Rediscovery in a Time of Pandemic
In 2017, I retired from a twenty-six-year career as Dr. Isabella Uzaraga, a palliative care physician. I told my colleagues that I had given twenty-six years to medicine and I wanted to give back to the planet. At the time, my husband had already retired for two years, and I also wanted to spend more time with him before, well, I died; that was the goal for many who worked in the field of palliative care. Little did I know that my goals would go through a roller coaster of change because of a pandemic and illness, but eventually come out in rediscovery.
The journey starts…
In 2018, I started my journey at Camosun College Environmental Electronic and Computer Engineering Tech program. There, as the oldest student, I seemed an enigma to the twenty something year old students, mostly male, who were all jockeying for coveted jobs in the field. I made it clear to them that I was not competing for their jobs and only wanted to prove to myself that I still had the capacity to learn. However, I developed some perfectionist traits that got me A plus marks yet prevented me from completing the program. Perhaps I still felt traumatized from my struggles as a medical school student and wanted to be a “better” student this time around. By the end of second term, I transferred out of the program and into the Computer Network Electronics Technician program; however, there was a one-year waitlist. Fine, I was retired and could focus on self-learning about climate crisis; I began a blog called Seaweedcabin.com that focused on climate crisis issues and discussed microcosm solutions from our cabin on Gabriola Island. I bade my Camosun colleagues goodbye and told them I would see them in their graduation year…then, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down.
Time to regroup
However traumatic the pandemic affected my autonomy I did find the time useful to regroup from an academic/career goal back to why I retired in the first place; I had forgotten how much I wanted to purely live a green life with an individual environmental action plan. Therefore, instead of focusing on what I did not complete, I made space to appreciate what I had already done: I adopted a plant-based diet, I bought an electric car, I put thermal windows into the cabin, I planted a victory garden, I stopped flying in airplanes, I recycled more, and most all, I stopped consuming goods. For example, when I worked, I used to spend $3000 per month on clothes, gas and eating out. Whereas, in retirement, I barely spent one tenth of that. Furthermore, we bought a house that was more energy efficient, had solar potential, and had a huge vegetable garden. Although, I could not imagine myself as a technician, I could visualize myself as a gardener and environmental activist.
Allowing time to heal
Most of all, I allowed myself time to figure out what I wanted to do, a luxury I could not afford when I had student loans leveraging my education and first career. I also allowed myself time to heal from not only my own medical problems, my parents’ medical and aging problems, but from the global problems roiling around me. Therefore, I stopped looking at negative sensationalized daily news and subscribed to more positive news resources such as Futurecrunch.com, Sierraclub.com, Vancouver Island electric vehicle, and some solar networks. Furthermore, I created art because art tries to make sense of our tumultuous world, putting control back into my hands. Likewise, each day I give thanks for the beautiful hikes, sunshine or small things such as a plate of dumplings placed before me; I am mindful that they are still all here for me to enjoy.
Mind you, we are still in a pandemic and will be for some time. I see this time as a gift, an opportunity to try new things and re-evaluate. Most of all, I need not focus on what I have or have not done, but instead just appreciate the processes I choose in rediscovering myself, Issy.