So back in late July 2013, I lost my job. It was a surprised that I did not really see coming but it was my new reality that required a sudden adjustment. I had been working as an administrator for a state government licensing agency but that all stopped after a total of seven years. I had just purchased a new car and moved into a new condo–and this was after the same employer assured me that I was chosen for a promotion. My, how things can change in the blink of an eye.
Although it was a difficult and foreign scenario for me, I felt liberated to try new things as far as employment. Of course, I went to just about every job fair that I could and pimped my resume out to as many employers that would take it. I already had a part-time job at Old Navy before I lost my government gig so, I just started working more hours there but that was only good enough to get me through August. At the beginning of September, I start working as a bouncer at Broad Ripple Tavern then later that month I was hired by Lawrence Central High School’s special education department. I basically rocked those three jobs until December when I gained (yes…that’s right, gained) another gig working for Grey Market Wine club. Yup, I was working four jobs over six days a week. I usually worked three of the four on Fridays and then two of them on Saturdays with Sundays to recover in order to do it all over again.
Throughout this time, I was still seeking one job to replace all of them (except Grey Market Wine–I really liked that one) and was still interviewing. The problem that I was having was that I was not able to move past the initial interest of employers. The only employer that seemed like they were interested was the City of Indianapolis. And I was very interested in being with the City, particularly in public safety. I had open applications with the Indianapolis Fire Department (March 2012), Marion County Sheriff’s Department (August 2013), and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (October 2013). Anyone who know anything about any of these hiring processes know that they are long, tedious, frustrating, patience-building (or patience-breaking), and just difficult overall.
I have always had an interest in a career in public safety and protection–particularly with a fire department. When I moved back to Indianapolis in 2008, I initially wanted to go into the fire safety but the department was not hiring. It didn’t hire for the first four years I was back in Indianapolis but in early 2012 friend of mine in the fire department told me to check the City’s web site during the first week of March. Sure enough, the application was published and available and I completed it then reviewed it probably five or six times before I submitted it. I went through the testing and interviewing…and the waiting. The waiting was going to be extended because in February 2013, I was not chosen for the 78th recruit class but wait-listed instead. Frustrating but not completely hopeless; I just had to keep faith that the department would pull candidates from the wait-list to continue the hiring process within the year or I would have to do the process all over again.
The wait was eight months because in October 2013 I received a message from the fire department that they were preparing for another class in 2014 and I was to report to re-take the Candidate Physical Abilities Test if I was still interested. That was as far as I made it the first time around but this time I was pushed on to the aerial ladder climb. I hate heights but the final obstacle that was actually in my control was get up and down a ladder that was on top of a fire truck shooting 80 feet into the air at 70 degrees in less than 2 minutes and 41 seconds without stopping. On March 15, 2014, I did it. There was nothing left to do but wait. The department was still gathering background information and making reference checks. All any of us could do was wait. All of the remaining candidates were told to report to IFD Headquarters on Saturday, March 29.
I woke up that Saturday morning after working another late night at Broad Ripple Tavern and saw that it was lightly snowing outside. I thought to myself, “All of this has to be worth it in the end.” Just look at the situation: I just got done working 6 hours at a bar and did not get home until 4am only to have to wake up to be Downtown by 9:30am on a cold and damp morning. Who wouldn’t want to sleep in on a morning like that?! But I wanted whatever the fire department was going to let me have. If it was just information, I wanted it. If it was another test, I wanted it. If it was job, I wanted it more than anything else on Earth!
Sitting in a room packed full of candidates, I’m still trying to gather myself on that cold Saturday morning. Chief McCrary approaches the podium. I willed myself to pay attention. He thanks us for showing up and our dedication throughout the process. Chief McCrary spoke about how competitive the process is and I was getting emotional thinking about what I had to do to get to this point. I was proud of what I had accomplished but I knew that I was not finished and willing to do whatever was needed to get into the academy and on the force. Then the chief said something that I will never forget for the rest of my life:
Take a look at the person to your left, right, in front, and behind you and congratulate each other because you all are going to be a part of Class 79.
I remember the air escaping the room. Every face lit up in that place! I and the guy to my right started tearing up. Hell, I am getting emotional right now as I write about it. That feeling of fighting for something for so long and then finally reaching the finish line is just completely amazing. I thought that I had stepped out of myself and was watching a dream. Chief McCrary called us up individually to receive our conditional letters of employment and packets for our physical/psychological evaluations. To receive that letter and shake his hand while he said, “Congratulations, son”…words can never do that moment justice.
It is with great honor and pride to announce that I will be swearing in with the 79th IFD Recruit Class on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 and will start the Fire Academy on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 0700.