Saturday, August 23, 2014

Insomnia

I haven't been able to sleep the past few nights.

Because every time I close my eyes I see someone I love in the place of someone I recently pulled out of a twisted, battered and broken hunk of metal.

Because I am so angry at someone I don't even know for putting the precious gift that is the life and trust of a child in jeopardy.

Because no one should have to hear the echos of a child calling for their mother, and the echos going unanswered every night.

Because it's not my job to collect ghosts in my heart.

But this was one of those calls where I just can't help it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How Do You Do It?

As a volunteer, it's a question that I get asked frequently by many who don't understand EMS or the fire service: "How do you do it? How do you manage to commit to that level of volunteering? How do you keep doing it and not burn out?"

And, often, I look at them, and I'm not sure how to respond.

Because, truthfully, I'm not sure how I do it.

I'm not sure how I manage to say that 12 hours on an ambulance every week is more important than my work, my relationship, my friendships.

I'm not sure how I manage to get out of bed in the middle of the night as a duty officer and leave the comforts of my warm bed - the Firefighter, and Annie curled peacefully in sleep - as I venture out into the unknown.

I'm not sure how I manage to take on the burden of other people's panic and pain, yet not make it my own.

I'm not sure how I manage to walk off a scene where the unspeakable and unimaginable has occurred, and then reintegrate into civilian life less than hours later looking and sounding little worse for the wear.

And if I do manage to do it - I'm not sure I do it particularly well or with grace.

Volunteering in EMS and the fire service is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart. It's not for those that yearn for a life of comfort and ease.

All I know is that when my shift comes round, my pager goes off, and the chaos of the world beckons is that I *do* it. There's no thought as to how, just that it needs to be done.

And maybe it's that compulsion - the calling that needs to be explained. The why - not the how.

So for those of you who are reading this and understand the calling - what's your reason? Why do you do it? Because, really, I don't think any of us could explain the how without explaining the why. I know I can't.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Annie

I've decided that since I can pretty much guarantee that this dog will be a feature in many of my future blog posts, she deserves her own introductory post.

So world, meet Annie!



This dog took my life and changed everything about it - and made a million parts of it even better than I ever could have imagined.

Annie is a rescue hound. For the first five years of her life, she was kenneled, mistreated, under socialized (with humans), and bred as often as she could be. She is one of the lucky ones - breaking that cycle of mistreatment that so many hounds are subjected to. The first day she was brought into a foster home was the first time she had been treated kindly. She was a girl with her tail tucked between her legs, not knowing what to expect of humans - yet resilient, in that she was willing to learn and try. To give people a chance to prove that there are kind people out there. It was slow work. But for every success, every time a human was gentle and kind, she was so grateful and was happy to try and make that act of kindness happen again.



She has come a long way from those first few days with her foster mom, and her first few weeks with me and the firefighter (read: significant other).

I have never laughed so hard, so often - loved so much and so openly - and been so humbled by the trust of another.

Annie is a special dog. She's got personality, energy, silliness, and a whole lot of love. So I'm sure there will be many a post to come about the things she teaches me (and quite a few funny stories accompanying those lessons along the way).

So know her, love her and watch us grow. It's been a fun adventure so far (see: her first bath below).


(Screw you, mom. If I have to get tied up and wet, so do you.)

Balance

Recently, I was discussing with some friends (both early on in their careers and those who already mid-career and highly successful individuals) how when creating our daily to-do lists we add tasks that we've either already completed or are incredibly simple to check off as a way of motivating ourselves to tackle the harder and more complicated tasks that are also on the list. It's a mind game we play with ourselves to try and overcome the exhaustion and overwhelming feeling that we are taking on more and trying to do more than is reasonable in a given day.

It was several hours after that particular conversation, one in which we lightheartedly joked around and shared our favorite "layup tasks" (Read: finish your third cup of coffee - CHECK!), that I realized just how disturbing our conversation actually was.

The issue at the core of our banter was balance. Balance in work lives, family lives, volunteer lives, and our relationships with our significant others. We were a relatively high-functioning group of people, and yet we had resorted to creating non-sense or rote tasks out of our daily routines just to try and  BALANCE out the far more challenging things that we actually needed to devote our smarts, talents and efforts towards. Which allowed me to draw the conclusion that balance, in the crazy, modern, fast-paced world we live in, is something that is elusive to many. For a long time, I would have included myself in the count of those who balance eludes. But a couple of things have changed.

For one, I learned to say no. Which is harder than you may think. There were so many things I was being asked to do that, in reality, anyone could have done. I used to take what should have been shared responsibility and personalized it as my own. And so I learned to say no. I would ask myself - "Is there someone else who is equally capable and willing?" and if the answer was "yes", I would pass that task to them. To hold others accountable for their share. And once I figured that out, I was amazed by the amount of time and energy and mental acuity that I had to devote to projects and ideas and people that were uniquely mine. 

Secondly, I got a dog. True enough, a dog probably isn't the solution to everyone's problems with balance. But let me tell you what a dog did do for me: it forced me to stop and take a break and rejuvenate my mind
 - think about something else or think about something from a different perspective; it forced me to get outside and take inspiration from the world around me; it forced me to meet new people and learn about new things. It forced me to prioritize my personal life and my own well-being.

Finally, I tried to infuse love into everything I do. If I cannot love something deeply and truly and meaningfully, then it is something that actively works against my well-being - in both my work life and personal life. In the end, it was a choice to prioritize myself; a choice to prioritize myself in a way that augments my personal, work, volunteer and relationship goals.

So do I still sometimes add that third cup of coffee to my to-do list? Absolutely, but this time when I add it, it's so I can sit outside in the yard and enjoy my coffee and reflect while Annie (my dog) toodles around and plays, and I come back to the next task better than I was before.

And that, right there, is the art of balance.

Getting Back To Me

Reflection. It's become a lifestyle for me since graduating from university (which, yes, if anyone is doing the math - that was indeed almost 2 years ago).

And, ironically, a blog is a great place for reflection and writing and thinking and developing new ideas and interests. Yet somehow, I shoved it to the side in the course of my life transitions and reflections. So, I'm here to correct that.

I've always been someone who thinks and expresses best when I do it in writing. Words make sense to me. Words written on paper and on blank white screens somehow manage to take the chaos of my mind and my tendency to think and over-think and then over-think some more, and make something fluid and concise and meaningful out of my thoughts and emotions.

Writing and reflecting - it's something that I've always done when I feel like I've drifted away from the things that are most important to me and who I am and who I would like to be. The things that make me the best version of myself - the one who is most able to go out there and be a positive and dynamic and contributing force in the world.

I've been doing a lot of writing this past year and half; none of it has been made public though. Much of my writing was too personal, too introspective, too revealing of my most inner thoughts and desires and self-judgments. But what I've also come to realize is that it is that writing which needs to be shared. The raw writing that gets me back to me.

Because ultimately, I am the sum of my experiences. I am that which has been forged by my own actions, the love of my parents and family and friends, and the beautiful and unique encounters that I have had with strangers over the course of my lifetime. I am the creation of the wisdom I have found for myself and that which has been entrusted to me by those I love and respect.

So I'm getting back to me and what makes me - well, me. And this blog is going to be a part of it.

So gather round, listen in, and prepare yourselves. It's going to be an interesting journey.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Evolution of Me

Life is full of surprises. No joke.

Here I am at the end of my student teaching semester, and I can tell you with full confidence: I am a fundamentally different person than I was 4 months ago. I expected that my student teaching experience would change me--mold me into a better version of myself as a teacher and life-long learner--but I never fathomed that it would so drastically alter the evolution of my person.

Four months ago...
  1. I was not a happy person. Stress was ingrained into my soul. Every part of my life was somehow negatively touched by stress in a way that made me constantly on edge and agitated, regardless of the context.
  2. I was overworked. I didn't know how to say no, or value my own well being in the midst of everything that I felt need to be achieved. I assumed problems that were never mine to begin with, internalized and antagonized over them, and this undoubtedly contributed to #1 (see above...).
  3. I was academically fatigued. From August 2010 to August 2012, I had been taking college and graduate level classes for essentially 24 months straight. In that time period, I took almost 100 credits of college and graduate level classes. I completed the bulk of two university degrees in that time period. I was desperate for a life that no longer revolved around readings and papers of my own doing, and terrified that I had ruined my love for learning by so long immersing myself in a structured academic environment.
  4. I was questioning most everything about the choices that I had made in my life, leading up to my student teaching. I felt like I was on a precipice--that first day of student teaching was going to prove the last 3 years of my life either a gargantuan waste of time, or reinforce that teaching is what I am meant to do.
Then I started student teaching. And my world did a 180.

I have come to realize that many traits I once would have assumed to be fundamentally true about myself are, in fact, malleable and evolving. They are in my power to shape and control.
  1. I am a happy person. I have the ability to choose what I focus on and put my energies into. And if I choose a positive outlet to focus on, like running, teaching, my students, and my relationships, there are few things that can bring me down in life. Stress is of my own making because I decide how to respond to my circumstances.
  2. I am responsible for no one's problems and work but my own; I have choice and autonomy in what I do with my time. I learned how to say no. I developed a clear set of priorities. I let people in to my life who supported those priorities, and did not push me into things that were not in my best interest. I finally learned how to look out for me.
  3. I will never stop loving the process of learning. Having the chance to teach students about a subject that I love has taught me even more about the content. It quickly became clear that if you want someone to retain and value the material you are trying to teach, you need to know the subject even better than you expect them to. For this reason, I will never stop learning or engaging in the process of acquiring knowledge that interests me and I am passionate about. That is an entirely joyous realization!
  4. Teaching is what I am meant to do. I have made choices in my life that have lead me to this place, this moment, and this feeling; I do not regret a minute of it.
I am a work in progress. I have come to know this much. But if being a work in progress, if evolution, has brought me to this place, then I cannot doubt that I am on a path to much greater things.

And I cannot wait.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Intentions

Many of you have probably noticed that it's been awhile since I have done an honest-to-goodness EMS related post. Maybe you've also noticed that this was originally supposed to be an EMS blog, with bits and pieces of my life outside of EMS tossed in for a change of pace. Sadly to say, I've clearly gotten away from my original intentions for this blog.

Intentions. They're something that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently.

When I first became involved in EMS, I had such good intentions; save the world, make a difference, help someone--even if it is only one person. Those intentions were strong and true, and I still stand by them as my reasons for getting involved in EMS. Those are enduring desires for me, whether they are related to EMS or my future career in education. But somewhere along the way, the reality of executing my intentions changed.

It has been well over two months since I have engaged in patient care; all I do now is drive and play a game of politics which I despise. While part of this has been due to extenuating circumstances, particularly staffing changes that have stretched my squad's resources thinner than you could possibly imagine, it is easy to become disillusioned with my role in EMS. What drove me to love EMS in the first place is rapidly becoming my undoing. There is nothing that I enjoy more than for 30 minutes being able to engage with another human being, and creating a relationship--however brief it may be--that serves to offer compassion and professional skill to make their immediate situation better. Unfortunately, when you are the only certified driver on a two-person crew, engaging in patient care is no longer an option. Instead, you are trusted with the safety of your tech and patient in bringing them to the desired destination. And not that driving and safely bringing both patient and volunteer to where they need to go in one piece isn't a noble goal, but it's not what I love about EMS.

Growing up, I was always told, "Do what you love. If you don't, then you'll never find true happiness." And I think that I've reached that point in EMS where I need to make a decision: I am no longer doing what I love, and as a result, I am no longer happy with my work. The skills that I was so eager to learn during my days in EMT class, and in my early days of in-service training, are skills that I no longer have the opportunity to use. And when you don't use them, you lose them. If I am to stay in EMS, I need to find a place where my entire skill set will be appreciated and valued and utilized to its fullest potential.

There will be some changes coming shortly in my life. You will probably read about many of the big ones on this blog. In August, I start student teaching, in December I graduate and enter the real world filled with idealism, enthusiasm, a strong dose of "where there's a will, there's a way," and a whole lot of good intentions.