By Michael Morse
Before you know it, your career will be over. You may make it 10, 20, 30, or 40-plus years; it matters not, it goes by in a blink. I made it to 25, spent more time than I care to recall complaining about this or that, the shift coming in or the shift going out. As great as the job is, far too many of us wish it were better, or that the public appreciated us, or that the politicians would stop with their endless wants.
One thing is certain: The job will outlast each and every one of us. Where there is uncontrolled fire, there are people needed to put it out. Who better than us? Nobody, that’s who. The people we work with are what make the job so great. It’s the people who make us laugh, have our back, give us an endless stream of material to exploit, and keep things interesting.
Enjoy those friendships, for they will not last forever. A fortunate few have the capacity to maintain numerous friendships throughout their lives; the rest of us settle for one or two close friends and rely on family as our years add up and people in our lives diminish.
We are fortunate. Our working years are spent with like-minded individuals whose bond is unbreakable during difficult times, tested under fire, and strengthened by our ability to work together to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Friendship forged in fire is forever, at least in our memories. It is difficult to keep a department full of people on speed dial. And, as the years continue, the calls slow down, nights out are more often spent with our spouses, and the thrill of camaraderie takes a back seat to the satisfaction of raising a family.
I think it has to be that way. I could wallow in misery, thinking that the phone never rings, my “brothers” have forsaken me, and that those friendships were just an illusion. Or, I can live secure in the knowledge that what we had was more real than anybody has the right to imagine. I can see those friendships for what they are: moments in time spent with people who were, and will always be, vitally important pieces of a life well lived.
We cannot live forever shadowed by what our lives used to be. We were giants once and donned the gear and did things that others call heroic. But that comes to an end, and living life without the possibility of the bell tipping or the tones going off need not be done wishing for something better, more vibrant, more life affirming and thrilling.
We few, we happy few, we can bask in the memory of battles waged, lives saved, and friendship like no other nurtured under fire.
I cannot and will not ask for or expect anything better than that.
Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.