By Judy Smith
Life has a way of playing tricks on a person. While I was studying poetry in my late twenties, I decided that I would not live past the age of 35. Many of the great poets had not lived beyond this age, and I fully intended on becoming a great poet. So I surprised myself at my 35th birthday party by reciting my poem which began, “I am 35 years old, and I can still walk on my own two feet.”
Ironically, a few years later I could barely walk, partly due to a back injury sustained working as a nurse; the Worker’s Compensation Board agent wanted to put me on long term disability. Disabled? At 40 years old? Faced with such a sentence, I didn’t know what to do, so I went to see a psychic.
The psychic—a sprite white-haired woman in her eighties—advised me that my energy was depleted and I needed to soak in some ozone rays from the ocean. Fortunately I lived in Vancouver, so every day I walked by the water. One day, while resting on a log, I was fascinated by a boat that grew wheels like an army tank and crawled up on the beach to rescue a stranded boat. That evening the boat was featured on CBC news; it was piloted by a Coast Guard nurse whose job it was to not only rescue stranded boats, but also injured people from isolated areas.
I thought, “I want to do that.”
I called the Coast Guard and was told that I would have to join the armed forces and get an Industrial First Aid Certificate. Since I had been a pacifist most of my life, there was no way I would join the armed forces. As for Industrial First Aid…what was that? They said the courses were offered through the Worker’s Compensation Board. There was a class beginning the next day, and I signed up.
A month after completing the course I was driving a 4×4 extended cab truck through blizzards and white-outs from Calgary to an oil rig site in northern Alberta. For the next 3 years, I worked two weeks on/two weeks off, commuting from the soft progressive culture of Vancouver to the red-neck hard hats of northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and the Beaufort Sea. It was a far cry from working with women in the confines of hospital routines, taking orders from doctors and patients and wearing a starched white uniform, but I discovered that I actually liked working with men, being in a more relaxed atmosphere, wearing steel-toed boots and driving a truck. The job suited me.
There have been many changes in my life since then, but I think the major turning points in my life have originated from seeing that wonderful psychic back when I was 40 years old. Nothing I have done since then has been conventional and, because I discovered that the non-conventional is nourishing; I continue to search for the roads less travelled. Quite often the map to those roads lies in being open to opportunities: opportunities presented to me when I’m “busy making other plans,” as John Lennon once said, and embrace them.
Judy is now enjoying a 3rd career as a ESL teacher overseas:
Tales of an ESL Teacher
Tales of an ESL Teacher – Part 2
Tales of an ESL Teacher – Part 3
Thinking about Teaching English Overseas?
Preparing to Teach English Overseas
About the Author Judy Smith is the author of Native Blood: Nursing on the Reservation (Oberon Press). Stay tuned for her monthly dispatches from the location of her newest adventure, Nanning, China.