I had a conversation with my oldest son in regards to what career path he might wish to take after high school. We have all had this conversation with our parents. The “what do you wanna be” conversation. It was always uncomfortable too, like you were afraid to give the wrong answer and disappoint your poor bewildered parents.
There isn’t one parent alive that likes it when their kid answers “I don’t know”. But the truth is sometime you don’t know. Sometimes the answer isn’t black and white, night or day. Sometimes the answer is inside you and it just needs to come out on its own….
Remember the feeling you had as a kid when a fire engine went by? It was big and red, with lights all over the top and sides. There were three to four firefighters with big mustaches, and huge muscles waving at every little boy and girl who crossed their path. You didn’t know exactly why you liked the firefighters so much, but you did. Mom was always over the top embarrassing around them and dad always acted a little put out.
The firefighters were our childhood hero’s, they put out fires, they saved lives. Sometimes they would come to our school and teach us about fire safety! Those were always the best days! You would huddle with your best buddies and talk about how you were going to be a firefighter when you grew up! How there was never, ever going to be a firefighter as good as you! Then your crew would argue about who was going to really become a firefighter, who was going to drive the engine, who would be in charge of putting out fires! This argument sometimes got you into plenty of trouble with the teacher as your mumbling soon turned into yelling, thereby drowning out the nice firefighter who was speaking.
After the firefighters left you and your friends would run out to the playground making siren sounds, and doing circles around the monkey bars. The monkey bars were on fire and only the bravest were allowed to put out the fire. Of course that was a job for your crew and your crew only! Any other kids who had the same conversations and dreams after the assembly were quickly dispatched to another incident on the playground! ( incident command 101 people!) A few fake squirts of water, a pat on the back or two and then the imaginary truck would head back to its imaginary firehouse where one of the guys would pretend to make us imaginary lunch. Because that’s all firefighters really do is save lives, put out fires, play cards and eat! (sarcasm) And the other three washed the imaginary rig so it sparkled like a new penny for the next fire during afternoon break!
Today looking back to those times I reflect on the fact that I really never wanted to become a firefighter, I wanted to be a truck driver. (snicker all you want) When I graduated from high school I worked many jobs, all of them leading up to actually driving my own truck. It was good, the job made me more money than I had ever known! I did it for ten years, faithfully showing up everyday for work early and usually going home very late in the evening, sometimes 9-10pm. I was good at my job, I was faithful, I was making an extraordinary amount of money for the times. But there was always something wrong, like I was missing something. You see I was empty inside. I always knew I had a greater purpose! I always knew there was something more important that I was supposed to be doing. Sometimes when I was driving for 4-5 hours straight I would ponder this and have full-blown arguments with myself. Who the Hell was I to think I was so important, that this honorable blue-collar job was not my true calling? But there it was, always in the back of my mind, nagging at me like an old jewish mother! (best jewish accent) Ya know you’re better than this! Ya know the world is just waiting for you, I know it I’m your mother!! A mother always knows!!!
That jewish mother in my head was right! Today I go to work for 48 hours straight, sometimes 96 hours straight. I still work hard to provide for my family, I take classes when ever I can to improve my job skills. I am making enough money to support my family and I am comfortable with the choices I’ve made to get where I am today. I don’t drive around with a nagging voice in my head anymore and when I feel the need to express myself I do it by writing, both for myself personally and as a part of my job. You see I am one of those kids from the playground that grew up to become a firefighter. I don’t have to argue with anyone about who is going to drive the fire engine. Its my job! I don’t have a mustache, I am healthy and in good shape, I run and lift weights 3-4 times a week. I have trained and worked alongside some of the finest men and women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Firefighters are indeed a special breed of human being. Not for the glorified, chest thumping reasons television would like you think, but because they have all had the same voice nagging at them since they were kids. Some entered the fire service right away, some found their way through the military while others took the same path I did only to find out by listening to that little voice, they had initially made the wrong choice. I have 17 years in and ten more to go. I don’t have a golden retirement system as the news would like you to believe. My paychecks pay for a good portion of my benefits and retirement and what I do have is something greater than any pay, larger than any retirement package could ever offer. Its called satisfaction.
I will never win national awards, I will never be famous for anything important, I will never own some luxury house on a hill overlooking the sea. Those self indulgent things are not what I am looking for; But I will sleep well at night knowing I tried my hardest to save your family members life. I will rest easy on days off knowing that my crew knocked down the fire in your home saving a majority of the belongings and keeping it from burning to the ground. I will be able to tell my kids with a smile how we cut an infant out of the backseat of a Toyota that was all but destroyed! Unfortunatley Iwill carry with me for eternity all the horrible sights and sounds of death that you will never ever have to smell, feel, touch or see. I will always respectfully, remember the poor souls who did perish in my presence regardless of our efforts. I will walk away from this job knowing that when I heard a voice telling me there was something more for me out there, I listened to it, I followed my heart, and my soul reaped the benefits.
Teach your kids its ok not to know, but with the responsibilty of not knowing comes the even greater responsibilty of not sitting around waiting for the answer to appear.
There is truly something great in us all, find that passion, search for that calling and always listen to the little voice in your head. If you shut off that voice you are destined to the reality you have created…….