There are many reasons one chooses to become a firefighter. For some, it a family tradition where their fathers and great-grandfathers were firemen. For others, it is a lifelong dream since childhood... and a chance to make a difference and to serve the community.
For me, the decision came to me in a moment of clarity or insanity.... I'm not sure which. I had been working for almost 15 years in an industry where the focus was on vanity, money, unhealthy competition and even unhealthier relationships. Perhaps it was an early mid-life crisis but shortly after my thirtieth birthday after fulfilling a particularly tough contract and after the death of a friend, I quit my job and told myself I'd take a year off to figure out my life and clear my head. I wanted to have a career where I felt like I could contribute something... whatever that something might be. I wanted to get out of the superficial life I felt I had been leading. And maybe even forget a bit about my past. I thought of becoming a police officer but I knew for a fact I'd never be comfortable holding a gun and I didn't have the temperament for conflict. I wanted to be a doctor but knew I was a bit long in the tooth and didn't want to invest the next 10 years going back to school. The next closest thing I could think of was becoming a paramedic so I started on my merry way with courses and applications. But somewhere along my journey of self discovery I met an old-time firefighter who suggested I give the fire business a try. I basically laughed in his face giving every excuse in the book as to why I wasn't eligible... I was female, and comparatively small, I had never driven a truck, and didn't know the ass end from the front of a fire hose. Above all, I was scared. To which this old guy replied with a wry smile, 'Make your weakness your strength.'. And then he walked away.
I pondered his words for awhile and thought... 'why not... I've got nothing to lose... the worst that could happen is that I don't get in... and the best that can happen is that I do.'
And I did. :)
I survived the application process and the entrance exams and the laser eye surgery so my vision would meet requirement. I made it through the interviews without stuttering and the physical tests without throwing up. I figured out how to drive a firetruck, climb a 150 foot aerial ladder without fainting, and I now know which is the front end of a fire hose. On my lucky days, I learned how to breathe life back into a still heart... be it a patient's, but mostly my heart that at times, with the life I was leading had stopped beating. Because when I look back at the time when I felt lost and that dark cloud of depression was creeping in, the choice of becoming a firefighter wasn't just to save the life of others, but to save my own.
And even though there are days on the job where I am shaking inside because I am so scared... I still hear the ol' firefighter's words of making my weakness my strength.
And I do. xo