Fire Department,  Writing

The Art Of Saying Goodbye

It’s an awkward feeling – the one you get when you have to say goodbye to someone you don’t want to let go of, be it a friend, colleague, or loved one. If you do not understand the art of saying goodbye, your relationships are bound to suffer. There’s nothing more important than solid relationships in this world if you want to succeed in life.

I defied my parents’ wishes and dropped out of college. I was extremely intelligent, but struggled within the modern educational system. Regardless, my parents expected me to pursue an academic degree. I was adamant about not going back. I knew that there was more for me out there and I refused to be confined by the standard path of what others thought was best for me. My parents were understandably upset, but they eventually realized that they couldn’t keep me from pursuing something different.

My first job was at 16, where I washed dishes at the summer camp I had attended as a child. This was probably my most formative experience, because it taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed. I left the job with no work experience, no college degree, and no idea what I wanted to do with my future. It would have been easy to give up; instead, I had an epiphany. I realized that if you don’t like what you’re doing, you need to change your environment. What didn’t kill me made me stronger and gave me all the determination I needed to reinvent myself into a successful person.

I was in love with a girl named Allegra when we were both 16. I had never been in love before, so it was a new feeling for me. One day I just knew that I loved her; we were sitting on the back porch steps together, looking up at the stars. She told me she loved me too and everything felt right in the world again. We stayed together through high school, but unfortunately the relationship didn’t last past that point. I spent years living with my regrets. If I could do things over again, would I have chosen differently? Even though it didn’t work out as planned, she made an impact on my life and gave me some of my most treasured memories to this day. It is those moments that remind me that even when relationships end, you can find happiness somewhere else. Those are the moments where you learn from your mistakes and grow from them. The point is not to beat yourself up or be sad about what didn’t work out, but instead use these feelings as motivation to go after something better.

I made picture-perfect maps of how my life and love would be. If I married Allegra, I wanted a beautiful wedding, a house with a white picket fence, and a dog. I was never interested in having children, perhaps out of innate fears that I would repeat the cycle of abuse with my own children that I endured from my father. When things didn’t work out the way I wished they could have, I felt defeated. But, that’s not how life works; it’s not going to go your way every time because you planned for it perfectly or because you’re doing everything right.

I started basic training in the fire department at age 18 in Buffalo, New York. I never saw myself as a firefighter, but the more I got into it, the more I felt at home. I worked at the fire department throughout my years of college. I first became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician, then as a Firefighter. More training would follow, and I would receive specialized training in emergency and specialized rescue.

I felt as if my life lacked direction, but then something happened that changed everything—9/11 happened. After witnessing the death and destruction caused by terrorism firsthand on television like so many Americans did that day, something inside me changed forever. That was the moment when I knew what I had to do with my life.

The fire department became my new sense of purpose. Just three months after the terrorist attacks, I dropped out of college and went straight to work, this time, in the New York City metro area. The events of 9/11 drove me to dedicate every waking hour of my life to protecting others from suffering the same fate as those innocent victims that fateful morning.

For nearly two years, I worked and trained side by side with some of the best Paramedics and Firefighters in America, 6 days a week. After two years, I had received an enormous amount of training and experience that I was finally eligible for another promotion at work – one which would allow me to be closer to family while maintaining a career in public safety.

I moved to Plattsburgh, New York and worked for the fire department and hospital. I learned to say goodbye to my old life and hello to a new one. I learned that it is okay to love your job but not be in love with it. I learned that you are never too old to start over and change the course of your life; all you need is courage, determination, faith, and a little luck! I had few possessions, so my girlfriend at the time would sleep on the couch and I would sleep on the floor with my dog.

I woke up every day excited to go to work because I loved what I did. It was an honor to help people during their worst moments when they needed us most. I have seen car crashes where the engine has pierced through a woman’s chest or seen men lose limbs while working on a home improvement project. I have seen people do the unthinkable to others, to themselves, and yes, even to their own children. But, despite these horrors, I still wanted to wake up every morning and do it all again.

My girlfriend at the time started getting scared of our future together. My job as an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter involved long working hours, lack of pay raises, dangerous conditions, and almost constant heartbreaks that would surface from death-defying rescues or fire-related accidents. She encouraged me to make another career choice by suggesting that I finish college and pursue a different career path.

I lived and worked near to where I attended summer camp, and would often visit, which made it easier to stay connected. When I had the opportunity to attend an event at my old camp, I jumped at the chance. At the time it was the best decision I could have made! It was so much fun to be back with my friends and reminisce about our time spent there together. It brought me comfort and joy that has stayed with me for many years. Attending the reunions allowed me to see how far I’ve come and helped me remember that everything changes over time.

I purchased my first house in Schoharie, New York, and landed a job as an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter in Ulster County, New York. I was on top of the world and felt like I had no limits. However, just a couple months later, my girlfriend and I started having problems in our relationship because I would be at the fire station, often for days at a time. I began to feel like nothing I did could ever go right. I started to chase my passion for writing and photography in my days off in case I had to leave the fire rescue service for whatever reason. It became increasingly difficult for me to keep both my jobs. Eventually, I decided it was time for me to take some time off from work and figure out what I wanted. The work environment soon became toxic, and I resigned my position in the middle of my shift one morning.

I spent 12 years working for Schoharie County as a Firefighter and Paramedic. I moved up in rank quickly, and I was eventually promoted to Lieutenant at age 38. I became a Specialist in both Rescue and Emergency Medical Services, however, it wasn’t long before I started feeling restless. I finally said goodbye to Schoharie County was when I left the fire department after spending over a decade with them.

I had numerous job offers but simply needed to find the place where I belonged. I was seeking to find my niche, my home, my place. Leaving jobs, relationships, and friendships were all part of this journey as I tried to figure out how to be happy.

I broke up with my girlfriend and purchased my forever home in Vermont. It was a bittersweet feeling, but I know now that it was for the best. My ex-girlfriend was going through some major life changes, and she needs time to figure out who she is without me by her side. After all we went through together, I want nothing more than for her happiness. That being said, sometimes letting go feels like giving up on your loved one. But how can you be happy if they’re not? And while I’m here in my new home state with my wife Amelia… I’ve never been happier.

I came out as a lesbian at 16. Years later, at age 42, I revealed to everyone I knew that I was born as an intersex female. I had grown up and lived my entire life as a cisgender female with genitalia, despite the fact that I had genitalia which resembled that of a male. At the time I didn’t understand what being intersex meant or how it fit into the LGBTQ spectrum (most people still don’t). Everyone incorrectly assumes that I’m transgender, even though the doctors told me I was intersex at age 6, and I have lived my entire life as a girl. I am female genetically, and it has taken years for me to come to peace with who I am and what having an intersex body means for me. When I shared the truth about myself publicly last year on Facebook, it wasn’t easy, but it needed to be done so that others who might have been grappling in isolation would know there is nothing wrong with them.

Everyone comes to a point in life where they have to let go. I had to say goodbye to those I thought were my friends since I was 11 years old. The losses happened one by one, and it took me years to come to terms with it all, but eventually I learned how to say goodbye. I found that the key is not holding on too tightly or being so paralyzed by the fear of losing something again that you are unable to do anything at all. There is a balance between letting go and holding on; you just have to find what feels right for you in your own life.

I’m not saying that success is a final destination; it’s a journey many twists and turns, many highs and lows. We all have moments where we feel like we’re on top of the world, that everything is going well for us. And then something happens, some unexpected event or circumstance arises, which shakes our confidence and knocks us off our feet. These are times when it can be difficult to say goodbye.

We may hold on to things we don’t need anymore because they remind us of who we used to be—the person who had all their goals set in place and was steadily moving towards them—or because they remind us of who we are now but want to become. We may cling onto people even though their words cut deep or hurt us over and over again. But, if you let go of these things, you will find yourself lighter and more able to move through life. You’ll find that you’ve learned how to say goodbye and open yourself up for new opportunities, and new friendships.

Colophon
The photograph used in this article was taken at The Sparkle Barn and was featured in this post. Amelia has her own pictures on her blog.

Asides
From Ties That Bind To Freedom: How I Escaped The Cycle Of Codependency | The Lost Girl Was Meant To Be Found | I Chose To Walk Through The Settled Stardust | I’ve Lived My Life As A Prelude To A Mystery | These Dreams | Summer Nights And Electric Twilight | True Writers Never Stop Being Rebels | I Was An Underestimated And Impatient Little Girl | Fame Itself Is A Cancer And Ego Its Seed | Only The Moon Understands The Beauty Of Love | There Is A Ceiling In The Darkness | I Can Leave Behind A Heart | Summer Comes For Everyone | I’m Going Through Changes

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