Going down a completely new path in life can sometimes be intimidating. There’s often a lot of uncertainty that comes with it, and sometimes change requires removing what no longer serves you. Sarah Pinkstaff demonstrated that it is possible to go after what you want, even if you experience fear in the process. She is currently a medical assistant student at the Muncie, Indiana campus. Prior to enrolling at Ross, Sarah was dealing with a lot of turmoil and uncertainty in her life. Even through the adversity, she found the inner strength and courage to let go of all that didn’t serve her highest good. She chose to go down a path of self-improvement, and in doing so, she was able to find herself and her purpose.
We found some time to sit down with Sarah and learn a little bit more about her journey.
Here is what she had to say:
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I just turned 42 not that long ago and I am a medical assistant student here at the Ross Muncie campus. I’m almost done with the program, and I’ll be starting my externship soon. I’m quite proud of myself and happy with where I’m at in life, but it certainly wasn’t always like this. These past two years have been quite transformative for me. A lot of unexpected events took place in my life, and it really got me thinking about everything. I was put in a place where I had to re-evaluate my entire life and really look at where I was at. My life was heading in a direction I didn’t like; I had basically hit rock bottom. So I knew I had to make a change. A change that would allow me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought about it, and I decided that I would take a leap of faith and try school one last time. It was a hard decision to make because I had to give up a lot of things, as well as people in my life, in order to make this happen.
Prior to starting school at Ross, I worked at a daycare down the street from my house. I was your typical single mom at the time. I had both of my children. During my time there, I started to switch up everything. My father had died that February before COVID hit. After that happened, a lot of questions just sprung in my head. At some point, I ended up talking to Christie at Ross about me enrolling again. The following year, I only had my son living here with me. I had to make some choices when it came to my daughter. But by January, I had quit my job and two weeks later, I was starting school with you guys. There were a lot of things that I had to change before I started at Ross. And a lot of that started with my career. I knew that if I didn’t go back to school, I would’ve stayed at that job forever. I also would’ve been on food stamps and I wouldn’t have gone too far in life.
My boyfriend and I have been friends for a few years and we talked about me going to school before, but I always kinda just put it on hold. I finally got to the point where I just pushed myself forward and I went through with it. My son was really supportive as well. Me going back to school actually inspired him to make some changes in his life. He told me that if I end up going back to school, he was gonna switch schools as well. So he did. He started up at another school too and made a few other changes in his life.
The last eight months have been very crazy and transformative for me. My brain works in a way where I can only do one thing at a time. I can’t go to work and go to school. If I want to do something well, I have to focus on one thing at a time. So the last year has been a huge growing experience for me. I had to make a lot of adjustments in order to get into a consistent routine and do good in my classes.
So now I have two weeks left and then I start my externship. The story of how I got my externship is actually an interesting one. When my father was alive, I would always be at the hospital with him, which is where I met the majority of the doctors. He was a diabetic, so he saw the same doctors for a few years. As I was getting close to finishing up my modules, my teachers encouraged me to start thinking about where I would want to do my externship. I thought about it really hard, and I decided I wanted to do my externship at a foot clinic. I wanted to go somewhere where I knew the doctor and I already had some knowledge on the type of medicine that they practice. So I wrote to Cardinal Foot and Ankle. My teachers helped me by proof-reading the letter a bunch of times and correcting any errors. I finally sent it in and I ended up getting a meeting with them and landing an externship there. I was super proud of myself because a year ago I would’ve never tried something like this. However, I made a commitment to change my life around, and part of that required me to step outside of my comfort zone. I had fear, but I still went through with it. My teachers were wonderful to me. They gave me so much support and encouragement, and I think that’s what kept me going.
What was your childhood like?
So I had a pretty good childhood. I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio until the age of five. I was the youngest out of three. Then we moved down south in order for my dad to keep his job. He worked at Delaware Machines. As much as I had two parents, my dad was at work from sun up to sun down. So it was definitely hard at times.
It took me like 40 or so years to figure out some stuff, but I guess better late than never. I’m very blessed with the childhood that I had, but there were some challenges as well. My dad was a Type 1 diabetic so there were a lot of nights where my mom would have to give him an insulin shot to help him get his sugar back to a normal level.
Also, when we lived in Toledo, we would take a lot of vacations and I was very accident prone. A lot of times you’d see me end up between the emergency room and urgent care. I think I busted my chin open like three times. But I wouldn’t give anything back for it. I hated it then but love the memories now. I cherish them a lot.
What made you want to choose the medical assisting program?
So I was looking at medical assisting, veterinarian, and dental. I ruled out dental pretty fast because I couldn’t really see myself doing teeth. Same thing with the veterinarian program. I love animals, but I couldn’t really see myself doing it for a long time. I still looked at it, though. Then I started becoming really interested in the medical assistant program, and the more I looked at it, the more I noticed that it aligned with what I wanted to do. At first, I was going to do the hybrid but then I decided to go with the on-ground classes. So that’s where I’m at now.
How were you able to conquer the fear and take a leap of faith?
Honestly, it just got to the point where I was low enough and something had to change. Sometimes you won’t make a change until you reach rock bottom and you’re forced to make a change, so that’s where I was at. I still had the fear, but a change was absolutely needed so I had no other choice but to go through with it.
What changes do you feel like you’ve had to make as far as overcoming certain obstacles?
I had to learn how to be on time. That was a big thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been on time like I am now. Like even with all of my previous jobs, everybody knew I was always late. I’m also there when I’m supposed to be there. I cut everyone but three people out of my life to do this. I kept my boyfriend, Jesse, my son, Matt, and my mom around. Anybody else just couldn’t be in my life. I realized that this is something I had to do in order to turn my life around. Anyone that ever voiced an opinion on what I should or shouldn’t do couldn’t be around because deep down, you know what is best for you.
What was the campus experience like for you? Do you have any particular memories, or anybody that has inspired you?
They all have. The women there are remarkable. I remember the first time I was in lab, we had to take each other’s blood for the phlebotomy part of the exercise. I honestly freaked out and had to leave the room for a little bit. The teachers did their best to calm me down. They’re like, ‘Okay, just take a breath, and when you’re ready to, just continue.’ There was nobody around, but they just made it an easier and smoother experience for me. They truly helped me so much and guided me in such a beautiful way.
I was also dealing with some personal issues at the time and they would consistently check up on me to make sure I was okay, as well as excuse me when I had to attend important appointments. They would help me get my mind off certain things that I was dealing with. They really do care about you and I think that was one of the major reasons why I was able to finish. It’s not just a job for them, they truly want you to succeed and are there to guide you through it.
My boyfriend also helps me out a lot. There’s been some days where I just want to quit. He always sits down and helps me through those moments, though. I’ll definitely get frustrated at times. But I still get up and go to school the next day. Right now it’s just a matter of finishing because I’m already so far along.
What are your plans for after you complete your externship?
I would love to be able to work at my externship office in Muncie. It would be the perfect place for me and it would mean a lot to me since my dad used to go there.
What are some things you like for fun?
So, it actually took me going through school to figure out what my hobbies were. Jesse brought it up recently, actually. He has his hobbies and so does Matt, my son. He was asking me what my hobbies are. Well, apparently I like to cook. I love trying out new recipes. Around two months ago, I became vegan. I use Pinterest to save different recipes. And now whenever we go out, we like to pick up different ingredients to make vegan meals. Just a little while ago, we made vegan hamburgers and they were super good. At first I thought it might be too hard to keep up with, but it’s actually really simple. You just have to get adjusted to it. But yeah, that’s how it started. We also used to watch a bunch of documentaries and it just got to the point where we stopped eating meat. We feel a lot better when we eat nothing but plant-based in this house. My son still eats meat, and of course, that’s his personal choice to make. Before going vegan, I was vegetarian, but now that I cut out the eggs, milk, and cheese, I truly can see a bigger difference in my health. We spent quite a bit of time just researching this kind of stuff and it’s like you don’t have an appetite anymore. Especially when you find out the stuff that is allowed to go in the food. I definitely don’t look at milk or other stuff the same anymore. I don’t think I could ever go back now. It’s crazy how much food can affect us.
What advice would you give to new students?
So they have us do this every time we start a new mod. We go around and we all give each other a piece of advice. I would always tell everybody to get all their homework done as soon as possible. If you turn in your assignments and they can get graded before they’re due, then you can go back and fix them so you get a better grade. Plus, some of the questions on the tests are very similar to the questions on your homework assignments, so it’s something you should definitely take advantage of.
I would also tell somebody that if they’re serious about it then they should go for it and not think of it as if it’s just another school. It’s literally just eight months and it goes by super fast. If you want it bad enough, then put your all into it. Also, don’t overthink it because if you do, you might end up not doing it at all. You will, of course, have to dedicate some time and effort and make sure that you pass successfully, but it’s totally doable if you want it badly enough. They will actually sit there and practice with you, as well as go over your lab proficiency tests to make sure you have it down. So that would be my biggest advice. Just to learn as much as you possibly can and don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith.
Also, you can’t make someone go to school or extern; they have to want it for themselves. I remember my daughter used to say that she wants to be like me, and I always used to say no. There’s no way I would want either of my kids to be where I was. I mean, to see where I am now versus where I was is a world of a difference. I always remember asking my mom, like, ‘How did you do this?’ And now I get it. You just have to do some things without thinking about it too much. So I’d say it’s really important to push yourself as much as you can because not only are you doing it for yourself, but you can also inspire others to become better in the process.
What are your most immediate goals or aspirations?
If I had to think about my goals right now, I would say to do everything I can to the best of my ability over the next eight weeks. I have two full modules left of school, and I just want to put my everything into it. I don’t want to miss a day. Also, if they are hiring at my externship site, I would love to get a job over there. That would be the perfect job for me. Another goal is to just continue learning as much as I can. Learning has really changed my outlook on life as a whole; I think it’s made me a better person.
How has your outlook on life changed since attending Ross?
Have you ever heard of that phrase “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel?” Well, I can see that now where before I couldn’t. I have a really positive outlook now compared to the mindset I had a few years back. I never really understood it until recently, but now it makes complete sense to me and I really think about it when I’m going through an obstacle.
What was your experience like with the other schools you attended?
So when I was in high school I went to hair school and I never finished that. I just ended up taking a road trip and just quitting. I went to Ivy Tech a couple of years later and I ended up pregnant with my daughter and then I dropped out. Third one was when I worked in the kitchen at a nursing home. I was going to dietician school and they ended up firing me there. And well, there goes school. I went into this knowing it was my last chance. If I wasn’t gonna do this, it wasn’t gonna happen. If I couldn’t get through this, I wouldn’t have tried again. With how everything went, I’m happy to say I am almost to the finish line.
What techniques did you use to keep yourself motivated?
I mean just staying positive helps a lot. Everything started out as difficult changes, but they ended up being positive changes in the end. And just that right there is enough to motivate me. Whenever I have a bad day, I just try to think about the fact that life is happening for me, not to me.
Do you have a day-to-day mantra?
I do have a morning ritual. Every day when I get up, my cat Lucy gets up too and we usually start off our day the same way. She wakes me up because whether there’s food in her bowl or not, she wants to be fed. Then I wake up, I feed her, and I make my coffee. After I finish preparing everything in the kitchen, I normally go outside to drink my coffee. We do live in the city, but nobody is up when I am, so sitting out there is really peaceful.
Also, one of Jesse’s hobbies is gardening. He grows a garden every spring. We live in a little house in the city right now. Less than half an acre. And so he had me help him build this huge thing that goes up against the garage and he puts all his plants out there for the summer that he grows. And he’s got it to where he has a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes. So that’s literally what I look at in the morning. It’s really therapeutic, honestly.
What makes you feel accomplished?
Getting that externship. It made me feel really accomplished because I did something that was really outside of my comfort zone. A year ago I never would’ve done something like this.
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
I would probably say I wish I trusted myself more from a younger age to make more decisions and to realize that I’m better than what I thought I was. My mom always said I was my own worst enemy and she couldn’t be more right. I probably put myself down more than anyone ever could and I think that’s what held me back the most. Just thinking about the fact that I’m not worth it when really, I am.