To Whom It May Concern; I know, it seems like a horrible introduction, but it is accurate.  This particular topic will not concern everyone.  It is not a topic that just anyone will take an interest in, but it is a very relevant topic for me and many others in their forties or fifties or even sixties (possibly seventies), because I don’t want to leave anyone out. My name is Julie Shalen-Metz.  I am 49 years old.  I am a physical therapist with my Masters Degree and have practiced for over 25 years.  I have 2 teenage daughters: one in college and one in high school.  I have been divorced almost 8 years.  I have no family in town but have many good friends who are like family. I have a friendship with my ex-husband that we both work diligently to maintain; this is a dynamic and ever evolving relationship.    Learning to adapt has been the one true constant.

The current climate of the world has encouraged me to feel more grateful than I ever have before.  So many are suffering and so many of us feel unsettled or unsafe. Such a strange feeling to be peering down the road ahead not knowing which turn to take.   The road less traveled…is a busy road these days.

I have worked in many settings:  outpatient orthopedics, home-health, and private practice.  I have raised 2 functional daughters who I hope will contribute something positive to the world someday.  I have learned to do basic plumbing, painting, general house repairs and pool maintenance and my taxes.  I learned most of these things out of necessity, but ultimately enjoyed the independence these skills gave me.  Beginning March of 2020, I stopped treating patients due to the pandemic. I was seeing patients out of my home office, and it no longer felt safe or responsible to do so.    I have struggled with migraines for years and treating patients full time had become very challenging.  In my humble opinion, physical therapy is a job for the youthful.  Although I am fit and active, treating patients 8 or 9 hours a day was no longer feasible nor desirable. I found myself in uncharted territory.  48 at the time, the idea of a major career change was overwhelming to say the least.  I wasn’t sure that there would be an adequate supply of legal drugs to assist me in this transition.

The daunting process began. First, I asked myself ‘what do I know?’  I know healthcare.  I know raising kids.  I know how to run a household.  I know how to be married and how to be divorced. Second, I considered how to transfer this bucket of skills into a career/job that I could get paid for doing.  Not being independently wealthy and not feeling too confident that my parents would give me my inheritance early, I realized that I needed to pull up my big girl pants and figure it out. And so it began; I talked and listened to anyone and everyone who was willing to give me a few minutes of their precious time. I started with my close friends; then friends of friends; then co-workers of friends of friends.

I made contacts through Facebook and LinkedIn.  I literally spoke to and continue to speak with anyone who I suspect has a functional frontal lobe.  People are fascinating and genuinely happy to help if they can.  I have been blown away by the generosity of those who took time out of their busy lives to brainstorm with me, share their personal and business contacts and simply listen as I cried because I was so scared. I am still scared.  I think that scared may be the cousin of excited, because anything new is both scary and exciting.

I was introduced to Holly through one of these generous people.  Holly began by reminding me that I have many valuable skills, as do most of us who have been on this earth for half a century.  The challenge is to use those life skills in a meaningful job/career that will allow me to support myself and my children.  I have spoken with many other folks who made big life changes much later in life than me and I guess I figured, if they can do it why can’t I?  Well……the answer is that I can.  I am at the beginning of my journey, and I know it will be daunting and at times overwhelming.  Surely it cannot be harder or scarier than when the hospital allowed me to take my first daughter home when I was so clearly unprepared and unqualified.

Life gives you kids…. try not to kill them.  Life gives you lemons… make lemonade.  You get the idea.  I guess I figured, in these uncertain times, let me make them more uncertain by starting a new career.  Yup, let’s all have a good laugh about that idea, but here I am.  Still breathing, still eating, sometimes sleeping with the help of modern pharmaceuticals, still functioning and bizarrely excited about this new chapter.  I hope to write more and share my stories both triumphant and not.  I am not unique or special and there is comfort in that.  We can all be many versions of ourselves, and I look forward to sharing the road with you all.

Love hard, smile often, and drive safe.

written by guest author, Julie Shalen-Metz

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