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When Ya Know



“When ya know, ya know... ya know?"

That was Crush, the sea turtle, in Finding Nemo.

And that’s me, veering into a whole new career choice.

Most of you know my background, growing up in what is a glorified (by some) cult. For the first 24 years of my life, few of my decisions were my own. As an Amish person, first, which took away most of the experiences and choices of what we consider normal coming-of-age, and secondly, as a woman, which limited or eliminated them further. What you wore, where you went, who you could hang out with, whether you got an education or not (8th grade), what you did for a career (you don’t have one), who you marry (almost completely the choice of the males, ie the boy/man who “chose” you and your father’s consent). I always laugh a little when people ask if our marriage was arranged... 'My friend, your whole life in that culture is arranged.'

Mostly I’m okay with how it all went because there’s nothing I can do to change it. Play the cards you're dealt and all that. Occasionally I mourn a bit the life I didn’t get to live or choose for those years, years that are so important to who you are and what you become. But in the end, I can only be what I am going forward.

Years ago, when my babies were little, I thought of going into the emergency medical field. It appealed to me to then. But the schedule of classes seemed almost impossible; at the time, my husband was working overtime plus attending classes of his own to become a volunteer firefighter. I was taking classes online to get an associates degree and, you know, babies. Once said babies were both in school, I stepped into the working world and got a job. For two years, I worked at a bank. Which I enjoyed, but the pay was crappy and the hours (every Saturday) even crappier. When an opportunity came up for better hours and pay came up at the beginning of this year, I took it.

Except that almost immediately after being hired I was asked to work 8 hours more per week than I’d agreed to. And though I like the people around me and have no complaints about my actual workplace, I simply hate the work. I'm chained (figuratively) to a desk answering phone calls and fielding complaints/problems. It’s mindless, it’s numbing, it’s absolutely NOT what I want to do for the remainder of the month, much less the remainder of the year. And certainly not my life. After 3 months of it, I was confiding to a friend how I felt: hating my job, dreading Mondays, feeling generally stuck and unmotivated in my life. She said, “Peg, if you’re feeling like that only 3 months in, it’s not the right fit.”

So I thought hard about what it is I might want to do, talked with people around me and my husband said, you always wanted to be an EMT, why not do that? And something in me said, YES, WHY NOT?!

I made some calls, paid some money, squeaked into an already-full class by impulsively calling the instructor and pleading my case, and voila! A week later I was an EMT student. 

The schedule is tough. On the class days of Tuesday/Thursday, I leave my house at 8:30 for work and I leave work at 5:00 in order to make the class on the other side of town. I have about a 30 minute cushion to grab something to eat, or study, or grab a nap in the car (I’ve chosen that over dinner), and then class begins at 6:00. It runs to 9:30-10:00, after which I make the trek back home, usually getting in the door around 10:20 or so. Home from my day, no shower, often no dinner, and exhausted. Every other Saturday I have a weekend class that runs 9:00am to 3:00-4:00pm or whenever the material is covered. Yesterday was the first Saturday. Last night I was online doing lecture modules and practice quizzes for over 3 hours- after the day of class. The written material is a 1500 page textbook, divided in 40 chapters, with online tests, quizzes, etc. that go toward your final score. About half of the time in class also includes hands on practicals, which will soon increase to almost all of the classtime going forward. A big final showdown of testing in both on-field practicals and a written test comes at the very end, and if I pass in mid-August, I’ll be a state and nationally certified EMT. There’s a high demand for this in our area (and maybe everywhere), so I was assured getting a job is no problem. From there, who knows? I have a long-term goal of becoming a paramedic (1000 hours/1 year of training). Maybe a flight medic, or an EMT instructor?

All I know is that despite the challenge of an additional 8-16 hours of class per week on top of working 30 hours and caring for a family and trying to get  some runs/workouts in, it’s what I want. As opposed to what I do now… after 24 hours out of the 150 required for the course,  I am loving this stuff. They say you know fairly quickly if you’re cut out for it or not. I guess I haven’t yet seen blood and gore and limbs breaking and babies being born and using an AED to shock someone’s heart (though I did it on a mannequin!) but if hearing about it and learning about it indicates anything, well, I’m cut out for this. It grabs me. It’s interesting. It feels like purpose. Like I’m doing something that means something, not just to me, but to the greater world around me. I need that sense of purpose like I need to breathe. 

We just covered anatomy, which was my favorite. Specifically, heart stuff. Holy cow, the heart is an amazing little muscle-pump-of-never-ending-beast-mode. And all that running, including the injuries!- came in handy at last. ‘Skeletal structure of the lower extremities? Got it. Difference between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism? Yessir.’ Medical terminology, ughhhh, not so much. Pages and pages. All those suffixes and prefixes that you can attach onto words to make a whole new medical term? *holds head in hands*  And don’t even get me started on mnemonics. THEY ARE MANY.

The increased workload will mean no ultras for me this summer, and probably no marathons until at least late fall, if any. Boston is still out there, but for now I need this more. I’m okay with running for fun… doing some 5ks and actually training for one?... using running as a way to alleviate the stress of sitting at work and sitting (again) through class.  Currently, I need running to be a supportive friend, not another obligation/job.

I tell myself, when it gets chaotic and tough and there aren’t enough hours in a day and I feel like a bad mom and wife and I’m trying to stay awake long enough to shower and eat at 11:00pm… this is like a marathon. A summer of hard work, a lot of sacrifices, maybe not as much sweat but definitely a few tears. The finish line is worth it.

And like the marathon, the finish line is seldom just a finish. Instead, it can be the door to a world of new possibilities.

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That's pretty great that you can do a complete career switch over just a few months! I spent 6 years in grad school...it seemed impossibly demanding at the time but was 100% worth it.

Keep on truckin! 

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You and Mrs. Dave can talk hearts sometime. I'll be in the dessert line.

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You never cease to inspire the hell out of me!!  I'm so happy for you that you're going for it!!

FWIW my mom worked and got her masters when I was a kid.  Those moments that you start to feel like a bad mom, remember what a wonderful example you are setting for your children.  This, having a career that you love and putting in long hours and hard work to get there, is part of what makes you a great mother.  

You know where I'll be in October if you're looking for a race.  :D

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Amazing and so inspiring! You're a wonderful role model for your little ones, especially your daughter! Go you!!

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It's your time, Peg. So happy you have the courage and strength to take this huge step - and a supportive husband helping you make it happen. 

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What a great new chapter! Sounds like a lot of work, but I'm sure it will be completely worth it when you are doing something you truly love. 

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