As this year closes and a fresh start nears, there is something about being a nurse that makes me look at this “clean slate” a bit differently than I used to. The end of 2015 harkens times of deep reflection of the past and hope for the future — not only for myself, but for so many others who are caught up in the whirlwind of daily life. Before I became a nurse, I would often think to myself, “Man, how quickly time flies!” Ever since setting foot though those hospital doors, however, this generic sentiment that so many possess has evolved from a casual statement to a matter of urgency.

It’s not that others don’t recognize the importance of cherishing every day. Resolutions and bucket lists are created by people across the globe, hopeful to allow the dawn of a new year to represent a new self. From hemisphere to hemisphere, as the world turns, we focus on a literal timeline. Men and women paint the new year with broad strokes — a personalized rendering of new beginnings. Yet before the paint has even dried, we so quickly forget to admire the picture of our own goals and dreams, cutting off progress on a personal masterpiece for the sake of shadowy obligations and sooty responsibilities. And so our potential sits on canvas, abandoned and incomplete, because our resolve was taken over by our worries, doubts, and distractions.

And so with a literal keyboard and a figurative paintbrush, I scratch tooth and nail to honor my resolutions every single day. Because as a nurse in the intensive care unit, I’ve learned — while I’m relatively young, I possess an old soul — that nothing in this life is promised. We have no guarantee. We cannot push off what we crave today unto tomorrow, because there is no certainty that tomorrow may come. Our painting — our masterpiece — it may live and die within us, never to be shared. The intensive care unit is my momento mori: a constant reminder that the world shall turn, time shall pass, and us, too, along with it.

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Although this can feel grim and pessimistic to those on the outside, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. While so many await January 1st to make a change, make an impact, make a difference – as a nurse I feel compelled to do so every single day. While few can understand just how ridiculous it is to incessantly plan the future without pursuing your dreams today, the patients charged with my care each shift have inspired me to open up to the universe; paint my passions tirelessly; and quite frankly, give a damn where once was none. I feel compelled to gather my rosebuds, so to speak, while I still may. I feel the need to create my masterpiece while I’m here today.

A hospital, by its very nature, is not a place for the well – within its walls lie infection and infirmity; death and disease; hope tainted with fear and love tarnished with loss. Though much happiness is possible under so many circumstances, in the rooms of an ICU it can feel feigned and far between.

And so we must make our resolutions daily, to see our patient survive through the night.

We must compose our bucket lists in this very instant, as there’s someone in a hospital bed that reminds us how quickly moments flee.

We must work to make our crazy and impossible dreams a reality, because far too many remain trapped in a nightmare.

Every evening that I clock out of work – exhausted, hungry, aching on the outside and more so deep within — I fight like hell to remind myself that what’s so much more powerful than celebrating the dawn of a new year, is the possibility contained within a new day.

So Happy New Day, to you – not only fellow nurses, but strangers, family, and friends: brimming with passion; flooded with dreams; and hopefully, armed with the courage to see your canvas brought to life. It’s so easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, to feel burnt by circumstance and defeated by the grind. Put it all behind you. Erase it all away. You have nothing but this moment – make it one worth remembering. You’ve been granted a new day – don’t let it slip away. I’ll resolve to paint each day a beautiful portrait, even those speckled with shades of hatred, sorrow, and shame. Deep in my heart, in a world that so desperately needs it – I hope you’ll live a life that’s made of color, and not so black and white. I wish that you’ll pick up your paintbrush. I pray you’ll create on your canvas. In an annual gallery of abandoned hopes and wayward dreams, I encourage you to craft and share your unique masterpiece. Do not put off unto tomorrow, what can be dreamt today. The world will turn. The time shall pass. What will you do with it?

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