After spending the better part of 10 years as a cop and having my career lost due to an injury, I was left with a gut wrenching decision to make. That decision was “What do I do now?”
See, I never thought I’d lose my career, after all, I’d spent countless hours in college and gotten 2 AS degrees and 2 Bachelor’s degrees. I always knew if nothing else, I’d have that education to fall back on. The problem is, none of those 4 degrees really help me in my search for “what’s next.” I thought having my business degree, I’d go into personal finance or Mortgage lending or some sort of finance. Having a degree in Cellular Biology and Neuroscience I figured I could always become a researcher, after all, I’m always researching ways to make life better and where and when to travel and did research for publications as an undergraduate for a PhD student.
Most people have, at one point or another, had a back up plan. I started with so many I couldn’t count. As life went on, those back up plans changed because my life was constantly changing. I realized the back up plans I had were never going to get me where I wanted to go, but I really didn’t know where I wanted to be.
After too many years in the books and thousands of dollars in school debt, Bronson persuaded me to go into public service. I was burnt out being in the hospital, helping people who didn’t want to be helped, being spit on and screamed at, and threatened to be sued. I just lost my zest for life. I applied for a police academy in Ventura and was offered a position. Just before the academy started, our lives changed again. Bronson had applied and tested at numerous departments when he was offered a job in Lake Tahoe. The fire service as anyone who’s ever tried to get in knows, is very competitive. Not only is it competitive, but at the time, they had the Affirmative Action Act in place. So even if you were the most qualified and tested in the top 5 people for the job, there was a certain amount of biased toward minorities to get a job, which Bronson is not. We loved to visit Tahoe and often thought of living there, so, I removed my name from the academy list and we moved to Lake Tahoe.
This is where it gets really sad and graphic, WARNING- tears may be shed while reading this part.
The turning point for me was an accident I had witnessed while moving from San Luis Obispo to South Lake Tahoe where a big rig had been clipped on it’s left rear corner by a passing vehicle. The rig jackknifed across 2 lanes of head on traffic crushing a minivan right in front of me. The rig flipped on its side, the driver jumped out of the passenger window as the rig caught fire. I immediately tended to the passengers in the vehicle and in this one particular spot, there was no cellular reception for 6 miles in either direction. I waved down a passerby and told them to drive until they got reception and call 911. The firehouse was 15 miles away and I knew they’d be there fast, as Bronson had worked this section of the highway for 5 years as a Paramedic. As I tended to the people in the van which had been crushed like an accordion, the mother sat in the passenger seat already deceased. The father in the driver seat was unconscious, but had a pulse that was rapidly fading away. Though I knew he probably couldn’t hear me, I told him I’d do my best to take care of his kids. There was a young girl in the rear seat approximately 8 years old, I grabbed the knife I always have on me and cut her seat belt off and pulled her from the wreckage. She was breathing and unconscious, so I turned my attention to the infant in the car seat. At this time another lady had stopped to assist me. The infant was not breathing so I was doing CPR. I watched as clear fluid flowed from her nose and ears and I knew there was nothing I could do to save her life, but I wasn’t ready to give up. The lady who had stopped to help render aid was a Registered Nurse that I worked with. She pulled me away from the baby and covered her body up. A CHP helicopter, Fire trucks and ambulances arrived along with the Medical examiner’s office as I sat on the side of the road crying. Realizing all of this happened because somebody was in a hurry to get somewhere. The saying, “Things you see cannot be unseen” has never meant more to me than that day. I didn’t want to work in the hospital anymore. I didn’t want to roll up on those types of incidences and feel helpless because there was nothing I could do. (I saved one life out of 4 that day, and for 3 years I got thank you cards from the girl and her aunt and uncle in France.) As far as I know, they never caught the person responsible for the fatal crash that devastated so many lives that day. It was at that point I felt a pull I’ve never experienced. I wanted to catch the person who was responsible for ruining this family, this little girl and all of us first responders and I was willing to do whatever it took.
I withdrew my application at all the hospitals around the Tahoe basin and put in an interest card to all the Public Safety Offices around the Reno-Tahoe basin. I started the academy 2 months after moving there and I loved it. I loved everything about it. Dealing with conflict, and conflict resolution. I liked being the voice for the victims who couldn’t speak for themselves. I knew I would be satisfied forever in that job if I made the difference in even just a single person’s life. I loved being hands on, and learning new and practical things I could use in my everyday life, not just for safety, but for talking to people. As much as I think I don’t like people, I find it really easy to talk to people and make friends, but only when I want to. I felt in charge of my situation. I didn’t feel like a sail flapping in the wind anymore, waiting for it to blow to shore. I finally found my calling. This, police work, this is what I wanted to do. This is what I’d do for the rest of my career.
12 years later, here I am, just finding my new purpose. It’s not just to travel the world and see things. It’s to teach people in the underdeveloped world how to filter water and how to use composting to make their soil rich. If these underdeveloped countries have access to clean water and fertile soil, they can be self sustaining. They won’t have to worry about their babies dying of bacterial diseases, the parents also won’t feel as much pressure to sell their children into human trafficking to put food on the table for the rest of their family.
My entire life has been dedicated to helping people and keeping people safe, from being in the Military to the field of Nursing and starting Medical School to finally becoming a Police officer. I find that helping people to help themselves gives me a sense of purpose and wellbeing; and that makes me feel good about myself. I have finally found a new direction, and we as a family are happy to start this new adventure having found a new and deeper purpose.