I never expected my life to take the twists and turns that it did, but I’m glad it did. I’ve been lucky enough to do many incredible things, from traveling the world, to winning awards, to speaking on local radio stations, and writing a book. These experiences have made me who I am, and I hope they can inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me! My story started in my hometown of New York City, where I grew up. I am the only child of Anne and Harvey Slatin.
My family moved to Stamford, New York around age eight. This was my first experience of real homesickness, but I soon became used to it because there were more opportunities for me to make friends. One of the benefits to moving to a small town was my newly-found freedom to roam.
From a very young age I started exploring abandoned places. The first place I ever explored was an old house on the edge of town. There my friends and I would sneak in on the weekends to explore the dark hallways. It was a feeling of fear mixed with curiosity that kept me going back. I wanted to know what it felt like to be scared. The adrenaline rush that came with exploring these places would fuel my addiction.
At age eleven, my parents sent me to summer camp for the first time. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a life-long love affair with summer camp. All throughout my childhood, I looked forward to returning to summer camp. I spent four summers at camp as a camper.
High school was a disaster for me. I was teased for my high intelligence, bullied for being different, and ridiculed for being a lesbian. In ninth grade, my father decided to send me to an all-boys boarding school in an attempt to fix me; I suffered through molestation and sexual assault. I felt trapped inside a broken cycle of abuse. It was a rough time for me, but I learned from it.
At age sixteen, I fell in love for the very first time with a girl named Allegra whom I met at summer camp. We kept in touch for a few years, though the long-distance part of our relationship proved too difficult for us at the time.
I skipped school often during my senior year and managed to join a training class at the local fire department, where I earned my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. I had already been accepted to college at this point, and it was guaranteed regardless of my senior year grades. So, I seized the opportunity to obtain this necessary training, which was critical to begin my fire department career. One of the most important life lessons this experience taught me is that every day offers an opportunity to make the most of your life.
I was a camp counselor for a number of years. It was a great experience that allowed me to share my knowledge with the next generation. I found myself teaching kids how to tie knots, how to build a fire, how to tell time using the sun, how to identify poisonous plants, how to swim safely in open water, and much more. I kept the kids entertained with stories of my experiences thus far in the fire department. The best part about it was seeing their faces light up when they learned something new. I loved being able to sleep in old wooden cabins. There’s nothing quite like hearing the sound of crickets at dusk and waking up to sunrise over the lake and mountains each morning. The sweet memories from those days will stay with me forever.
I was eighteen when I got my first fire department job. I chose this vocation because I wanted to do something hands on, challenging, and exhilarating. The fire department required me to take an intellectual aptitude test before they would even consider hiring me. I was faced with a series of written tests that contained math puzzles, problem solving, and finally a psychological exam they use to determine if you have what it takes to be an EMT and/or Firefighter. Luckily enough, I made it through the test with flying colors. They hired me right away as an Emergency Medical Technician.
I went to college, but it was yet another disaster. I had a few classes with professors who actually cared about their students, but the majority of my professors were simply in it for their paycheck. I didn’t have any support system or friends at school. My father demanded that I finish college, so I studied Emergency Medicine. My professors had a limited number of seats and majoring in medicine is known to be ultra-competitive. So, I changed my major to Liberal Arts / Humanities in an attempt to stay just long enough to get my degree. I studied English and Computer Science with a focus on Information Technology. Eventually, I dropped out of college and never returned.
Since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of becoming a Firefighter. After I left college, I started taking training in firefighting and rescue. The training was difficult and challenging, but it was worth it when I finally earned my certifications. Working as an EMT was easy for me, but working as a Firefighter was not what I expected it would be like. It is intense, physical work that is extremely demanding, both mentally as well as physically, and is not for the faint of heart. The weeks are long and strenuous; I often had to work 24-hour shifts back-to-back before being able to take time off. It was hard at times, but I never regret my decision to take this career path, because it is an honor to serve my community in this way.
I consider myself lucky to have worked in major cities throughout New York State. My basic training began in Buffalo. I was lucky enough to have worked in New York City, Plattsburgh, Kingston, The Catskills, Utica, as well as the Capital Region. It’s been a diverse experience that’s helped me grow as a person, and an experience that I will never forget. I’ve met some amazing people along the way and learned about so many different parts of New York State. It’s been an incredible adventure.
I think what surprised me most when I first started working was how many interesting people there were on this Earth. When I was a Paramedic/Firefighter, it seemed like everyone had something great to share with me—whether it be about their family, their country or just life in general—it always made for an entertaining conversation.
It should come as no surprise that my favorite part of my job has been the people that I’ve met along the way. That includes not just the patients that we worked with, those whom we rescued, but also their families and those who worked alongside me every day at the various departments. They are all unique individuals who enriched my life and made me the person that I am today.
On my days off from the fire department, I wrote on my website, the very one you are reading now, and actively pursued photography. I had always been a creative person, but never thought about making it my second career until it just sort of happened! I was lucky to see parts of town that few people think about, and never visit. I kept copious notes of locations I wished to photograph on my days off, and I would often return to photograph these locations.
As time went by, I began seeking out more unusual locations, such as abandoned hospitals, mental institutions, warehouses, barns, or any other building not regularly frequented by people. Places that have been closed up for years on end offer a true glimpse into our society’s past as well as nature reclaiming its own territory. I love exploring derelict buildings because they have so much history within their walls. It is almost like walking through someone’s personal history, and this fascination continues to present day.
I purchased my first house at twenty-six. I was living in an apartment with my girlfriend, but we were outgrowing the space. I decided that it was time to buy our first house together; she was against it, but I purchased the home in cash. It was a former single-room school house that was a fixer-upper that needed extensive work to get it up to our standards. In my time off from work, I would take on repair projects, and eventually I replaced the wiring, plumbing, and put in a new bathroom and kitchen.
I met Amelia Desertsong on Twitter. We were both in relationships at the time, but couldn’t stop talking to each other. We started to communicate via direct messages, then texting, and eventually we started calling each other by phone. I broke up with my girlfriend just after I turned fourty-one, and stayed at my mom’s house for a while. Eventually, Amelia and I agreed to meet in Massachusetts, and before we knew it, we were totally inseparable. I quit my job as a Lieutenant Firefighter Paramedic, then I sold my ex-girlfriend my old house for $1, Most of my worldly possessions were left behind in my old house, and as soon as the house ownership was transferred, they became the property of my now ex-girlfriend. None of those things mattered to me anymore because I have never happier than when I am with Amelia. Ultimately, I decided to move out-of-state and pursue my creative work full-time.
I purchased my forever Vermont home in cash, which took half of my life savings when you include the upgrades I would soon make to it. It took about a year for me to update the wiring and plumbing, run Ethernet throughout the house, and install wireless internet throughout the property. As an independent thinker, there is no such thing as too much when it comes to making ones home feel like their own.
I was offered jobs at the local fire departments when I moved in, but I didn’t take them because I wanted to finally see what it was like to live a normal life. After serving in the fire department for twenty-two years and six months, I felt as if I had saved enough money to retire. When I met Amelia, she encouraged me to retire, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was truly ready yet. I decided to join the local volunteer fire department, but it wasn’t the same as when I was in paid services. I volunteered for three months, before formally turning in my resignation.
I knew that someday I wanted to write my memoirs. So, when the opportunity arose to have Amelia help me publish my first book, it felt like the perfect fit! I started taking pictures of Vermont scenery, and used the property in Vermont for photo shoots.
I always knew I wanted to have a big house with lots of land; it was on my mind for as long as I can remember. So, when it came time for me to get married, I knew that Amelia would be the one. She loved me, loved my property and she encouraged me to chase my dreams. We were married here on our property by the justice of the peace.
Some people didn’t approve because we are in a lesbian relationship, but it all worked out in the end because from the moment we met, I knew she was the one. Amelia has been a great wife to me, helping me with my various projects, while at the same time, providing me with the most wonderful friendship I have ever had.
I’ve learned that life is full of surprises. You never know what will happen tomorrow, but you can always make today count. I’ve also learned to appreciate the little things in life, like a beautiful sunset or a good laugh with friends.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a diverse set of people, which has given me a unique perspective on different cultures and lifestyles. I’ve met people from all walks of life and developed working relationships with people who are unlike me in every way imaginable. I will forever cherish these relationships because they remind me of how different we all are, but at the same time how much we have in common. Lastly, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be yourself even if that means being different from everyone else you know.