I identify with so much of what you've said, although I was never in NICU itself.
38 years; medsurg, volunteering in Bangladesh and India, more medsurg with an oncology emphasis, the whole AIDs crisis, holding delirious patients' hands and doing imagery to calm them during their night sweats, watching all the new technology coming out ( a resident yelling at me for taking pulse ox readings when they weren't ordered because he didn't want to have to deal with a problem if I found one). Having an AIDs pt cry because I was the first person in weeks to touch him, just a bed bath but it was human contact.
Taking ACLS when it was a 2 day, 5 stations to pass, course; and asking why we hadn't been taught any of this when I was in school, only to be told it was a new thing. oops. Moving to ER, learning to pump stomachs and then learning not to. Always new things to learn. Developing really fast reflexes. Getting a masters in education, and finding the wider world of political nursing, research, evidence based everything, nursing theory (not just Watson's caring), and becoming a classroom instructor while still being a trauma nurse. More volunteering, guest lecturing, world traveling.
Hospital nursing, camp nursing, first Aid provider for lots of Scout functions, orphanages, classrooms, slums in the third world, CPR on a mountainside, nursing has taken me so many places that I never dreamed of when I got that first letter of acceptance.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane!