A few years ago, I faced a choice. One that would define the next few years of my life in ways that I’m still discovering.
I was lost for a long time. Wandering, unsure what I wanted to do with my life. I’d taken an office job after leaving Starbucks, where I’d worked for three years and where most of my friends worked. I’d come out of a bad relationship and was more confused than ever about...well about everything. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to find my path in life.
I’d always been interested in the idea of being a paramedic and firefighter. Looking back on it, much of it was genuine curiosity, but part of my interest was to see what I was capable of accomplishing. As a bookworm and computer nerd, being a paramedic and firefighter was so far outside of my comfort zone that the challenge appealed to me. I was confused about who I was and what I wanted out of life, and testing my limits was exactly what I needed to get my bearings.
The funny thing is that I discovered I was pretty good at and love the EMT and firefighter programs. I worked hard through my EMT program and ended up second in my class. After that, I immediately went into the fire academy. It was totally different than the EMT program. It was physically demanding and very rigid, both things that were typically outside of my wheelhouse. Yet, I excelled at the book work, and through myself fully into the physical aspects, managing to keep pace with my peers.
About half-way through the program, I failed my first practical exam. Not by much, but my job during the day was eating up a significant portion of my time. Time my peers were using to practice. See, in that same span of time, the IT manager at my day job had passed away suddenly. As the only other experienced computer person, I was called upon to pick up the slack, and I did. At the time, I had no intention of making it a career, I simply saw that the company needed me, and I jumped in. (Here’s a tip for all of you business owners out there: never, ever let the fate of your company depend on the work of 1 person.) But, as a result, I fell behind in the fire academy. I knew the skills, I simply needed more practice to make them second nature so that I didn’t flub them under pressure.
I knew that if I was going to succeed at the fire academy, I would need to bump down to part-time at my day job and focus on my studies. My parents had moved, and I was living in their empty house. They were wholly supportive of my choices, so I would have had their blessing if had I decided to pursue that option. At the same time, my day job was so impressed with the way I’d stepped up during the crisis that they offered me the IT manager position permanently.
It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I loved the work I was doing at the fire academy, and I couldn’t wait to start paramedic training. I honestly enjoyed helping people. And I was good at it.
I honestly don’t know why I chose to abandon the firefighter/medic career path and accept the IT job. At the time, I know that I made up a million reasons, but they’re not important...nor, I think, are they true (human beings have the terrible ability to lie to themselves, and can justify anything given enough time). I don’t regret my decision, but I still think about it often, wondering what might have been. What is important is that I made a choice, and that choice has led to the life I lead now.
I sometimes wonder if my decision to join the EMT program and the fire academy was something I needed to do in order to write The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. That story simply wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t. The experiences I had during my training directly influenced Drew’s story. And if that’s the only reason I went through that program, then I’m okay with that.
While I do sometimes wish I’d stuck with the program, I think that I might have never written The Deathday Letter or fml or Five Stages. I might never have moved and met Matt and done all the crazy things I’ve done in the years between then and now. Maybe my life would have been filled with other crazy things, but these crazy things, they’re mine, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
The truth of life is that every choice we make is forever. Every choice you make will resonate through the years, impacting you and those you love and people you’ve never met in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Choice is the most powerful thing we have. The ability to make our lives our own. To live. Even that is a choice.