March 30, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - When I left my full-time job in the municipal planning department three weeks ago, I had no idea where I would end up or what I would do with myself. There were definitely things I wanted to do, but how often do we think to ourselves, “If I had the time, I would do this, this and this,” and then never actually do it?
I’ve often daydreamed of travelling and having meaningful conversations with people who inspire me, and then writing a book about those experiences.
The time I have on my hands right now, I’ve realized, is the perfect time to fulfill that dream. In the past three weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time chatting with the acting principal of the Ontario Fire College, a fire protection specialist with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, a suppression captain with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, and a former co-worker who is a fire inspector with MFES (and you all know how I have a special place in my heart for Mississauga).
I am literally living my dream. Experiencing the knowledge, insight, humour, integrity, compassion and genuineness of the four people with whom I’ve had the honour of spending time is valuable beyond belief.
If someone told me a year ago, or even six months ago, that I would drive an hour, each way, to spend an hour speaking with the principal at the fire college – whom I’d never actually met before – I never would have believed it. I knew who she was (doesn’t everyone? She’s a powerhouse in the fire service) and we’d connected and chatted often through social media, but that was the extent of our interaction. The idea of calling her up (messaging her, actually – we introverts prefer email/text to phone calls) to ask if I could visit for a quick chat would have totally freaked me out in the past. My fear would have been too great for me to make that move, regardless of how much I wanted to.
Meeting the fire protection specialist for coffee and a chat two weeks ago was something else I would have been too shy to do in the past. I’d met him during a course I took last year, but did not get to know him well, and, for a shy introvert such as myself, the thought of a conversation with a near-stranger would have sent me back into my cocoon. Fortunately, shyness appears to be a non issue for me these days.
The suppression captain I spent time with this week has been a hero of mine since my Mississauga days, and yet, today was the first day that I actually really spoke with her. I remember meeting her briefly in the fire station when I was a very new fire inspector back in 2004. The moment my captain introduced her as a captain, it was as though the heavens parted and the sun shone down on her. Sounds totally cheesy, I know, but when you come face to face with the small, silent dream that you carry within, it’s a pretty powerful moment. Since I first fell in love with the fire service, I’ve dreamed of being a full-time firefighter one day. Life may have taken me in another direction, but this captain will always be an inspiration.
Which leads me to my friend, the Mississauga fire inspector. I worked for Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services 12 years ago, for a mere six months, and I have never been more impacted by a job in my life. The friends I made during those six months have remained cherished friends, which is rare for an introvert. I have a knack for falling out of touch with people, yet I’ve never hesitated to hop in my car and drive to Mississauga just to have coffee with the guys. It’s awesome and unbelievable to me how much that job and those six months changed me, and became a part of who I am. I’m always happy to have the opportunity to meet up with old colleagues, particularly this fire inspector, and catch up with life in the big city (me being the country bumpkin that I am.)
I instinctively know that there is great power in the right conversations, and the past few weeks have proved that to be absolutely true. I learned from the principal that I’m smarter than I give myself credit for; the fire protection advisor showed me that we all have similar stories and can use them to reach out to others; the suppression captain taught me to have the mindset: why not me?; and my very good friend the inspector reminded me – yet again – about the career that I could still have.
These are valuable life lessons to be sure, but the best part of these conversations was feeling fully alive, engaged and inspired, and knowing that in those moments, with those people, having those conversations, was exactly where I was meant to be.
Looking forward to wherever this crazy adventure of mine takes me.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen