“…when we dare to face the unknown, we usually discover that we have more grit and tenacity than we thought. And we often land in a place that we couldn’t even have imagined when we started out.” ~ Catherine Burns, Artistic Director for The Moth
What’s in the back?!
I watched the snow-covered fields pass by from the passenger seat of the big Cadillac. I could see the trees waving in the wind, the sky grey and overcast. The big car had a smooth ride, no doubt helped by the several hundred pounds of casket and body in the back.
I turned from the window to look at the driver and said, “If you had at any point in the first forty years of my life, told me I would one day be riding around in a hearse with a body in the back I’d have thought you were nuts.”
In the ‘80’s, when computers were just becoming a ‘thing’, the school brought in a computer for the Guidance Counsellors. Each student took a turn at the computer, answering a series of multiple choice questions. At the end of the session the computer analyzed your answers and told you the most likely career options for your future.
According to the computer, I was most suited to be a teacher. Cool because that was what I wanted to be anyway.
And guess what?
I didn’t become a teacher. Oh that was my plan all right, but “…the best laid schemes of mice and men go oft askew…”
Life is a long and winding road
Instead life took me down a long and winding road that currently has me sometimes driving on long and winding roads in a funeral coach with an occupied casket.
My career progression went like this: Mother, Teaching Assistant (kindergarten to high school), Intervention Worker (high school and adult), Secretary to the Dean of Trades (local college), Office Manager (funeral home), and Funeral Celebrant (same funeral home). You can also throw writer/blogger in there right around the same time I started working at the funeral home. I also trained as a Technical Writer but never worked in the field.
There is, at least to me, a kind of progression, a leading if you will, that has taken me to this peculiar place in my life. It is a place where I spend a great deal of time in the midst of paradox, celebrating life while surrounded by death.
I work in an office where people regularly walk out the door saying, “I hope I never see you again.” They mean it wholeheartedly, but not in a bad way and I am never offended by it. People I have worked with closely don’t recognize me in the grocery store or in my ‘street’ clothes. Grief can be like a kind of temporary blindness.
I spend hours, usually days, preparing to tell the life story of someone I never met, in front of a crowd of people who knew that person in life as their family or friend. I am surrounded by tears and pain, anger and regret, sadness and longing. It is emotionally exhausting, mentally challenging, and unbelievably fulfilling.
I wonder if my current job was on the list of possible future careers programmed into that computer.
Into the great unknown…
I remember when I was bumped out of my first position as a Teaching Assistant by someone with more seniority. My only option was to take a job at the Middle School working with *gasp* teenagers. I was horrified, nervous, and completely miserable. I did not want to work at the Middle School.
But I did and I loved it.
Each time a change loomed on the horizon, I felt nervous, afraid, and uncertain of my path. And each time I stepped out in faith, holding my breath and praying for help, I found myself in a place that turned out to be better than the one I had been so reluctant to leave.
Except once, but that’s another tale altogether.
Where did I ever get the idea that I had to have my life mapped out at seventeen or twenty-five or even forty? Where did I ever get the idea that there was a map at all?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s all well and good to have dreams and aspirations, but don’t forget that along that carefully laid path are other paths. People will come and go from our lives, changing us and our direction. A seemingly good decision may have unexpected repercussions that cause us to stray off course.
Have a plan, but be prepared to make course corrections. Because one day you may just find yourself riding in a hearse with a body in the back instead of teaching a classroom of eager students to conjugate French verbs. And maybe when you look out the window of that Cadillac at the fields going by, you’ll smile to yourself and say, “Isn’t it funny how life turns out?”