I just finished the first week of my second year here at ICO along with my colleagues and classmates of 2018. This is a huge accomplishment for me, and maybe it was for some of you as well.
When classes ended in May earlier this year, I had the whole summer staring me in the face. Total freedom from studying, taking exams, and completing practicals never felt better. But with that freedom came the taste of something I have never yearned for in the past.
I have been a mom for 6 ½ years now. I went through all of undergrad as a single mom. It wasn’t easy, but I got through it, and I had an amazing support system back home in Central Wisconsin. The summer before first year, I got married, and our family of three set off on an adventure to Chicago. Shortly after classes started first year, we found out we were pregnant and were due in June (2015). The plan still stayed the same- graduate from ICO, apply for a residency, and make optometry a lifelong career. Then classes ended, optometry was removed from the forefront of my mind, and being a stay at home became my only role for a few months.
That’s when everything changed. I realized the passion I had to stay at home with my children- to be there for them as much as I possibly could. That passion had been hidden for so long, and slowly, it started to rise over my passion for optometry… or so I thought.
My son was born 8 days late on June 29th. We became a family of four. I continued to question if coming back to ICO was the right choice for me. I was torn; could I be an excellent mother AND an excellent student? Would I ever be able to become an excellent optometrist?
I asked for advice from several people- my friends who stay at home with their children and my friends who are full-time employees as well as mothers. One friend said, “You’ll never regret staying at home with your children.” I wondered, would I ever regret not going back to school? I wish I could talk to future Talitha- the one who continued and graduated in three years and had a job in optometry lined up- to see what she thought and felt.
The closest I could come was to continue seeking advice from those who are in a different season of life. Someone I highly respect and who works in optometry while having three children said this, “It never gets easy being a wife, mom, and life-long learner. It sure has a lot of blessings though. I encourage you to stay the course and keep praying.”
Some people have wondered how I will do it all. Others have just come out and said, “You can’t. You should take a year off.” Some have said it isn’t worth it, while others think it’s worth more than can be imagined.
Now I know that most of you haven’t had a child over the summer, but maybe some of you have had this thought: “Is this really what I am supposed to do?” Summer may have given you that taste of freedom that we won’t ever feel again. If you decided to come back, I congratulate you. It isn’t as easy as some people might think. Now that we all are here, back on campus at ICO, I think we all know where we belong.
We have picked up our new (and expensive!) equipment- our BIOs and lenses. Some of us have started clinic, taking patients with a fellow classmate. It is becoming more real. We are becoming optometrists. We have the opportunity and responsibility that not everyone is capable of experiencing. However, just because we are back home at ICO, just because we can find a spectacle prescription for a patient, just because we have all of our equipment… we aren’t finished yet.
We may have those days that we don’t think we can do it- that we can’t complete the journey we started August of 2014. But “I encourage you to stay the course and keep on praying.” We can do this! Here’s to another year together. We are in this together. Good luck!