Continued from Part 5
I woke up with the sun the next morning. The sunbeam made it’s way over my eye lids at around 7 am, and this was my cue to sit up frantically and look around the room to try and figure out where I am.
I didn’t sleep much the night before, but I was fueled by the fact that I woke up in Texas and had to take advantage of the time I had to absorb my new surroundings.
I walked outside into the humid heat and saw an American flag flying along side a Texas state flag. This is something I see everyday now, but as someone who only ever saw red and white Canadian flags, it was very novel.
It also represented just how novel I was going to find pretty much everything I encountered in Texas, from food to people to culture.
I went to the computer lab and googled ‘cabs’, called the first company I saw, then waited outside for my ride.
When the cab pulled up I opened the door and hopped in the back. The driver was a black guy, late 50's/ early 60’s, wearing a purple pinstripe suit, a matching hat and tons of gold jewelry.
Listen, I was brand new here. I had only spoken to a couple people so far. I really thought this must be usual attire for people around here.
Just like the Texas state flag flying in the air, this was very novel. I loved it already.
His name was Sammy, and he would become my go-to cab driver during my 14 week stay in Texas.
I barely understood a word he said, and he barely understood me, but I had a great time chatting with him in his cab.
He asked me where I was going, and I asked him to take me to the nearest grocery store.
“Oh you gon’ lookin’ for some girls huh?” Sammy said, laughing while he said it.
“Nah man, just need to get some food.” I said, laughing as well because the guys energy was infectious.
I spent the next few days stocking up on groceries (for the last time), exploring the town and driving to Houston to pick up my new roommate.
Things were off to a great start here in Texas. I was thoroughly enjoying seeing new cities and diving head first into a different culture.
I couldn’t shake the fact that I was extremely nervous for the first day of Fire Academy though. I had read online how physically hard the Academy was and I was imagining not being able to keep up.
The following Monday my roommate and I showed up to class at 5:30 am, 30 minutes early.
There were about 20 other guys there before us. The other 30 trickled in shortly after.
I knew I wasn’t the only person who was nervous. I could feel the tension in the air.
I happened to be standing beside a tall lanky guy named A.
A ended up being a great friend of mine, even to this day.
Now, A isn’t the type to let anything phase him. He cut the tension with a joke about how the instructors will probably come in like a team of WWE wrestlers yelling and telling us to put our gear on.
I laughed because this is exactly what I expected to happen.
The instructors took the opposite approach.
They calmly walked out, motioned for us to walk inside, and we followed behind, single file.
We walked into a room with name tags on the tables and instructions on the board. The instructions read as follows:
“No talking. Find your designated seat.”
You know when you’re so nervous, and over think a situation so much that you end up missing things you normally wouldn’t?
This is exactly what happened to me. While a bunch of people struggled to find their seat, I was the last man standing.
The names were alphabetical, but I hadn’t thought of that. I was looking in the empty seats, but there were a bunch of them.
There really is no explaining why I struggled for so long to find my seat. Inside my mind I was slamming down on the Panic Button over and over and I was unable to calmly find my name tag.
Finally, I stumbled upon my seat after what felt like an eternity walking around the classroom while everyone stared at me.
Let me tell you, this is the type of thing that high school nightmares are made of. If the 100 degree weather didn’t cause me to sweat, that did.
I look at this moment as a symbolic representation of the level of the discomfort that will be necessary for me to crawl out of this hole and get to where I want to be. A sign of things to come, and a warning that I better get very comfortable being uncomfortable if I'm going to achieve anything worth achieving.
Besides that initial incident the first day of class was easy. Nothing physically demanding, and no intense school subjects. They just laid out the rules and what to expect in the coming months.
Later in the same day I met a guy named F. F was a wild boy who would become my good buddy over the course of the academy.
In case you were wondering, although I would never drink and drive again after my accident, I was still a pretty wild boy myself during fire school. F and I were like gasoline and fire.
We’ll get to that though.
I didn’t do a lot of partying the first couple weeks. I was much too afraid of squandering this opportunity. I saw this as my ticket out of the hole I dug, and the last thing I wanted to do was party it away like I had before.
I was never great in school when I was growing up. I did enough to get by but I prided myself on not doing homework, reading books or studying for anything (the exact opposite of my current self).
Not this time. I came out of the gate strong. Fueled by the fear of being stuck in this hole forever, I spent every moment outside of school studying and lifting weights.
I was a big guy, not a great runner, but I ran hard. I put 100% effort behind everything I did during this entire fire academy. From the classroom, to morning PT to practical skills. I was hell bent on succeeding to the highest level possible.
This mind set wasn’t new to me. I exercised this same approach in high school and college when it came to playing basketball. But it had been missing in my life for a long time. I also never learned how to apply the same level of focus as I did in sports to other areas of my life until this point.
It felt good to be firing on all cylinders. I realized that phoning it in, no matter what it is, causes weakness. It causes the foundation to crack and poor habits to form.
I am forever thankful I had the platform provided by fire academy to rediscover this mindset. Since this realization in my first couple weeks of fire school, I have never phoned anything in again. Not without quick correction.
I don’t want that type of weakness showing up in my life anymore. If I ever fall short at anything, I can live with it as long as it’s not caused by my own laziness and effort.
Excellence is a habit, and it’s a choice.
This was lesson number one, and one of the many priceless gems I took away from this experience.
The first two weeks of fire school were uneventful. Aside from some really fun training drills, enjoyable dinners out with F, A and my roommate, plus a ton of studying, everything was calm and going to plan.
Two weeks was enough time for me to gauge how much I really needed to study to crush this course. It was less than I thought.
I had been scoring high 90’s on my tests so far, and doing it easily. I could afford to loosen up a bit.
I still had a lot of valuable lessons coming my way via fire academy. I had just as many to learn outside of school.
In the coming months I would learn things about myself that I never knew. I liked some of these things. I disliked a lot of them as well.
It all started with a keg of beer, 60 oz of Grey Goose vodka, and a pool.
Continued in Part 7
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