By Mark vonAppen
This is a correspondence I had with a friend of the page from some time ago.
He asked, “Are you really all-in-all-the-time?”
This is what I wrote back.
Unfortunately, this is something I wrestle with mightily. I try to wrap my head around the who-the-hell-are-you-and-just-what-is-it-you-think-you’re-doing-thing every day. I grapple with the question of what I’m willing to give up to answer the calling. A health scare a few years ago and the loss of some friends brought the reality that this can be taken away at any second into laser focus.
Sometimes something has to give.
Reality is this. Our drive and passion for the craft are extremely important when we are at work. Sure, it’s cool to be edgy and pissed off for the craft, but it’s not cool to bring it home. Family is more important than anything we do at the firehouse.
We all know it, but we hate to admit that it’s easier to slink off to work and be the superheroes that we pretend to be when we cross the threshold of the firehouse. Shit, people tell us that we are so often we even start to believe it. It’s easier to be that somebody else and claim that the magnitude of what we do supersedes who we really are and somehow gives us permission to give less than our best to those who we say we love most.
You have to be accountable first to the person that you swore to stand beside and the children you chose to bring into the world.
Truth be told, even on the job we show up and are just a temporary fix. A lot of times we show up and leave things just as messy as before we are summoned. It’s easy to show up, be the short-term fix and leave than it is to be accountable to the level that we are supposed to be at home. Sometimes we leave our personal lives looking worse than a head-on collision at freeway speed.
The job is an amazing gift, but what I’ve come to discover, contrary to what we all are lead to believe, is that this career will take from you continuously in terms of your time, your health, your relationships, and many other things that it will never give back.
There will be periods of time in your career where you have to throttle back in order to find your equilibrium at home. You only get one shot to be with your family. You don’t want to reflect on your life and say, “I wasn’t there for the ones I said I love most.”
That regret must be worse than any I can imagine.
You can’t be everything all the time; it’s impossible. Anyone who claims that they are is a liar. All you can do is your best. You have to be accountable first to the person that you swore to stand beside and the children you chose to bring into the world. They deserve your best all the time.
Time has a way of making us a little less bold and it makes our hearts grow a little bit colder. When we see warm, bold hearts in our midst we must celebrate them and find that fearlessness and warmth in ourselves once again, if only for a short time.
Work at being a solid human being first. If you do that, everything else will follow suit.
It’s something I struggle with every day.
Dedicated to my brothers and sisters in Evesham, New Jersey. God bless.