I am often asked the question 'How did you become a firefighter?'. To which my answer would be 'Fake it till you make it'. That's not to say I randomly ran around wielding a garden hose looking for house fires to put out. Instead, as ridiculous as it sounds, I would imagine myself driving the firetruck every time I heard a siren go by. I would picture myself in bunker gear and shiny new helmet, trudging up a million flights of stairs, imagining the weight of the equipment on my shoulders, seeing the smoke, feeling the sweat and smelling the stench. In my mind, I already had the job. It was only a question of when. And the firefighter make-believe games I had in my head made the vision all that much more clear. I would visualize different scenarios of myself as a firefighter while going on another boring run in preparation for the physical entrance exam. It kept me from getting discouraged, or worse, kept me from being totally bored. Keeping my eye on the prize got me to where I am today because what you think about, you bring about. I also had a plan B that if things didn't pan out the way I wanted to in the time frame I had set for myself (because if I didn't get on by a certain point my body was going to say 'heck no' because of the physical demands), I was still going to do something that I loved. Either way, it was a win-win situation and having a plan B took the pressure off of my plan A. Thankfully, I never had to go to plan B... although when I walked in to write my entrance exam and there were close to two thousand people waiting alongside me, I had to muster all the courage I had not to turn around and walk out the door. But then I caught a glimpse of the Fire Chief... with his gold braid and bars and stripes and flashes.... and I just had to be part of the magic. Because when the Chief spoke with pride of his fire department and said that firefighting is the best job on earth and thanked us for taking the time to apply, I was convinced more than ever this was the path I wanted to take. And even though everyone sitting beside me was competing for the same darned position and seemed bigger, taller, stronger and male, well, I felt like I had my all to give and nothing to lose. And at that point I wasn't going to be a shrinking violet against the wall at the high school dance and was going to give these big boys a run for their money. And I wrote that exam and later did the physical like it was my last day on earth.
Three months later I got the call. And I was like a kid in a candy shop when I reported to headquarters and they handed me my shiny new gear with my name on it. And although our beloved Chief is no longer with us physically, he was the person who inspired me that day of the exam with his genuine words that to me were as powerful as Martin Luther King's. I knew at that point I no longer needed to feel insecure about my abilities. Leaders like my late Chief are hard to come by. I am grateful I was able to tell him that before he passed.
The most amazing things happen when a tiny seed of an idea from one's imagination becomes reality. Add some inspiration and some hard work and I believe any dream can come true. Mine certainly has. xo