An Unexpected Journey
Some of the biggest opportunities in life sometimes present themselves unexpectedly. And you may not always recognize these unexpected happenstances as opportunity at the time that they present themselves. But things have a funny way of happening in life, and if you try to keep an open mind to new and exciting adventures, you could just find yourself living what you once thought to only be a dream.
This particular opportunity interrupted a nap, some number of years back. I was an ER nurse in those days and had only recently learned there was such a thing as transport nursing that took place in such locations as commercial jets, private jets, ambulances, and probably other various means that I'm still not aware of even today. A coworker had shared some of her experiences with me, explaining it as something she had taken up from time to time in her days off of work at the hospital, before she had kids and various other responsibilities. The entire concept seemed amazing to me. Medically accompany someone to another state or country? Sometimes in a private jet?? Then return a couple of days later possibly?? I needed this.
She referred me to a private company, but my attempts to establish any kind of contact with them were only met with silence. Just enough time had passed that I had forgotten about it all, when one afternoon I was abruptly startled from a nap. My phone was buzzing and it was that nurse friend calling.
Don't answer the phone - you're resting right now.
She is probably calling to see if you're available to come into work and help with short-staffing.
I groggily answered anyway. She was my friend after all.
"Michael. Remember that guy who ran flight operations that I worked for? They're desperate to find a nurse for a job that's happening - tonight. They called me and I can't. But I thought of you - are you available?"
The internal dialogue that happened over less than one second was as follows:
I'm tired - I'm napping.
Right now? So soon? I want this to happen, but can't this happen later?
I don't know - I don't even know these people.
"Yes," I blurted out.
Wait - what??
WHO DECIDED HE COULD SAY YES??
Yes, I was tired. Yes, this was very sudden and unexpected. Something/somebody inside overruled everything else that was hesitating in one impulsive and executive swoop.
It's hard to know how many personalities, voices, and advisors people have rolling around upstairs. The old/previously conventional school of thought on that was that everybody came standard equipped with one angel and one devil - one for each shoulder.
More recently, Disney's Inside Out acknowledged that there is often something more akin to a council that exists inside of us, trying to help run the show - I know for certain mine consists of an economics advisor, someone similar to Loki or an entity of mischief, my coworker Emily Smalls (who is either the most conservative liberal I've ever met, or the most liberal conservative I've ever met. I still can't figure it out, but she is very balanced but strong in her opinions and extremely difficult to argue against because she's so damn rational), a passionate justice advisor, a morality advocate, a "higher cause" representative, and many more who I simply can't think of right now.
Somebody from this group of mine inside my head recognized a great deal of potential and opportunity in this, skipped the debate, and immediately slammed their hand onto the "YES" button. Even as the words escaped my lips, I felt a moderate deal of unease wash over me. This would be quickly forgotten, however, due to the barrage of events that would happen immediately after this decision.
"Great! I'll get you two in touch!" she replied.
If you ever watched Quantum Leap, this was one of the "oh boy" moments in my life.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the phone with the person running the operation, scanning documents, filling out paperwork, exchanging e-mails, and a handful of medical briefings. It was intense, and everybody was under pressure to get all of the pieces to fall into place before the scheduled departure that night. By the time all of our ducks were in a row, I had about enough time for a one hour nap before I was to leave my home and report to the hangar, where I'd meet the other crew for this job - two pilots, a paramedic, and a medically outfitted Leer Jet.
I laid my head down to try my best to get a little bit of rest before kicking things into high gear again. I would be flying out of Boeing Field at around midnight for a flight to Alaska to pick up this patient. It was a straightforward enough case. The only difference was I'd be doing it all in a fashion that was completely unfamiliar to me. Regardless, this field of work was something I had badly wanted to become involved in. I was willing to do whatever it took to make this work. I had committed at this point.
My brain would not shut off. The clock, despite making no noise at all, was loudly staring at me.
Everything was packed and in order. All that was left to do was go to the hangar in just a little bit of time.
My phone buzzed - it wasn't my alarm, it was Dave - the man I had just met who was running this operation.
"Michael. The flight's off, I'm sorry. Something changed - the patient has become anemic and it's not safe to transport him right now."
Internally, I let out an enormous sigh. I felt a mix of disappointment and simultaneous relief. This was something that I truly did want to become involved with and to do. From everything I had learned about it, this was my dream job. And this had been my big opportunity to dip my toes in and see what it was about.
Despite all of the hard work put in that day; the diligence, the positivity, the can-do attitude...I was also relieved. I was tuckered out. That afternoon nap I was woken up from wasn't enough and it was now almost midnight and I was still awake from the day's excitement and events. Not only had I spent the day working to get everything in proper order, at that rate the job wouldn't finish until sometime the next morning. I would have been exhausted.
"But listen," he added, "I want to grab lunch with you and meet you. I was really impressed with your attitude today. I'd like to keep in touch for some future opportunities. Does that sound ok to you?"
It was a unanimous yes from the council in my head this time.
There's something bigger to this story than me talking about how my career started its shift from bedside nursing into transport nursing. This is about saying yes to something that maybe presents itself with uncomfortable timing. Some people avoid opportunity, thinking that conditions need to be perfect; that the planets need to properly align before they can comfortably or safely make a big jump for their dreams.
For what it's worth, while most of my career moves might look like leaps from the outside, they've always felt like awkward stumbles from my end of things.
Do the planets ever line up? Does the perfect moment ever come? You hear inspirational stories all of the time about that. I am of the belief that those moments are quite rare. I will tell you this: the planets and the stars do not care about you. Don't hold your breath for them. They won't hold theirs for you.
My flight gig didn't happen that day. But my can-do attitude and willingness spoke volumes to exactly the person who needed to see and hear that. And in turn, that opened more doors for me down the road. You never know just who you might be impressing when you're out there, doing your thing and working hard. Opportunities are seeded in so many exchanges and interactions out there. So many interactions are one small catalyst away from turning into something bigger. Whether you realize it or not, you are advertising yourself when you interact with people. And that can have a big impact (or consequences) on future opportunities for you. It can build a career pathway.
Your interactions with people are among your biggest marketing opportunities that you have on the regular. That's a lot of unseen opportunities if you really stop to think about it.
Chew on that for a bit.
By the way - the man I had been speaking with on the phone that day? He would later become my boss. I would end up going on many, many flights down the road simply because I chose to answer the phone that one fateful afternoon.
I always like to say that life has a funny way of happening.