Almost 20 years since the day you first started this, you used to say to yourself “I can’t wait to get on the job.” Years of mental stress, physical stress, time away from family and lost friendships over Fire House politics have taken their toll on you. You ask yourself “has this become a job?”
In every fire house across America there is someone just like you, someone who has lost their motivation, lost their desire and passion for the job. Speaking for myself I know that I have had nothing but a roller coaster of emotions for this profession. I remember when I first became a volunteer I used to pretend I was a career guy and would sleep down at the fire house as if I was on a 24 hour tour. I remember encountering guys who were career Firefighters and hearing them cursing the job and complaining about a number of small details, I would think to myself “wow, if I was a career guy I’d never complain…to get paid to do what I love sounds like the most amazing concept to me.” I volunteered for almost 8 years and had a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet like working Construction for my Brother, Dispatching and retail sales. I was fortunate enough to get hired as a Career Firefighter at the former Naval Air Station Crash Rescue Fire Dept in Brunswick Maine. Without hesitation and a head full of optimistic positive thoughts I eagerly dropped everything I was doing and moved 7 hours north from my beloved New Jersey to Maine in January. We arrived to be greeted with 4 feet of snow and Moose signs on the highways, and yet I had a huge smile on my face because I felt I finally made it. You see prior to this opportunity, working jobs like Construction for my brother was exactly that; it was a job. Not loving what I was doing and doing it just for the pay was by the very definition a job. So regardless of the fact that I left my comfort zone and was embarking on a new career, I was ecstatic because I felt like I was now going to be able to say I was a Firefighter for a living. Through the years I started to become one of those guys who used to curse the job and forgot about that feeling of how great it would be to be paid to do this. I lost touch with my love for the job and worst was I forgot about how I felt when I first started out. There is an unfortunate reality that lives inside of both us and our fire houses and that reality is that this job can easily make you unmotivated. We spend too much time away from our families, we deal with trauma, death, destruction and the drama (fire house gossip). These things slowly build up inside of us to the point that they take us over and we lose who we once were. We begin to resent the value and absolute concept that makes up being a Firefighter, we become unattracted to the idea of Brotherhood and almost feel better when the day sucks. We allow the opinions and discontented thoughts of those who are lost to make us lost as well. We are killing our fire service, it amazes me that the most rewarding and fun job in the world can also be the biggest hindrance on our self-worth. I still have days where I lose focus and go back to being disgruntled, it’s easy to do that, but that’s the problem, we’re firefighters; the entire make-up of our job isn’t easy, it’s hard. How is it that we are so eager to face challenges in the operational portion of our job but when it comes to facing the mental challenges we easily throw in the towel and develop a mind enveloped in negativity?
I was once told that this job can’t be a hobby and I agree, if you’re career and still volunteer on the side, if you’re career and teach on the side or you are fully volunteer this is a living. The fire service was not a business designed to be a job, it was a calling, it was founded on passion, desire, selflessness and all of those other words that in my opinion should be synonyms for Firefighter. We have to stop making it so easy to become negative, because truth be told a lot of our fire houses are being run by some dishonest malicious leaders who build power off of your negativity. The expression “misery loves company” well that holds true in the fire service because the negative ones who run our fire houses are only being fueled by your negativity. Stop allowing people to change your legacy, you got into this to make a difference, go be a game changer. There is no such thing as a person who is over-zealous in the fire service, those are the ones who love it the most and will give it the most. It’s not fair to your family who never sees you, both the internal and external partners and stake holders and most importantly it’s not fair to yourself that you have lost your drive and have just become a figure in your own fire house. Mark Twain said “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I love being a Firefighter, I wear my heart on my sleeve and can easily be shut down by opposing thoughts or negativity, but at the end of the day I never let this become just a job. I work with a Firefighter who actually inspired this, he said “you know I never understood those guys who hate being here, sure it gets bad at times when dealing with the bs but there’s no place else you can be and have a much fun as you do here.” He was right, before he made that comment I was having one of those days where I felt I was losing the passion for the job that I talk so much about, after he said that I instantly went back to the day I was sworn in as a volunteer and thought this isn’t a job it’s what I do for a living and what’s better than that?
A captain I worked with had a sign on his desk that read “Illegitimi Non Carborundum” I looked up it’s meaning and understood why he had it hanging there. People will try to bring you down, they will criticize your love for the job and try everything they can to make you a negative person. Your desire scares them, stop letting them win by being down, keep your head high and eyes forward and continue to change the game after all this is not a job, it’s a living.
In all that you do, God bless, take care and stay safe!