I owe the inspiration for this post to a fellow blogger. Haley Margaret’s latest post, The Employment Enigma, explores the difficulty in making a definitive career choice at a young age. Read Haley’s post at http://astitchtoscratch.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/the-employment-enigma/
I identified with Haley’s dissatisfaction with her current situation and her misgivings about being unable to make a lifelong career choice by the ripe old age of twenty-four. At ten, I was going to be a nurse. At seventeen, an artist. By twenty, I was a married woman with a child, and studying to be a teacher. I got out of school at the first job offer and taught for several years, and through two more pregnancies. Three little boys made it tough tocontinue with a full time teaching job, so I became a stay-at-home mom for awhile, then returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher. Believe me when I say that coming home from a classroom full of elementary school kids to a house full of them is no picnic. For this and many other reasons I became certain that I had chosen the wrong career path.
Wrong though it was for me, I knew no other way to contribute my share to the family budget, and I continued to slog through, working with students of varying ages until my eldest son had finished high school. I felt an utter fraud the entire time. Finally, in a desperate move to preserve some mental and physical health, I left teaching altogether.
Here is where life got a little sticky. My husband was suffering similar misgivings and had sustained a physical injury that prevented him from continuing in the line of work he had been in for over twenty years. Unable to prove the injury was caused by his work, he resigned with no ongoing benefits. Also during this time period, my sister’s ongoing struggle with brain cancer was getting tougher. We made a quick decision to sell the house before we lost it and move to the city where both of our families resided.
Eighteen months later, my sister passed away, bringing the rest of the family to our knees. Out of the grief, though, came the sure knowledge that sometimes children really do know what is best for them. I had watched the nurses caring for my sister in her last days and was saddened that I did not know how to give her the comfort they were able to provide. Three months later, I was enrolled in classes to upgrade my high school math and science credits, and in another year I was in Nursing school. My husband took this same time to retrain for a new career. Though many who observed our financial struggles encouraged me to take a three-year certificate, this time I was going the full four and getting the degree. In 1997 I emerged from university with three new titles: Bachelor of Nursing, Registered Nurse and Grandma. And I got a job working with my favourite population: the elderly. Life was good.
I was finally doing what I had been put on earth to do. I continued to learn, and moved eventually into a night shift position where I was in charge of my own little team, giving the best care we knew how to elders who were so deserving of it. I felt my sister’s legacy every time I was able to comfort a dying patient and/or their family, and am forever grateful for this gift that came from that tremendous loss.
Even the right and perfect thing ceases to be so after a time. After sixteen years as a hospital nurse I knew it was time for more change. My husband had been struggling with health and mobility issues for some years and had been employed, on disability, unemployed, retired, then employed again, and had finally decided he was retired, period. While his health had improved and surgery had given him back his mobility, he comes from a family whose male members have not historically lived beyond their early seventies. He was past sixty-five and was not going to take a chance on dying before he’d lived.
So here we are. I retired last year just before my 62nd birthday, having given away the bulk of our belongings, sold our home and moved into our trailer (which is very nice, by the way – in another post I shall give you a tour). When we made the decision, I was scared out of my mind, but no less determined to do it. Over a year later, I could not be happier. We are both healthy and our little pensions are providing for our needs. We have all the time in the world to do as we like, and are far from idle. We are mobile, enabling us to change our surroundings while never having to decide which clothes to bring with us, and most of all, we have learned that change is a wonderful thing, bringing life, love and happiness.
And you know, at nearly 63 years of age I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.