I didn’t know it yet, but I was sitting across from my future wife.
At this point she was just tolerating me. I was drunk, not making a lot of sense, but may have been providing her with some mild form of entertainment.
When it came time for her and her friend to leave I asked her for her phone number, which she handed over.
To this day, she doesn’t know why she gave the drunk fool on the street her phone number. I don’t know why either. But she did, and I would say it worked out well.
Back at fire academy, we were wrapping up our 3 month long academy.
Life long friends were made, and life changing experiences were had.
I was scrambling to find a way to stay in Texas.
Let me tell you how much I love Texas. The food, the sports, the weather. Yes, even the hot weather that the Texans complain about.
When you have to dig your car out of a mountain of snow in -30 degree temperatures enough times, you learn that wearing a tank top and sweating a little bit in July isn’t such a bad thing.
I didn’t want to go anywhere.
More than the food, weather and sports, I was having a lot of fun hanging out with Maria. We were seeing movies, she was showing me around the town and taking me to some weird eccentric bars that I wouldn’t dare enter on my own.
More than anything, we both felt that when I left it would be the end of any relationship that we had formed.
I lived in Canada, she lived in Texas. That is beyond a long distance relationship.
As much as I hated to see it arrive, the day came for me to fly back home.
Financially speaking, this flight was just in time. I took out a hefty line of credit to pay for my time down in fire school and I’m embarrassed to say I spent every penny, mainly on Mexican food and Grey Goose Vodka.
I was deeply in debt. The worst part is that debt was caused by my living like a rock star. I was heading home with a negative bank account, feeling kind of heart broken, and an overwhelming feeling of not wanting to go home at all.
Getting off the plane in Ottawa, Ontario, it was great to see my parents and it was comforting knowing I had my job at the auto parts delivery store to go back to, but I knew I had to make some moves quickly to get a firefighting job.
My debt was huge and my income was low, so I took to the internet to search for fire fighting jobs.
Landing a fire fighting job in Canada is kind of like winning the lottery. You generally need to apply many times, and you pay out the nose for testing (not including the travel and lodging).
Being as broke as I was, I cringed at the thought of taking this on. I had no idea how I would afford it, especially if it took me several years to get a job, which is generally the case.
Basically I was strapped down with fear. Because of this, I got very comfortable working at the auto parts store.
I was still talking to Maria via Skype every day, and I had convinced her to come visit me in Canada during the fall season.
I was really falling for her at this point, and had made up my mind to attempt a long distance relationship.
When her flight arrived, I picked her up in my 12 year old Cavalier. I was clearly not the rock star I played myself up to be in Texas.
During her visit we toured around Ottawa and Toronto. In fact, on our way back from Toronto to Ottawa the old Cavalier broke down.
Despite the hiccups, the terrible spot I was in financially, we began our relationship, officially. I had no idea how this would work. Skype was great, but we would need to visit each other in order to make this relationship grow. That’s hard when you’re flat broke trying to afford fire fighter applications.
I had no idea what to do. I was a ball of anxiety.
Then I stumbled upon an ad on the internet for a fire fighting job in Alberta. The ad said the job included both industrial and municipal fire fighting duties (later to be determined a lie). I thought this sounded great, so I checked out the web site.
It was one of those 90’s style web sites with the one small image displayed in a tile pattern as the background.
It looked a little sketchy, but according to the ad they paid $30 per hour, so I was completely on board.
The next day I received a text message from the owner saying I’ve got the job.
Now, if that sounds weird to you, it’s because it is. I did nothing but send in my resume, and was offered the job via text massage. In fact, I was asked when I can come out in the same message.
Meanwhile, every other department required intensive testing and interviewing to get a job. My spidey sense was tingling, but I just kept imagining what I could do with that $30/hr.
My dad, being a LOT more sensible than I am, convinced me to get on the phone with the owner to gather more info.
On that phone call I asked to confirm a couple things.
It pays 30 bucks an hour? Yup.
The schedule has me working 14 days on, 12 hours per day, and then 14 days off? Yup.
Where exactly do we work? All over Alberta.
Can I start on January 16th? Yup, that works.
I was pumped now. I was not only going to be making great money, for the first time in my life, I was also going to ave 14 days off at a time in order to enjoy it. I was picturing eating at nice restaurants, enjoying the city of Edmonton, and being able to visit Maria in Texas n a regular basis.
Going to Caribbean resorts now and then even crossed my mind.
That massive hole I dug for myself by getting hammered and rolling my car, losing my job and falling into a depression…as far as I could see, that storm was over. I did it.
I dug myself out of that hole and was on my way.
I was wrong. Terribly wrong. But I didn’t know that yet.
Maria landed in Ottawa just before New Year’s eve in preparation for my trip out to Alberta. She was going to accompany me on the 4 day drive, then fly back to Texas just before my official start date on January 16th.
I was excited, but boy was I ever nervous.
My mom could see that I was anxious, so she gave me a point of reference.
“If it gets tough out there, just think back to when you were broke and walking to work the front desk of the gym at 4am every morning. You made it through those times, so you can make it through this as well.”
It made sense. That was a very tough time following my car crash.
The crazy thing is, once I was in Alberta, things got so tough that I would think back to my times walking to the gym at 4am fondly, longing for those times again.
The day I left was rough, but I held onto the feeling that I had finally ‘made it’ out of that hole, that I finally wasn’t a piece of shit, a failure and squandering my potential.
I was scared, elated, nervous and proud.
But everything that I thought was tough leading up to this was only a warm up.
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