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11.01.2016

The Thing I'm Most Terrified Of (and Proud Of)

November 1st.  It brings the end of Halloween season (my favorite holiday) but it also brings my birthday month, so I usually get into celebration mode about now.  Might as well celebrate the entire month, right?  Treat yo self.  This particular November 1st is entirely different though - it brings the halfway point of John's 6 months in the fire academy.  This morning he took the national EMT test and he's officially done with that side of things.  Tomorrow he moves over to the 'fire side' where they break you down with massive amounts of PT, but also teach you the things you'll be doing the rest of your life, like, you know, running into burning buildings.  This is, on a not totally unrelated note, also the time I begin to freak out.

But let's back up a minute, in case you're totally confused.  I mentioned awhile back that John had officially started at the training academy for the Chicago Fire Department.  I might as well answer a few questions here about how that came to be, since he formerly worked for a union as a pipe insulator.  While he can go back to being a pipe insulator after his 9 month probationary period with the fire department, he knew it was never a full time career, so he had been taking police and fire tests for a few years, all around the north side of Chicago - but of course always hoping actual Chicago would open up soon.  A couple of years ago, it did.  Here's how the hiring process works: anyone can register and show up for the test.  It's just a basic knowledge test, think SAT but arguably easier.  Thousands and thousands show up for this.  20,000 in fact, back in December of 2014.  Once you pass (and let's be clear, almost everyone does.  2,000 failed out of 20,000) your name is added to a list, in random lottery order.  You get a letter telling you what your number is, so you can get a feel if it might be coming soon or if you need to find other employment - like the guys who got numbers like 10,872 or 17,102.  This is the first hiring Chicago has done for firefighters in many years.  For various political, financial, and legal reasons they were still calling guys off the last list, which was from 2006.  So John took that test in December and they started dolling out numbers in the spring of 2015.  From there, they called (I believe) 1 class in 2015, another early this year and then, as you know, John started in August.

Because John's number?  299.  Out of 18,000.  If that isn't a sign that he's supposed to be doing this, I don't know what is.  This is his dream job so we were very excited to get that letter.  It's also how we knew Chicago was the only option when house hunting, because city employees must have a Chicago address.  There were quite a few steps involved in getting from the test to the academy, like passing a background check and 'candidate physical ability test,' which took a few months, but he passed everything and waited for the call to start, which he got in late July (they're not big on notice.)  Since he's started, he's been learning EMT things, because firefighters are required to know how to perform basic life support until the paramedics arrive.

And now that's over.  No more tests and homework and books and studying, the things I've been familiar with all my life; now onto physical exhaustion and learning to squash basic human survival instincts to run into fires and save people you don't know.  You can probably tell that I don't understand the mentality behind this at all - if it's not an animal in danger, there's no way I'd jump in and save anyone from anything.  My flight or fight reflex is firmly in the flight camp (unless I'm drinking, then I'm feisty AF #letsbehonest.)

I may not understand it, but I'm still very, very proud of him.  The whole sexy firefighter thing aside, he is so good at this job.  He has no fears about this, he's at the top of the class in all the physical challenges, he's spending ride along days at firehouses getting tours from the chiefs - he's impressing a lot of people and should have his pick of houses after graduation (if he's top of the class, he can pick whatever house in Chicago he wants to go to.  He's determined to be #1 and I very much think he will be.)  I'm proud of how hard he's working and how easily it's coming to him.  I'm proud of how much he wants it and how he's willing to do whatever it takes.  And mostly, I'm very proud to be dating someone who will risk his life to save others, because that's a special kind of brave.

Regardless, I'm definitely starting to panic a bit now.  It gets more real as the training gets more intense, and I'll probably panic even more once graduation day comes in February and he actually starts working at a firehouse.  John is, of course, totally loving every minute of it and cracking jokes about how it'll be so easy to cremate him when he dies because he'll probably be halfway burnt to a crisp in a fire anyway, which, as you can imagine, is exactly 0.0% humorous at the moment.  (If you laughed, I'd normally applaud your morbid sense of humor but not right now, damnit.)

So that's my life currently - a daily mental battle between so proud I could burst and so terrified I could cry.


Also, he has to be clean shaven at all times because otherwise the mask won't properly seal.  So he looks 12 and keeps getting carded.  At least that part is funny.

As a side note to anyone who found this post because they were searching for details about the Chicago fire hiring process or what happens in the academy etc etc, please feel free to e-mail me.  I know lots of things now.

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