Holding on to the Passion

On March 1, I will celebrate my 17th year as a career firefighter. Going back a little further…about 5 more years, I became a volunteer firefighter.

When I signed up, and was voted in as a volunteer firefighter, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was fortunate enough to volunteer at a combination firehouse that offered me a glimpse into the lifestyle of a career firefighter. Not too long after I began volunteering I realized I was hooked and that I too wanted to dedicate my life to a career in the fire service.

Find-your-passionI was fortunate for being a part of an organization that had its priorities straight. I was surrounded by great firefighters, great people, great mentors…both volunteer and career throughout the organization.

I was young though. I had a lot of learning to do. Lucky for me, I still look young…and still have a lot of learning to do.

Somewhere along the line, I developed an affection for the fire service….for everything it had to offer. The ups and downs, the good firefighters and the bad firefighters, the good leaders and the GREAT leaders.

I studied the fire service. I read articles, went to training events, and immersed myself in the craft.

Then things began to change…

I got married. My wife and I were blessed with two children. We traveled (we don’t live near either of our families). We created a family and I worked part-time jobs.

Lucky for me, I replaced those part-time jobs with the hobby of writing, sharing, and speaking on the fire service. This has helped me hold onto the Passion.

I feel guilty though…

I feel guilty because it hasn’t been possible for me to maintain the level of passion I had for the fire service…more specifically the Passion locally for my department.

Simply put, I had to prioritize my life. Firefighting is an important priority as it is how I make a living, but the extra time put in for classes, training, learning fell to an all time low. Couple that with certain experiences within my own department which left me questioning some choices in my life.

It wasn’t until last year that I realized I am no longer one of the new guys. I am one of the “older” guys but I look like one of the new guys.

My attitude matters…

I have seen all ranks bash members of my department. I have done it to. Trust me, I am no Angel.

I have made a concerted effort over the past several years to change my attitude. Comments made around me that years ago I would have fed into have me feeling sad about the negativity.

Maybe it is simply maturity…I have finally realized that all of the bitching simply isn’t constructive.

I have often spoken and written about a continual reflection I do on myself. I continuously re-examine who I am and how I am portraying myself. I have found it to be very rewarding in making myself a better person. This includes simple things like my comments, actions, and attitude. After all, my attitude affects those around me. I don’t want it to be a negative affect. They deserve better from me.

The last faze of my progress is reengaging in the local fire service. Years ago, I disengaged due to a multitude of reasons and focused on this web site and the good I can do outside of my area.

I have begun teaching at recruit school again. This has proven to be very positive for me as an individual. Simply put, it is rewarding to me.

I have also begun taking more training classes. This is a little harder than it might seem. In a State where our fire programs is stagnant and cookie-cutter fundamental classes, you often have to look to other organizations to offer classes that allow you to learn and think “outside the box”. However, I have signed up for some classes and I look forward to taking them.

Running FireCritic.com, traveling and speaking Nationally, and meeting great firefighters throughout the years from all over the Country and beyond has offered me the opportunity to keep the Passion of firefighting in my blood over the years. Yet locally, my passion has dwindled. I hope this reflection on my attitude is able to overcome the deficiency and I am able to once again exude that same Pride and Passion I once had.

Rhett Fleitz