An old friend dropped by today out of the blue. We sat on the couch in front of a cozy fire and drank tea and got caught up. She has chosen, although she might say it wasn't a choice, to live a very different life from mine. She is single, both her parents are dead and have been for quite a while and the only family she has is a half brother who is much older and had left home before she was born. She grew up and stayed in the same small town for most of her life, went away to school in the city but always came back. She has worked as a teacher, social worker and finally she worked at the town hall organizing events. She has never married or had a long term relationship, at least not one that I have ever heard about and about 6 years ago she made a huge change.
She sold the house she grew up in and was all that she had left from her parents, left the town that had always been her home and the people she called family and went back to school. First she had to go back and get the courses she needed for a Bachelor of Science as she had originally studied Arts. Then she applied to Nursing School and took the two year programme to become a RN. She was at school with girls straight out of high school doing their diplomas and at 40 she was considered the granny of the class, offering advice on men and studying while working in a notorious psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. She would come back for the holidays and regale (and horrify) us with stories of Christmas Eve on the psych ward. She has now found her place as a nurse on the front lines of an Emergency ward. Some of her stories aren't much tamer but at least every once in a while they are about a young child being saved. She is perfectly suited to the job with her sarcastic wit and ability to tell it like it is while being the comforting and caring nurse that you hope to meet in emerg.
She is happier than I have seen her in decades. She still isn't seeing anyone (that I know of) and knows that the long shifts that rotate from day to night reek havoc with her sleep and would try even the most understanding of boyfriends. But she loves what she does and she has found a sense of purpose.
Has anyone else made a radical change in their lives? Do you think it is possible to do with a family and all that sort of baggage? A friend's mother went back to law school in her late forties after all her children had grown up and was even contemplating moving to Australia when she was diagnosed with cancer. Not that I am thinking of doing anything crazy, but my dream has always been to pack up the kids and go live in France or New Zealand for a year. Guess that's why I am so jealous of Amy of Bitchin' Wives Club. Even the stress and pain of packing up a family of five to cross the pond to England seems like an adventure seen through her words and camera lens.
I know that people are often forced as a result of divorce or death to make radical changes and you wonder how they were ever able to do so under the circumstances but I remember a teacher once saying to our class of 15 year old girls that we could expect to change jobs five or six times in our lives. We all scoffed, our parents (mostly fathers) had worked at the same jobs for the same companies for their entire lives. It was inconceivable to think that you could be forced or choose to change jobs let alone professions back in the 80's. The world is a different place today as we enter into the second decade of the second millennium. And I, for one think it is better. More chaotic? Yes, but also much more interesting.
A Medieval Town of Books: Hay-on-Wye, Wales - After our back-to-back sabbaticals in Tokyo and at Oxford University, I've been busy offline, settling back home in Maine. During our year abroad, my pro...