After my experience in theatre, I spent a year abroad. I will say that this honestly taught me more about culture than emotions per se, but they share many common themes, and thus are interrelated. I soaked up foreign television, watched interesting interpersonal exchanges with a perhaps excessive interest, and generally soaked up every drop of 'people' I could. I learned probably as much about others as I did about myself that year.
And returning home I learned even more. I was inspired to become an EMT and volunteer with my local rescue squad (the precursor to my nursing career!) as well as suffered an immense bout of reverse culture shock. This phenomenon is characterized by the
cognitive dissonance of difference between our expectation of home versus how we experience it once we return. It is both jarring and difficult to address, on an intra- and inter-personal level. I found myself feeling guilty that I so strongly disliked certain aspects of Americanism, as if I was a 'bad' American--or if I had become, instead, more African than American (gasp! I did honestly feel this way--for months.)
Many of these feelings I stumbled through, as I was only 17 and still immature. It was hard for me to reconcile these new parts of me, and attitudes. Africa was not the most liberal of environments, and yet I felt African and identify as bisexual. This felt absolutely contradictory at the time. Living in a home with close to thirty people had left me craving domestic tranquility in the form of seven--yes, you read that correctly--children (any parent will agree that this is impossible) and yet I was still only 17, on birth control pills, and not ready for marriage to my high school beau. (Thank goodness for THAT foresight.) I was caught in a cultural purgatory that my biological parents and peers were mostly unable to understand, much less help with. I had complicated feelings about my sexuality resulting from the African emphasis on virginity, sexual restraint, and necessity of marriage that I don't think I really shook for the better part of a year. This was a lot of big concepts for someone to wrap their brain around, while approaching the wise (/sarcasm) age of eighteen.
The next turn in my career was law enforcement. Incidentally, this path brought me face-to-face with people experiencing many of the most raw emotions, specifically fear and anger. It was primal and whenever I felt like I helped, I was incredibly happy. However, the gratitude-to-helping ratio in this profession is dismal, so it was not a great path for me in the long run. I joke with people that I am like a Hooters waitress: I am flattery operated. (Because feelings-operated does not have the same ring to it.)
This is why I think I am so drawn to nursing as a whole. Feelings and gratitude are my bread and butter. Of course, I take care of medical needs, and this is essential, but I love my emotional connections with the women and families that cross my path. I love holding hands and rubbing backs and witnessing them evolve. I'm paid to be emotionally involved with many people, and it is honestly incredible. I love being a nurse, even when it is messy and strange and sad, but especially when it is inspiring.