Editor’s Note: We’ve asked a lot of questions in 2012. And you’ve shared a lot of stories with us. So many of them are about change — of one sort or another. So we are marking the changing of the year with stories of people actively making changes in their lives in order to improve their physical, emotional or communal health.
This is one of those stories: about Vicky Hay of Phoenix. Read the others here.
Last spring, a doctor told Vicky Hay that she had symptoms consistent with gastric cancer — a condition that could leave her with only months to live.
As she drove home from that appointment, she thought about the job she’d just been laid off from at Arizona State University — it had been a catastrophic blow, she said.
“At 64, I was well past the age when anyone was likely to hire me for truly gainful work,” Hay said. “I couldn’t get a full-time job anywhere, and believe me, I tried: I couldn’t even get hired to drive the tourist train at the zoo!”
She found short-term teaching work at a community college that she said barely paid minimum wage. Though she loved her students, she truly hated the job. “It occurred to me, as I made my way homeward through the homicidal Phoenix traffic, that I had been making myself miserable so that I could preserve retirement savings to support me during an old age, when I expect to be miserable,” she said.
So she quit.
Now, in addition to the new copy editing business that she and a former colleague are cooking up, Hay has discovered that she can earn a good living through one of her hobbies — stringing beads into jewelry.
Hay learned to make beaded lariats — which look like long, looped necklaces — by getting back into an old hobby of hers, and observing a local artist’s work.
The pieces she makes don’t come cheap — they sell for about a hundred dollars a pop — and under ideal conditions, Hay says that works out to about $30 per hour of work. ”I can sell beaded necklaces at a rate that pays me exactly what Arizona State University paid me at the height of my earning capacity,” she said.
And it turns out the health problems that prompted her change of direction probably aren’t as bad as she feared. Her condition cleared up after a different doctor treated her for gastroesophageal reflux disease. The symptoms haven’t returned, a good sign she doesn’t have cancer.
“It doesn’t look like I’m going to die after all; not soon, at any rate,” Hay said. “This will give me some time to have a life.”