Discovering my life’s purpose and calling

Society & Culture | By Orlinda Mapa-Tsoka, Critical Care Registered Nurse | 08 May 2015

Life doesn’t always turn out the way one envisions it. Sometimes it turns out for the best and sometimes, well not so good. Growing up I never imagined myself as a nurse. Funny as it maybe, I aspired to be an “air hostess” given my obsession with new places, culture and meeting different people. Option number two was being a veterinarian, although this was more imposed than a calling. However, being the not so tall but full rounded Afrikan woman that I am - hips as wide as a drum, being an air hostess didn’t seem feasible since it was the preserve of the  tall and slender. Top of that, my phobia for any nonhuman creature made it impossible to even ignite the thought of being a vet.  As I moved to the United States I found myself struggling with decisions regarding what my career path would be. I thought “why should I pursue a career in nursing and pay for it when it’s free in most European countries”. I somehow ended up going through with a nursing career on account of outside influence and still love the job eleven years down the line.
Although I wasn’t sure at the time, I have grown to appreciate my career and be the best at what I do because I am capable. The most important thing in life in my opinion, are memories and I aim to create picture perfect memories when I cross paths with my patients. I have learnt that it is possible to become the best at what you do no matter where you end up. I have learnt over the years of my nursing career that I can make a difference in someone’s life as long as I have the right attitude and mind set. Often, people whine and grumble about a lot of petty issues and fail to realize that it really and truly could be worse than what it is. The old saying goes “the grass is greener on the other side”. However, we fail to realize that so is the water bill. I have learnt that being content with the resources one has at any given point and time is key to living a happy and meaningful life. Often times one thinks if I can only have “this or that” I will be the happiest person on earth, but “what if you never have that one thing?”

One experience that has left an impression on my heart is that of a middle aged man losing the dreadful battle against cancer. Very humble, appreciative and hopeful. Even though he had lost an arm in a failed attempt to surgically conquer the cancer, he remained hopeful. He talked about the beautiful view he had from his room. He also talked about his dying days, confiding in me and with a weak smile saying “If you ever hear them say there is nothing they can do for me, please make sure I’m in a room like this so I can die with a beautiful view”. I encouraged him to take one day at a time, to which he replied “Yes absolutely, even if I have just 7 days left I will take each day as it comes”. That broke my heart! It was in that moment that I took a chance to reflect on my life, values, priorities and the meaning of it all. You can either choose to look at your glass as “half full or half empty” and that determines your perception of life. In good health, good times or bad times attitude is the most important thing one can possess. The life we live now is the life we have and happiness is a state of the mind.

Although I sometimes wonder how I ended up as a caregiver, I believe I am blessed and I am endowed with a special talent to touch other people’s lives and make a difference in a way no one can. I have learnt to appreciate life, love the people around me and cherish my relationships. Despite me telling those I care for to take each day as it comes, I am learning to personally accomplish this so I can take a moment to enjoy the simple things in life. I am alive, I am healthy and I am in my right mind. I hold the key to my happiness and life is what I make it. So with each day I will write each page with anticipation of a great ending. Whatever you aspire to be, be it, and however you want to live your life live it with the knowledge that you can the best at any and everything you put your mind to. You can make a difference in the world by being the best at what you do and remembering that people will always remember how you made them feel instead of how successful you were.

In this entire discovery and the great journey of life, I have also learnt to value and nurture my relationships with family and friends. I was asking a few of my girlfriends if they are still in good books, better yet in touch with their bridesmaids. Some don’t even know what happened to them or where they are. I have been blessed to be as close as ever to the girls who stood by me on that one special day. Although some may not be the best communicators, I have learnt to handle each relationship with care knowing that each person is different and we all don’t bring to the table the same characteristics. My life would not be this blessed without the great relationships I have cultivated over the years.  Some actually go back as far as grade school! 

Although people change over time and different situations produce certain seasons in life, it is important to maintain relationships and keep them blossoming. I find that keeping it real with the people I love always makes for a favourable outcome. I strive to keep things moving, and not dwell on emotional baggage that tends to stand in the way of real happiness. As some say, “people are in our lives for a season and some for a reason”. I am still learning to be the best daughter, sister, wife, mother, and caregiver that I can be. I want to be in people’s lives for a reason and not a season. I am learning to live life the best way I know how. It is not promised to anyone and my dream is to live a meaningful life full of hope that will bring a bright future for others. I love my life and what I have learnt and am learning along its journey. I want you to love yours too, regardless of the path you have chosen and where it has led or is leading you!