A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting

Pamela Asbury-Smith on an archeological dig

Guest Post by Pamela Asbury-Smith

March 30, 2017

Act One: Motherhood to Quantico

High school and jobs, college and career choices. Perhaps it’s the era into which I was born but I wasn’t expected to go to college. In fact, I was told I wouldn’t need it because I’d just get married and have children, whereas my brother would need a college degree to support the family he would one day have. I did get my MRS degree–I also got a divorce after two children and had to go to work.

My brother never married, never had children. Irony of ironies.

Without any marketable skills aside from typing and ambition, I was able to land an exciting job as a clerk-matron in a small police department. My sagging ego needed that infusion of power.

Pamela Asbury-Smith. Records Supervisor, 1980
Pamela in about 1980 working as records supervisor in law enforcement.

I poured myself into that role, getting all the training offered and sought even more. I went after promotions I felt would be beneficial to my career. Ultimately, the supervisory role I coveted meant far too much time spent away from my daughters. They were raising themselves, so I stepped down, shocking the admin.

I was then able to transfer to Investigations–much more my style. I’d dreamed of being a composite artist, and had an avocation for art. Reading an FBI magazine, I saw a golden opportunity. I applied for, and received, an appointment to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia for Composite Artists training. That experience remains a high point in my career as a civilian in law enforcement.

Pamela at Quantico for composite artist training
Pamela at Quantico for composite artist training.
Act Two: College at Forty-Eight

Four years later, my youngest daughter graduated from high school and moved out. Since my older daughter had already graduated and joined the army, empty nest syndrome presented the opportunity to fulfill the dream of a lifetime. I sold everything; house, furniture and car and moved to Hawaii… my paradise.

I had jobs there, good jobs, but none that matched the professionalism or salary I’d had on the mainland. My future became cemented after I had been passed over for a promotion I wanted because the other candidate had a college degree. I began researching careers in anticipation of college, and interviewed three women in fields I found fascinating; Forensic Anthropology (I’d need a doctorate but I was almost forty-eight and time was a factor), geology, and archaeology. For the latter two fields a BA would suffice. Both involved working outdoors, and I believed I could get a BA in two years using my credits from community colleges.

No and yes.

No, I couldn’t get the degree in two years because I needed to work part time, and yes, I could use nearly all my accumulated credits. I moved back to my home state of New Mexico as the cost of living there was manageable, and I could get immediate admission to UNM. Four years later, at age fifty-two I had my BA in hand; Physical Anthropology, along with a minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences (Geology). I’d achieved yet another dream; becoming an archaeologist.

Act Three: Archeology

Secure in a job future in the islands, I returned to Hawaii. On my first night back in paradise, the enormity of it all finally struck. In my mind, I kept hearing Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?” I wasn’t going to let it be all there was.

Archeology dig, Pamela Asbury-Smith
Pamela Asbury-Smith at a dig site in Hawaii

Eagerly I sought out a position as an archaeologist, and was soon hired for field work by someone I’d previously worked for, a man who now owned his own archaeological firm. I remained there for five years. Economics and ambition stepped in because the work was project specific, thus sporadic.

I heard about a position I thought would be a dream job; quality control archaeologist on a nearby island, one that had been bombed for 50 years. I got the job. The pay was fantastic, the work difficult, the terrain rugged, but being a blonde woman working for a mainland firm under government contract that was already top-heavy with “manpower?” *sigh* Luckily, I had great coworkers, guys who watched out for me to see that I was included, thus less of a target. They were good friends. After a year, though, I left in frustration and returned to the mainland where I worked for another five years, until I was terminated for having cancer. (Illegal, much?)

Act Four: Indie Writer
Pamela Asbury-Smith
Pamela Asbury-Smith at a book fair. Supporting her fourth career

During that time, I dug out the draft of a novel I’d started writing by hand years before, and spent more years writing and rewriting it. I did finish it, received accolades and encouragement from two important writers which didn’t bring in an agent or a publisher. I won an edit of the entire manuscript in a raffle, later won a marketing package in another raffle. (Perhaps that was when I should have bought a lottery ticket!) But, with advancing age I chose to self-publish. First career, motherhood; second career, law enforcement; third career, archaeologist. I’m now in my fourth career… as an Indie writer. Appearing at book signings is exciting and meeting people who are interested in reading what I write is a thrill. In response to my readers who have asked for more, I’m writing the second in a planned trilogy.

Dare to Dream. There are no limitations to what you can achieve.

Your turn: How have you dared to dream?

Connect with Pamela on Twitter. You can also find her book Phantom at Honolulu Harbor at Amazon.com or request a copy from your local library or book shop.

Phantom at Honolulu Harbor
Pamela’s first novel, Phantom at Honolulu Harbor is available now in paperback.




Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

14 thoughts on “A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting”

  1. What an inspiring woman! I absolutely loved her story. The lesson is to take every hurdle life throws at you and turn it into an opportunity.

  2. Very inspiring read. I don’t think we have a set path it’s a bit finding a path that works for us and seizing opportunities and keeping going!

  3. Talk about life experiences! As a woman who loves to learn and experience new things, I very much appreciate Pamela’s ability to change her life’s course based on what she is interested in or needs to do at that particular time in her life. Wonderful!

  4. Wow, all completely different phases to her career! I’m dreaming of the same thing, moving into something totally different. It’s both exciting and nerve-wracking. To have her confidence!

    1. She’s an amazing woman–even now she’s posting on Facebook about her hula lessons and working on her second book.
      What kinds of things are you dreaming of? Anything you might actually pursue do you think?

      1. I’m going to take a bit of time of to figure that out. Do some volunteering, writing, hiking. etc. I have several writing projects for a local outdoor magazine/website to get caught up on! Right now my dream is to work more directly with the homeless, particularly adults without kids. My experience is that they get the least amount of sympathy. In my area actually, the elderly are the fastest growing homeless population. It might not turn into work but it’s what I am passionate about. 🙂

        1. I’m thinking about what I can do to support people experiencing homelessness as well. I’m not sure what it will result in. But, I think it’s important to be thinking about it.

  5. The comments from those who have read my story and how they viewed it, me, moved me so much I had puddles in my eyes. My objective was never to be an inspiration; it was just to have the adventures I always wanted. I’m so grateful to you for the RT.

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