I sat and leaned back on the brick chimney. The East Texas sun was beating down on me as I looked down from the second story roof of the home. How did I get here? A year ago I couldn’t stand on a step stool to change a light bulb. Thinking back, I remembered what I told myself. You can do what you have to do. Just do it.
When my daughter was about to enter junior high, I visited her school. I didn’t like the rough look of the kids. A check of private schools indicated there was a one-year wait to enroll. So I did what any reasonable person would—sold my home, quit my job as an inside insurance adjuster and moved to East Texas.
Fortunately for me, my boss knew me and understood why I was leaving. So he called a friend in Tyler, and I had a job interview in no time.
My soon-to-be boss advised that he needed an outside adjuster to write estimates on damaged homes. He asked if I had experience. I answered, yes, although it was a lie. I had worked auto claims. He asked if I could start the next day. I left thinking I must be crazy. It would not take long for him to figure out I didn’t know a thing about roofs. Then I thought, you need this job. Just do it. Maybe you will figure it out before he catches on.
Arriving in my slacks, sweater and 3-inch heels, I thought the look my boss gave me was skeptical. He gave me a ladder and sent me to look at a roof. What I had done really hit me when I arrived. I had to do what? I really had to go onto a roof! But I had to do this. I needed this job. I stood on the third-from-top rung of my ladder and gave the roof a cursory glance. It looked okay. I didn’t know how it was supposed to look when it wasn’t damaged, much less when it was.
When I returned, he asked how much damage. I answered, not much. He said, how many squares? I knew what was coming. Now he would fire me. He burst out laughing. He said, you’ve never been on a roof before in your life have you? No, I confessed, and gulped. He asked, do you want to learn? Yes, I would! He called a friend of his and said: I have a girl here who needs to know all about roofs. I will pay her if you will train her. The next two weeks I went with independent adjusters on many roofs and learned the ropes for writing estimates. They taught me how to place my ladder and how to spot and understand damage. They taught me that jeans and tennis shoes were the proper dress code for climbing roofs.
I was the first female field adjuster in East Texas. My territory was 23 counties.
What I didn’t know back then was that this experience was preparing me for my future. I had learned not only a new skill—one where a woman can make enough money to support her family—but self-reliance and courage and how to face life optimistically. Later, when my husband had a stroke and I took care of him at home, I did so successfully. When he died, our savings were totally wiped out. I had to start over. You bet I was scared. Then I remembered. You can do what you have to do. Just do it. And I did.
Jodi LaVohn lives in Irving, Texas. She has been writing poetry, short stories and essays since she was a teenager.