Judy Smith- A Road Less Traveled

August 24, 2009

By Judy Smith

Judy SmithLife 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.

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  • http://www.baycrestbreakthroughs.com Lauren Bowers

    What a great post, I’m kind of surprised that no one else ever left a comment about it. Judy sounds like someone it would be fun to sit down and chat with, I bet she has some great stories. Yeah, doesn’t everyone decide to go see an 80 yr old white-haired psychic when they’re facing a crisis? lol.

    I’m middle-aged now, but I remember talking with a much younger friend when I was in my mid-thirties and explaining how even at that point my life just hadn’t turned out at all like I’d imagined it would when I was her age. I could tell she thought that that was kind of tragic, but to me it was all part of the adventure of life. The past twenty yrs have brought plenty more surprises and adventures, as I’m sure they have to that young woman too.

    One suggestion: it would be great if there was a link to Judy’s later posts about her adventures in China. I’m curious enough to search the site to try to find other posts by her, but I’m just sayin’. 🙂

  • Kelly

    Hi Lauren,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have now linked to her latest posts that detail her newest career as an ESL teacher abroad.

    Life doesn’t always happen on the expected path but in many cases it brings on the right path and all our experiences help us in our current stage.

  • http://www.baycrestbreakthroughs.com Lauren Bowers

    Thanks for the quick response, Kelly, and for the links!!

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