This post is going to sound snarky to some, and pathetic to others. Some may understand where I'm coming from, and others may think I'm way off base. None the less, this is a post a long time coming, and its one that I've thought about for a while. It's not easy, so hang in there with me ok?
When I turned 35 I looked at my life. I have a wonderful husband and a fantastic marriage. And yes, it IS enough. My life isn't what I thought it would be at 35. It's not. I imagined having kids by now, having mom watch those kids during the day (thus imparting all of her wisdom on them) and me having a good job and being healthy and so on....
None of that is possible for a number of reasons. Mom is gone now, I'm not really healthy enough for kids, (not that it matters we don't have health insurance), my job pays crap, and I'm sitting on a Master's Degree that no one gives a care about (though it IS a critical needs area).
I look back and I see my life was wasted in a number of ways. I wasted eleven years of my life as a firefighter. Wasted. Eleven years. Sure I had a lot of great adventures, and the stories will go on for a lifetime, but those were childbearing years, those were career building years I will never get back. Never. Gone, as in with the wind. There were a handful of guys that treated me as an equal, and some that did better than just tolerate me. For those men, I am grateful. I truly am. There were some that spoke down to me, left me out to dry, pushed me, cursed me, and treated me like trash. Some just didn't like me because I'm weird. Others didn't like me because I'm smart. And others, and these were the ones that left me feeling like I wasted so much time, didn't like me because I'm a woman. I got over it. Mostly. But I haven't gotten over where being a good human being, and where literally risking my life for strangers has left me.
I lost my job as a firefighter because of Meniere's, but this was after threats of getting fired if my new husband and I decided to have a baby. So we put off the family thing until I could finish my Master's Degree in Special Education and get a job with the schools. Oh they were, (and I stress were) crying for special education teachers. Then I lost my job, and then I graduated. Then suddenly the job market in South Carolina dried up for teachers of all kinds. And being a firefighter was now a liability. It had always been sort of the white elephant in the room for me. It separated me from society because people believed that a woman in the fire station could only one of two things: a whore or a lesbian. For the record, I was, and am, neither. I was in it to help people. I really wanted to do something for the world, for my nation and my community. What better way than to be a firefighter, right? Not so much. I might have been socially separated by preconceived notions that the uneducated or ignorant had, but I didn't feel as if there was a huge black mark on my life.
I do now.
Interview after interview it comes up. And not in the "oh I see you were a firefighter" kinda way. Its a tone, its a change in the interviewers posture when its asked about. Its as if it means something is wrong or defective with my character. It's the unspoken that speaks volumes. No one asks why I did it, no one digs into the life I lead as a firefighter, but there are questions around the edges that ask those very things. Now some folks have told me I'm going to hell for "doing a mans job", but I don't believe that. Some folks believe that I was wrong to have lived my life so close to death for so long, and maybe there is something to that, but I'm not going to hell for helping people. I don't believe it works that way. If anyone is going to hell its the ones that made it a point to set me up to fail or to get hurt. And it happened WAY too much. But that's another blog for another day....
The elephant in the room has successfully crapped on me. A big giant elephant sized poop on my resume. Eleven years worth to be exact. The verbal abuse and the anticipation of being set up to fail left me with a number of complexes to work through. When you are told for the last three years of a career you don't belong, you are stupid, you are lazy and you are only there to fill a quota, it gets to you. Especially when you know deep down it isn't true.
I worked harder than my counterparts, I worked smarter too! No matter what I did, for some it just wasn't enough. I left the fire service a broken woman in a number of ways. My spirit was crushed, my soul was battered, and my body was breaking down from the physical and mental stress that I had endured. I still fight a battle every day with how I feel. I have nightmares about the things people used to say to me. And I still duck when a man raises his voice in my presence. Now my time doing what I felt was right has become something of a stumbling block for me.
Do I regret helping others? Nope. Do I regret the eleven years I spent as a firefighter? Yes and no. I would do it all again if that was the only way I'd meet my wonderful husband. I would endure even more if that is what it would take. But I regret never having the courage to do anything about the abuse I endured. It takes a brave soul to run into a burning building, but it takes even more to stand up to someone who shames you for being yourself. I regret, and I think I might always regret, never having had the courage to stand up for myself.
So there it is. There are so few views on my blog, I doubt anyone reads this. But for those that do, know that even though I left a broken soul I'd to it all again to save one life. And that includes you.
Don't worry about me, my soul will heal, my dreams will change, and my life is good. Its not where I thought it would be, but like I said, I'd walk through hell all over again and barefoot just to have my dear husband.