I think that you're in the right place for real life challenges. All you have to do is peruse this board and read one of the thousands of posts- we come here to vent and share, and if you're looking for challenges, you've got enough to keep you reading until you reconsider. ;>) Honestly, I hope that if you are considering this, please please PLEASE don't let other people's perceptions of nursing or OUR perceptions of nursing (which isn't pretty sometimes...) or their perceptions of YOU persuade you to give it up.
Investigate! I would suggest that you bite the bullet and call a nursing school or local hospital (do you know anyone personally who is a nurse?) and ask them about job shadowing for half a day. Or else, volunteer at a hospital, and you'll have ample opportunity to quiz other staff about what's going on, and you'll get a firsthand view of nursing without having the responsibility of being a nurse. Maybe someone on this board who lives in your area could help you out with your questions.
If your family and friends are laughing at you, look them straight in the eye, and with a firm but sweet tone of voice, tell them that while you appreciate their opinion, you are taking this very seriously and would prefer if they wouldn't be so negative, because you may very well end up becoming a nurse, and THEN how will they feel when they remember that instead of supporting you faithfully they instead laughed in your face and mocked you? That should set them straight. Or you could just wait until they say they want to do something, then laugh at them, and say, 'It's not helpful, is it?' and raise an eyebrow. ;>) Friends and family are supposed to support each other and encourage each other to fulfill their dreams. Ask them, sincerely, to do just this.
You must be in a difficult position what with the huge changes that came from losing your position, and I can relate fully with the quest to find out whether or not one has what it takes to succeed in an area that seems as foreign to you as a vacation in Zimbabwe. I think all of us here can relate to this, even if some of us have forgotten a bit of the pain and anxiety it causes. I suppose what you need to ask YOURSELF, and not your friends or family or even posters on this board, is what YOU WANT, and WHY you are considering this in the first place- what brought you to this possibility? What are your experiences with nursing? Is this a new thing? Why? Is it an old idea that you've tossed around before? Why? Why didn't you do it in the first place? Take some time and really explore your own motivation.
As far as getting halfway through and realizing you're not cut out for it- well, there are no absolutes in life, as we all know. Sometimes doing it is the only way to know. It is a HUGE committment, but so are many things, and if it's worth it to you, you should find a way to make it happen. People can help you do this, but ultimately, it's up to you to provide the fuel that will see it through to the end. Just remember that ALL OF US FELT LIKE WE WERE GOING TO FLUNK at some point, we almost all felt like we weren't going to be a good nurse, or pass the state boards, or get a job, or learn our new job...can you see where I'm going with this?
Self-doubt is a surefire success killer. Even the most brilliant person in the world started out a blank slate. Illiterate people learn to read. Amputees learn to run marathons. Steven Segal learned to act. Okay, not that last one.
Even the most seasoned nurse gags at the sight or smell of some of the things we see- it's natural. One need only go visit the OB/GYN nursing thread on Lochia and placenta pate to understand that this is true.
Oh, and one last thing. Everyone here who watched 'ER' WITHOUT FAIL while they were in nursing school, not to mention 'TLC's shows like Code Blue, Maternity Ward, and Trauma: Life in the ER as if our lives depended on it raise your hand. (raising mine proudly!)
Good luck in your quest. ;>)