I tend to be hyper-aware when synchronicity occurs. But even if these events seem meaningful, and I'm quite sure they must be meaningful, generally I can't figure out why.
At my vet's annual “client appreciation day,” which comes each October with a roast pig and copious numbers of banjos, I met a man that I had once met before, in passing, from Georgia, who had been both a small and large animal vet. I'm always pretty impressed by someone who specializes in both types of animals, who thinks nothing of spaying a cat and then is called out in the wee hours to help deliver a breeched calf or foal.
Upon talking to him further, juggling two plastic glasses of wine in my hands (I promise the other was for a friend), I was further impressed by the fact that this gentleman decided, approaching mid life, to leave his veterinary practice, go back to school and become a human doctor. A GP. And he is.
That's a truckload of school and ambition, if you ask me. I can't even imagine the study involved, much less the expense of starting up an entirely new clinic, unless you could get patients to sit on those little metal examining tables that used to support dogs and cats. And as someone whose math skills were limited by the most basic of fractions, and whose interest in science dissolved, along with the school-lunch contents of my stomach when told to dissect a frog in 5th grade, I take my hat off to anyone who sashays through chemistry and calculus.
Then last night, driving home from a speaking engagement at a respected medical center in Hickory, N.C., I was still trying to believe the words of the doctor, a radiologist, who sat next to me after my stand-up performance.
“If I could do anything in my life,” she said, confidentially, “If I could be anything, it would be comedy.”
“Are you kidding me?” I mouthed, not wanting to draw attention away from the vascular surgeon now mounting the steps to to discuss far more important things than my impression of Stevie Nicks who has always sounded to me like a nanny goat with its head stuck in a fence. “You're a doctor, for heaven's sake. What's more important than that?”
“I've even been thinking taking classes on how to be a stand-up,” she whispered back.
The two-hour drive home gave me plenty of opportunity to muse over both conversations that had happened within days. Certainly it's not unheard of for people to switch careers mid-life and, if anything, I applaud people for following their dreams. I was just trying to figure out how if this dollop of synchronicity was a sort of “sign,” for me. That maybe I should do something different with the second half of my life.
I suppose I could if I had any marketable skills.
And therein lies the rub. I don't want to do anything else. I enjoy training horses, writing silly columns and then grabbing the occasional gig. But there will come a day, I am well aware, that I will no longer be able to ride. Bad hips or knees or lack of nerve — I know they're out there but not yet. And when that day comes, there's just no way Aunty Pam is going to be content joining the local garden club or quilter's circle.
Perhaps the message to take away from these interesting events is to simply not deny your heart. Leave your profession — even if it cost you a ridiculous amount of money and time to achieve it, and go do something else. Or, if you still love what you do but notice the window of time to continue seems to be getting a wee bit smaller, go ahead and dig in your heels and keep forging ahead.
I've heard of a practicing heart surgeon in California who is in his 90s. A middle-aged nobody who had the guts to go on a talent show and become Susan Boyle. And nobody's funnier than Betty White, who continues to work steadily well into her 80s.
As long as my horses don't spook at my approaching them with a walker, that's what I'm shooting for. And if I physically just can't ride them, we're just going to have to learn to quilt together.