and how I managed to get to Carnegie Hall on time only by the very barest skin of my teeth.

Remember how I was in Chicago the weekend right before my graduation, at the ACNM convention? And remember how I was leaving on a flight from Chicago at 6:00 am, to arrive at New York’s La Guardia airport at 9:02 am, which would have given me plenty of time to collect my things and take a taxi to Carnegie Hall? And remember how I swore up and down to the universe that NOTHING could go wrong, period? Well, as it turns out, EVERYTHING went wrong. It was an absolute disaster. Now, looking back, it sure as hell makes for one fabulous story, but at the time, I thought my graduation day was going to be spent at Midway Airport, in Chicago, and I was an absolute wreck.

So how did this happen? Well, like this: most flights are overbooked, i.e. over-sold, and most of the time, this isn’t a problem. The airlines do this to protect themselves against the inevitable last minute cancellations and the people who, for one reason or another, don’t show up for their flight. However, when a flight is overbooked, and everyone DOES show up for the flight, there’s a bit of a problem, and some people end up on the standby list. How do they determine who is on the standby list and who is not? By those who have a confirmed seat v. those who do not. So here’s a piece of free advice: make sure you have a confirmed seat! If, for some reason you don’t actually have a seat number assigned to you or chosen by you when you book your flight, you’re assigned a seat number at the airport when you check in, which is all well and good assuming that there are seats left. But if the flight is overbooked, your seat number is assigned only on a first-come, first-serve basis, and if all the seats have been assigned, and you don’t have a seat number, you are on the standby list, and if there are no extra seats, you are S.O.L. Which is exactly what happened to me at Chicago. It was the day after Memorial Weekend, I guess more people had shown up than they were anticipating, the flight was overbooked, and I didn’t have an assigned seat number. Apparently I was supposed to have called two weeks in advance to confirm my seat number, but that was in the very very very fine print of the online ticket confirmation itinerary, which I failed to read (and which most people fail to read). So, I had a ticket, but no seat.

I was eighth on the standby list. There were absolutely NO available seats, and 13 of us in total were S.O.L. I can’t even begin to tell you about the fear and shock and disbelief I went through when I saw the door to the loading ramp shut and the flight take off without me on it. I think I made a very compelling case for sympathy as I stood at the desk in front of the gate holding my graduation robes in my arms, sobbing and saying things like “But I have to be at Carnegie Hall at noon because I’m graduating!”, as if just saying it would somehow make the Universe respond, or make another flight appear out of nowhere, but sympathy obviously wasn’t going to get me very far. There were no other available flights to La Gaurdia leaving from Midway that would get to New York in time. The next available flight on this particular airline (ATA Airline, fyi….I would absolutley, 100% NOT recommend them to anyone, and I will never be flying them again, period) was leaving from O’Hare aiport at 1:00 pm. My graduation was at noon. Cue panic.

There was another man (I forget his name) on the standby list who had a lecture to give at noon in front of an audience of 300 people, and there was another woman (Sarah) who had a job interview that morning which she was going to miss, and the three of us were the most desperate out of all the rest on the standby list. The man pulled out his laptop and started looking for other flights online, I called my beloved boy in an absolute panic, and the woman started looking at the departures board. We found another flight leaving at 7:00 am on Southwest airlines, arriving at 10:00 am…not to La Gaurdia, but to this very obscure, very small airport smack in the middle of Long Island (McArthur Airport…and no, I had never heard of it before, either). So, the next thing I knew, I was buying a one-way ticket to fly to Long Island, calling my beloved boy, and trying to figure out who to get from remote Long Island to the center of Manhattan in under two hours. Long Island Railroad wasn’t going to work—there was no way I was going to get to the train in time (it left once an hour, at 10 minutes past the hour, and there was no way I could get from the airport to the train station in 10 minutes). So then what? Driving seemed to be the only way forward, with all of the traffic jam perils inherent in that.

As luck would have it, my father had flown in from Nebraska the night before for my graduation, and he was staying with my grandparents, who also happened to live on Long Island (although much closer to the city than McArthur Airport). They had been planning on taking the train into the city, but after a few frantic phone calls, they agreed to meet me at the aiport on Long Island instead, and then we would drive into the city and make a mad dash for it. So now, cue short, stressful flight with me in a cold sweat the entire time, then cue agonizing drive into Manhattan, where every minute spent stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway was an eon, I swear. I bit every scrap of nail available to me; I bit my fingers to the quick. I would have bitten my toe-nails if I was flexible enough to reach them. The clock on the dashboard kept ticking, and with each passing minute, I was simultaneously hopeful and devastated. We hit a large amount of traffic shoftly after passing Manhasset, Long Island, and then we had to make decisions: Midtown tunnel v. Triboro Bridge, FDR v. going down 5th Avenue or Central Park West? Aarrrgggghhh!! However, somehow, miraculously, we were nearing Columbus Circle around 11:45 am (they had wanted the graduates there promptly at 11:00 am to get us lined up appropriately). Stuck in traffic again, I actually got out of the car shortly after we’d passed Columbus Circle, fully clad in my graduation robes, and proceeded to flat-out run the rest of the way to Carnegie Hall.

I arrived sweating and panting, was barely able to explain to the ushers what program I was graduating from, but somehow got pulled along to the right place in line, where I had just enough time to slip in between the other, much less sweaty students, and then the music started and we were walking out into the hall to take our seats. The ceremony began while my dad (thank you so much, dad, for your amazing driving!!) was still parking the car, but he was able to get a seat during a break in the speeches. I was so grateful to be there! I just kept looking at the beautiful hall around me, the other graduates, the stage, the speakers, with so much wonder and gratitude; I didn’t care how I looked (a bit of a sweaty mess), I didn’t care that my cape was askew (a friend was able to fix it while we were in line before walking across the stage), I didn’t care that the speeches were long, and somewhat boring….didn’t matter. I was AT my graduation, I was graduating, I was there to walk across the stage and receive my diploma, and that was all that mattered.

I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like now, to actually be a graduated nurse midwife. This huge accomplishment, this goal I have been working towards for so long, has been achieved, and I can look out now from a place that I have dreamed about being at for so long now…it doesn’t quite feel real yet.

And now, on to the What Next part of this post. What next? How do you actually go from being a graduated nurse midwife to being a real, employed midwife, with a license and a degree and a job? Well…that is the new adventure I am about to embark upon. I’m taking the national midwifery board exam on June 29th. (Note to self: you really need to start studying more vigorously for that.) I’ve applied for a few jobs. I had one interview two weeks ago, and they seemed quite eager to hire me, but alas, they thought they had three available positions, and it turns out they only had two. So who knows what comes next. Hopefully successfully passing my boards, and then becoming employed, a real midwife with a real job, very very soon. I’ve been neglecting this site lately, but I will try to pick it up again, especially since this is such an exciting time in my life right now (although also a very stressful time) with lots of changes happening very quickly. I will certainly keep you posted.

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