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home : readerswrite : yourstory November 24, 2017

Summer days on a road crew
Two weeks later I was on my first assignment, and four weeks after that I was climbing into a work truck at 5 a.m. for the long drive to Michigan.
- Jackie Jeffery

by Jackie Jeffrey

Nine months after dissolving a 22-year marriage, I went to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for the first time. It's beautiful there: forested, quiet, and majestic. The trip wasn't about post-divorce healing, however. It was about survival.

After more than 20 years as a fulltime mom, I found myself alienated from my children, living in a makeshift basement apartment, and completely on my own financially. I was unprepared for the workforce, with an unfinished bachelor's degree and only a part-time retail job in my recent work history. When a friend mentioned the asphalt company he worked for was hiring, I laughed, dismissing the idea.

Two weeks later I was on my first assignment, and four weeks after that I was climbing into a work truck at 5 a.m. for the long drive to Michigan.

Arriving at the peak of summer, we repaired cracks 12 hours a day, six days a week. I was low in the pecking order, spending most of my days doing what the guys didn't want to: stop sign duty. I rarely saw anyone on those remote roads. Under the seamless blue sky of the U.P., I had hours to ponder how I was going to rebuild my life. Without realizing it, I was starting to heal.

We stayed in a hotel on Lake Superior, 14 miles from the Porcupine Mountains. During our coveted downtime, I walked long stretches of beach, stared into bonfires and watched sunsets across the waves. I hiked to Lake of the Clouds. The guys and I found a local restaurant, renowned for the bears it attracted just outside its picture windows. I saw a coyote cross the road less than 100 feet from where I stood. I watched a spider spin a web that spanned a ten-inch gap in a boulder.

The Michigan assignment ended after six weeks. I was sad to leave, but ready to move on. Nature's medicine had taken hold. We went next to I-90 in Iowa, where traffic roared by at 65 miles an hour and my days of easy contemplation ended.

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It's unlikely I'll do that kind of work again, but the adventures on the road taught me important things about myself: I'm capable of handling the unexpected, the challenging, the lonely. I might not know where life is going, but I can be okay with the unknown. I can find my way.

Jackie Jeffery is a writer, mother, life coach and mid-life college graduate. jackiejeffery.com

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