[This is an entry in my project to write something every day in the 100 days before my retirement, reflecting on my career and life]
May 29, 2018
Although my first choice of a career was to become a nurse, it was not meant to be.
In the summer of 1973 as I was preparing to go off to Leeds, England to nursing school, I was in a motorcycle accident and broke my leg. I spent the better part of that summer and fall in the hospital recuperating and then headed to England just after Christmas to start my schooling, one semester late. To become a nurse in England you had to attend some classes and apprentice with licensed nurses on the wards. I lasted one week until the strain on my just-healed leg became too much. Spending 10 hour shifts on my feet convinced me I would not be able to physically meet the demands of such a career. I returned home to Germany where my family was living at the time.
Fast forward 43 years to 2017, about 13 months ago. The decision to retire from full-time work is made, and this decision starts a deep, sometimes difficult, examination of my life. I’m sure everyone goes through these periods of wondering and pondering and examining.
This period of time in my life (1973/1974) has received a great deal of examination and has caused me many of hours of wondering and playing that game of regret called “What If?”
To the best of my recollection here’s what happened when I returned home from my aborted attempt to become a nurse. Decisions were made on my behalf by my parents. Within several weeks, I was packed up and on my way back to Ottawa, Canada to attend Willis Business College. At Willis I was registered to take a nine-month course to become a secretary. I was signed up to live at the Nurses’ Residence at the Civic Hospital (anyone see the irony there?). My mother made these arrangements with my oldest sister who was living in Ottawa. This package deal was presented to me as a fait accompli. I boarded the military plane in Lahr, Germany and flew off to start the rest of my life.
I was 18 years old. As far as I remember, these decisions were taken without consultation with me. Lately, I having been wondering why I wasn’t shipped home to go to University? Was there a discussion about what I wanted to do with my life? Was there a discussion about a suitable career?
My mother was a determined, focused and no-nonsense type of person. She had a problem to fix (an 18-year old child with no job prospects) and she set out to do just that. At the time, I do remember being completely amazed that all of these arrangements had been made on my behalf, without my knowledge. I packed my suitcase and went along for the ride, so to speak.
And here I am 45 years later. Certainly appreciative that at the time, my parents acted in what they thought were my best interests. I have had a great career, and have done well for someone with only a high school education.
Writing this piece today has made me realize two things. First, I am exactly like my mother (determined, focused and a no-nonsense type of person). Second, my parents merely put me on the road. Where I have travelled has been my responsibility.