“If you know what you need to do to reach your goal, it’s not a big enough goal.”

Bob Proctor

When she was a young girl Carol McCollum, and her best friend and cousin Jen Mitchell, would imagine their future. “I was going to be a Federal DEA agent and Jen was going to be a lawyer. I was going to arrest them and she was going to prosecute them.”

Funny how life and plans don’t always go according to childhood dreams.

At 21 Carol was driving a big rig back and forth to California. She found herself in a male-dominated career. She told me overall she was treated well. “I did always park in the front of the truckstop parking lot and not the back.” There were occasional off color comments and jokes, but she took them in stride.

Her stepfather had been a semi-truck driver and they drove together for a while. She didn’t talk a lot over the CB radio. In general, she just handled herself in a way as to not draw unwanted attention. However, she joked her father had always told her to use what she had to get what she wanted in a job. “I put on my make-up and tight jeans and got my load taken care of before anyone else.”

After a couple of failed marriages and with two young boys, driving an 18-wheeler cross country wasn’t a viable option. Her aunt and mother had started work as corrections officers at the Clark County jail. She decided to give it a go

She was in her 30s and again found herself in what had traditionally been a male-dominated occupation. She was fortunate in that there were a lot of newer and younger male officers who were more open to females in the corrections field. She still had to prove herself as capable not only with some older staff members, but also the inmates.

Carol left the Clark County jail for a short time and went to work at the Harrison County jail. There her fortunes took a fateful turn. After another corrections officer was dismissed, she became the full time “medical staff’ at the jail and worked closely with a local doctor there, Doctor Collier.

After treating a particular patient over the weekend Doctor Collier was impressed. Carol’s response, “That’s just common sense.” The jail doctor advised her that it wasn’t and she should pursue a career in the medical field. Her response, “Do you think I am smart enough?”

Carol’s stint at Harrison County ended when she returned to the Clark County jail. A nagging passion had been ignited. It took a couple of years to finally take a plan from the idea stage to a reality. In 2014, Carol enrolled in the nursing program at Ivy Tech.

Timing in life can be everything. After working long days in the jail she went to nursing classes in the evening. It lasted a few months. The attempt ended in failure. She was back to where she started.

Carol was sharing a home with her mother, who had begun working second shift. The boys were too young to be left alone. While her attempt at becoming a nurse was unsuccessful, Carol was still doing well as a corrections officer.

Carol still had a steady job, was a loving mother to her boys, and could have simply been satisfied that she had made an honest attempt to become a medical professional. Besides, it was a lot to ask to attend full-time nursing classes, be a doting and supportive mom, and work in the very physically and mentally demanding and exhausting field of corrections. No one would have thought any less of her.

Passion is a funny thing, though. Once it grabs some people their mind cannot let it go. For the next few years life was just as it had been. Failure is not the same thing as quitting. Surviving bad marriages and being a loving working single mom is not for quitters.

In January 2018, Carol McCollum took another leap of faith. It would prove to test her in every way possible. It doesn’t matter that others believe in you. Carol had to prove that she believed in herself. Perhaps she referenced again back to her childhood. You see, Carol had a certain affinity for another trailblazing female who just happened to be a superhero.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com.

Next week, we will continue on Carol’s journey.

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