So I mentioned that I had to take a good look at myself. I truly believe that you need to have yourself together if you are going to lead others.That look I took………. the one in the mirror…….. scared me to death. I was always there but I never really looked at myself. Who was that guy looking back? What did he have to offer anyone? Can I support the weight of this position? Can I stay relevant and progressive?
In 2007, I got divorced after 15 years of marriage. I was married young and grew up taking care of everyone else. During that 15 years, I never figured out who I am and what I was supposed to do in life. I did what I was told, I was a good soldier and raised my family like I was supposed to. I eventually realized that the only way to not get so far away from ME was to leave the relationship and try to figure it out. I pulled the plug on the marriage, one of the hardest things I had ever done.
I floated around for a bit and tried to figure things out. I eventually met someone that had the patience and understanding to help me but stay out of my way while I churned through all of the ghosts that followed me around and all of the crap that I had never dealt with over the years.
I have been in fire and EMS since high school in 1991 (after hanging out with a volunteer firefighter friend of mine, I was hooked) so there is a mountain of bad runs and dead people and situations that kept me up at night. To round out my experience, I decided to help a friend in his livery business (picking up dead bodies). That added a great deal more death and destruction.
I had a shot for full-time at a department I have been working at part-time for 15 years. Instead of jumping into the “Union” brotherhood, I took a job with a local flight program that turned out to be a terrible experience. I regret that decision every day!
So after all of that, I was spent. I didn’t feel like I had any value. I never dealt with the divorce. I never got to the bottom of ME but I got to the bottom of something for sure. I found myself in an ebb and flow of depression. I started drinking more than ever before. I felt like nothing really mattered so why try. Surprisingly, I have always seen suicide as selfish so that NEVER crossed my mind and I am pretty sure it never will. I have listened to all of the data that we now have about first responder suicide and I can say that it is about time we recognize what kind of impact this kind of work has on first responders.
In the midst of all of that I interviewed for and got the job as Chief. I have always been one to put work above all else, mainly because I had a family to support at 19, so I strapped on my boots and got to “work”.
Being at work is the only thing that made sense. Being on the medic and taking runs. One after the other, it was a great distraction and still is. That part-time department I mentioned is a busy one. The one I am the Chief of is not as busy but it has it’s days. It is where I want to spend my time because I really don’t feel like I can do much else. I crank up the introversion and do work in my office. My hideout.
And then, one day a collective of COWARDS send an anonymous letter to the press and say I don’t deserve to be Chief. It was a blow to me and the majority of my department that are working hard to make the place a success. So, lets pile more shit on and see how much I can take. Public ridicule by the uninformed. Verbal lashings in the City council meetings. Answering the same questions asked 10 different ways hoping they will “catch me in a lie”. Cowards, every one of them.
I held my head high through the entire process because I knew the truth. I spent money out of my budget to do an internal affairs investigation which revealed that OMG, the Chief knows what he is doing! I was asked at the last council meeting if I had anything I wanted to say. I had A LOT to say! I kept it brief (mainly because I can’t swear in a public forum) and I kept it professional. I wanted to scream and pound my fist on the table and say all kinds of things about how you shouldn’t trust someone who won’t sign the f#$king letter.
But it’s over (at least we think so) and we can move on. But can I? It’s just more layers of crap piled on all the other layers. It’s crushing me. I have days that I don’t know if I can do it anymore. I want to walk away and not look back. But every time I feel that way, something happens that gives me hope for the future, for my future. I want to lead these people. I feel I can. I just need to get it together.
I have a vacation coming. I hope that gives me clarity.