If you have anything resembling a personal bubble…don’t go into EMS.
Like…the kind that keeps me from sleeping. I got 100% on the first writing assignment of the term. I get to work tomorrow. I haven’t worked since Friday because I traded my Monday shift with someone so they could go to an event with their wife this Saturday. And I’ve got the volunteer FD meeting (!!!!!!) on Thursday. My new phone comes tomorrow, which (hopefully) means I will have a fully functional phone for the first time since December. And my tax refund will finally be arriving by Friday at the latest, which means I can pay some bills I’ve been putting off, pick up some more supplies for my personal trauma kit, and finally start putting money back into my very depleted savings. And the weather is finally turning, which I happily welcomed today with a couple hours on Sauvie Island, with a repeat performance expected on Thursday after class. Let’s do this!
The other day, as I was walking between classes, I encountered one of several individuals who sell a paper called “Street Roots” on campus. ”Street Roots” is written, edited, photographed, and published by members of the homeless population of Portland with donated assistance, and then those same people go out into the city and sell it. I think it’s a really great thing. Anyway, this individual was new - so I made a point to stop to buy a paper from her, and chat a little, because I like to get to know these people a little, they usually have incredible stories. Her name is Brianna. She is in transition from male-to-female, and a disabled veteran. Before beginning her transition, and finding herself without a home, she served 19.5 years in the US Marine Corps. I was touched by her story, and her bravery, on several levels - but I was humbled when, after asking what I do, she looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and thanked me. I couldn’t even comprehend that this woman, who put everything on the line for this country and is being rewarded with a life on the streets, would thank me for anything I do. People walk past her every day, and never think twice about who she is, where she came from, or what she has been through. This is a daily happening across this country, and that is wrong. That day, I took the opportunity to thank her for her service, and I make sure and stop to talk to her whenever I am in the area, even if I don’t have change to buy a paper. Because on that day I left her with a handful of change, and she left me with a “Semper Fi”. I’m going to work my ass off to live up to those words that she sacrificed so much to earn.
She made me feel proud of my chosen profession, and of all of my brothers and sisters in EMS, fire, and law enforcement - but she also made me feel ashamed of our system…a system that allows people like her, people who selflessly served our country, to slip through the cracks and out onto the streets.
I know that EMS can be discouraging…so just remember that no matter what, there are people - good people - out there who appreciate you and what you do.
I know I said I was going to wait until after I graduate to start volunteering for a local FD…but I just don’t think I can. Every time I get a call out to one of these small towns…I see the “Volunteers Wanted” signs up on the departments, and I remember where I grew up…and I get an overwhelming urge. This is only being amplified with the recent tragedies. I think I like my school schedule right now…I can keep it cut back and fit in at least a few volunteer shifts without feeling overwhelmed. I know it will take me longer to graduate…but I’m OK with that. I’d rather enjoy myself, do what makes me happy, and serve my community.
I love the feeling of climbing out of my uniform after a 13 hour shift almost as much as I love the feeling I get when I put it on in the morning.
In the past week I enjoyed avocado, mango, papaya, and bananas picked from my backyard, and eaten fish caught within sight; I have walked on lava flows only months old and been within arms’ reach of an active flow, humbled by the power of this planet; sat in a sauna heated only by volcanic steam, went on a photoshoot with one of my favourite photographers, and swam with dolphins. Tomorrow we head out to sea for whale watching, and Saturday we do a trail ride through one of the many lush valleys this beautiful island has to offer and then we head up to watch stars over the ocean on Mauna Kea. I have been in the company of my amazing parents and my incredible girlfriend, and I have a fantastic job to return to when I get home. I count myself lucky in so many ways, and I am very, very grateful for everything and everyone in my life right now. It helps make the hard stuff easier to face, and it helps make working my ass off seem worth it. There are so many to incredible experiences to be had in life.
One of my favorite things about coming back to my hometown…I get to see the stars when I look up, even if I’m downtown.