Day 233 - Geordie (1st person I approached)
August 21, 2014 - Geordie was having something to eat when I approached her. When I get halfway through my introduction to this project, and the person I’m speaking to says ‘I know who you are. I follow your project,’ it throws me off for a second or two. It hasn't happened that often, but it’s still kind of weird and wonderful at the same time when it does.
Geordie was born and raised in Montreal.
“My parents were both from England. I’m an only child. My father had wanted to be a jazz musician. He was extremely intelligent, beyond Mensa. He’d take twenty minutes to complete the New York Times crossword,” said Geordie. Her father came from an upper middle-class family in England. When he was old enough, between the two wars, he escaped to Europe to delve into the world of jazz. Her mother was a fashion illustrator.
“She was always impeccably dressed. Her family had come from Canada. After the war, when they left England, it was my mother's family ties that got them to Montreal,” said Geordie.
“I think in my own defence, I became a ‘jock’ to avoid competing with either of them. I felt as if my father and I competed for my mother's attention. My mother just wanted a best friend. Looking back, I really don’t know why they ever got married,” she said.
In school Geordie played sports.
“I was into softball and field hockey,” she said.
"Then I went to CEGEP (the Quebec equivalent of Grade 12 and first year college - General and Vocational College). I was interested in English and Psychology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but those subjects interested me, so that’s what I took. I went to CEGEP because that’s what you did. It was in my first year there, that I discovered wine, women and dope!” said Geordie, laughing and shaking her head. Her mother had always known that Geordie was a lesbian.
“From the age of about 18 months, I rebelled against wearing dresses. As I got a little bit older, I flat out refused to wear them. My mother, as a fashion illustrator, probably wanted a little girl who was frilly and lacey and all blonde curly ringlets. Not a girl who had red hair and was most comfortable in dungarees and cowboy boots. One thing is for sure, I always knew I was loved as a child growing up, and that my parents always did the very best that they could for me,” she said.
After completing CEGEP, Geordie had applied and got accepted to Concordia University in Montreal.
“I was going to study general arts. My mother gave me three hundred dollars as a present for my twenty-first birthday. I decided to take a vacation with that money. I drove with my cousin to Calgary (Alberta) and stayed there for a month, which was thirty days too long. They told me ‘there are no lesbians here in Calgary.’ My cousin stayed there and I came to Vancouver for two weeks. I was amazed at the beauty of the city. The mountains, the ocean and nature. And there was NO humidity! I never even suspected that it could be warm and not humid. My aunt and uncle were living here, and my mother had come to visit them. The plan was that after my two weeks here in Vancouver, I would go back to my parents in Montreal and go to university. I remember sitting out in the garden at my aunt’s place. Looking at my mother and saying, very quietly to her ‘What would you think if I was maybe thinking of staying here in Vancouver?’ My mother applauded the idea! Six months later, her and my father separated,” said Geordie.
“Looking back, I realize my mother had given me that money as a way to break out and find my freedom. She was looking out for me. And once I had left home, she had no reason to stay in the marriage and my parents separated. She was protecting me.”
Geordie couch-surfed for a while, staying with friends and family until getting settled.
“I got a job working for the post office. I sorted mail and then became a letter carrier, delivering mail. I also became quite active in the union and was a shop steward,” she said. Geordie was active politically and participated in marches and demonstrations for causes that she felt strongly about.
"I worked at the post office for about five years. Until I felt that every second I worked there, I was killing another brain cell. I then got a job driving a catering delivery truck for twelve years. There was some sales involved and interaction with people. I enjoyed meeting and talking with people. I’m an outgoing, friendly type of person. In the end it was soul destroying,” she said.
“I had met a woman and we became involved in what would be a twelve year relationship. Which might have been nine years too long. She was going to school to become a nurse. And of course, as they say, if your partner is going to school, so do you. The more I learned about nursing though her, the more I felt I should explore nursing,” said Geordie.
Langara College wouldn’t accept Geordie’s credits from the CEGEP in Montreal.
“I went to the Open Learning College to upgrade my credits in English and Psychology, exactly what I had studied back in CEGEP. At that time, the college were not accept hand-written papers anymore. Things had to be ‘word processed' by computer. I had been an early adaptor in technology and was keen to learn what I could about computers. By the time I had finished my Open Learning courses to get into Langara, they decided to accept my CEGEP credits! I spent two years at Langara completing the RN (Registered Nurse) program."
"I wanted to work in palliative care, ideally with HIV positive and AIDS patients nearing the end of their lives. In nursing, you’re connecting with people, talking with strangers, and making people feel comfortable all the time. I was made for it!” said Geordie.
“Trouble was, when I graduated, there weren’t many jobs going in nursing. I had to work at four and five different facilities to equal full-time work.” In time, Geordie got a permanent position at the University of British Columbia Hospital, in family and palliative care. She also became involved with the BCNU (British Columbia Nurses Union).
“I became a shop steward and got involved with the union as Secretary. It became almost like having two full-time jobs,” she said.
Geordie had long given up playing softball, and had worked up to becoming an Umpire in field hockey.
“Then I took up curling. I met a woman who was on a team that had played against my team in a match. We started dating and this just felt different. I had made a few poor decisions when it came to relationships in the past. I would usually determine in about three months what I was willing to give up to fit that person's expectations. Or I'd find out what I thought I could change about them to make things work. I didn’t feel any of that this time, and it’s been amazing. We got married in 2007, and we play on the same curling team now!” said Geordie.
With the advancement of technology, it became apparent that the many different systems in place across the various levels of healthcare needed to be revamped.
“With my background in computers, and being an RN, I was asked to go on secondment. PHSA (Provincial Health Services Authority) wanted me to help map out a new system to allow twelve different branches of healthcare communicate as one,” she said.
Geordie’s mantra is “One Patient, One Record.” I suggested we start a hashtag for her mantra.
“I’m still an RN, even though I’m working in a different area of healthcare. I’m also still involved with the BCNU,” she said.
“I love where my life has lead me to,” she says with a smile that is almost tangible with passion, joy and love.
“My wife. My job. All areas of my life.”
I asked Geordie what had brought her to the area where we were chatting.
“My old office used to be here. Now I work down the street a bit, but I came up here for a coworkers birthday gathering. I just grabbed a bite to eat and then I’m walking downtown to go to a screening for the (Vancouver) Queer Film Festival. (*Fact Check - see links below.) I’m still involved politically, but in a different manner these days. My wife and I are avid supporters of the Queer Film Festival. We go because we enjoy the films. But we also go because we are able to donate to support the work that the festival does related to education. Specifically ‘Out in Schools’ which is a cause that I am passionate about,” said Geordie. (*Fact Check - see links below.) Her voice started to crack with emotion, her words were laboured, and her face blushed as she attempted to hold back tears.
“If there had been something like this when I was in school, fifty years ago, my life would have been so different. Children of today can grow up to be accepting and the bullies don’t have to be tolerated. I see children who are at the same place as I am today. It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable, truly comfortable with my self. But more importantly to accept that I am okay. I am good, and I am okay with who I am. I’m fortunate that I am able to (financially) contribute at a higher level. I want to make sure that the resources offered to help children to live a better experience, are there for them.” #notastranger #OnePatientOneRecord