The Last Link In the Chain


In a couple of hours, Alek will be sworn in as a Firefighter Paramedic for West Valley City. I am amazed by Alek every day, but especially today. Today is epic.

All of that stuff that people talk about, about following your bliss, about going after your dreams, about the law of attraction, about putting your energy into what you want to get bigger, about putting what you want into the universe and having it come back to you, about God helping those that help themselves — whatever you want to call it — it’s TRUE.

Nothing that you want is upstream.

What I have learned from Alek is this: once you figure out which way your stream is going, and you decide you’re going to follow it downstream instead of fighting against it, you can’t just sit there and wait for what you want to happen.

First, you have to let go of your fear. And letting go of fear is HARD. Alek was really good at what he did. He had been doing it for a long time.  He had lots of business. He was making a lot of money. He had just bought another company. This notion of Firefighting was irresponsible. It was crazy. It was too late, he was too old, it was something he shoulda woulda coulda done in his 20’s but not now. This raged in his head for a long time. But he still took that leap.

Once you’re past the fear, you have to turn your boat around and you have to paddle, and you have to paddle HARD. And you can’t.stop.paddling.(ever.)

I don’t think that anyone, even me, can really conceptualize how much work Alek has done in the last two years to get to this point. I’ll tell you what I can remember:

FALL – 2009: Alek found a program at UVU that would not only get him his Bachelor’s degree, but would get him the necessary Firefighter certifications (a.k.a. Operation Two Birds with One Stone.) So he changed his college and changed his major and mapped out the next two years of his life. I bring this up because I had forgotten what a complete and total colossal pain it is to do all of that. Oh, and he had to finish his Math and Computer prerequisites during this semester, which were both complete and total colossal pains as well.

WINTER – 2010: In order to get into the UVU program, Alek had to finish his Associates Degree at Utah State by taking six computer tests, pass an Anatomy Physiology Course at Salt Lake Community College, take a couple of online prerequisite courses at UVU, get his EMT, and get into good enough physical shape to pass the CPAT. This was in a single semester. Oh, and the EMT classes were all full at the 3 colleges he was already attending so the EMT had to be done at a DIFFERENT school. Yes, that’s right, 4 schools, 1 semester. Oh, and ALL of these things had to be done. If he didn’t pass one it didn’t matter about anything else, he didn’t get into the fire program. Full stop.

Oh, did I mention he was working full time this whole semester?

SPRING/SUMMER 2010: Alek would wake up at 6-ish, work all day, head to school at 3-ish, arrive at 4:00, exercise for 90 minutes, learn stuff, fight fires, head home at 10-ish, study until he basically passed out and then get up and start it all over again. This was five nights a week for an entire summer. And he would spend all weekend working and studying.

FALL 2010: Alek took twenty-three, yes TWENTY-THREE credit hours AND had two, yes TWO fire internships. Each internship was ten, 24-hour shifts. So that makes twenty 24-hour shifts. Oh, and he was not paid for these internships and one of them was an extra opportunity, so he didn’t get any college credit for that one. I think he squeezed a few paint jobs there too.

WINTER/SPRING 2011: Alek was accepted into the Paramedic program at UVU. I had no idea how intense this would be. Typical day: Alek gets up at 5:45 AM, Leaves for School at 6:15, School from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Get home at 6:00 PM, Study until he falls asleep. This was Monday – Friday. Saturday and Sunday he studied all day.

SUMMER 2011: Paramedic Clinicals. 1,040 internship hours in 14 weeks. Unpaid. When he wasn’t working he was studying. Studying studying studying. I tried not to stress him out with wedding stuff, I really really tried.

SEPTEMBER 2011: Alek starts work at West Valley. The first five weeks of the job are a Fire Academy. Everyone keeps me asking the same question: “How is married life?” It goes something like this: Alek leaves by 5:15 AM and gets home around 6:30 PM Monday – Thursday. He studies until he falls asleep. He studies Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s squeezed a paint job in there. So married life is pretty much the same as engaged life and dating life.

The thing is, during this ENTIRE time of stress so intense it borders on insanity, Alek is HAPPY. Truly happy. Even when he’s puking his guts up with the flu while trying to finish a 25-page paper on the relation between black-market commerce and terrorism for his homeland security class: HAPPY.

I think he’s still in disbelief that he is actually getting paid to do this job.

HAPPINESS. BLISS. DOWNSTREAM.

The last thing I’ve learned is that you can’t get your boat downstream without a lot of love and support and advice and help and more love. Love makes the world go ’round.

So, I wanted to share my love by saying THANK YOU to all of the people that jumped in Alek’s boat and helped him get downstream:

To Leanna: Thank you for getting Alek through math. Getting through math started it all. That witty, sharp, photographic brain of yours is truly a gift. We probably owe you something like thirty grand for tutoring and I promise to get it to you, payable in wine, over the course of the next fifty years of our lives together.

To Adam: Thank you for covering for Alek at Harley for two summers. Alek loves that job and you have made it work for him. I know it has made your life stressful and shortened your summers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To Wendy Farnsworth, Academic Advisor at the UVU Institute of Emergency Services & Homeland Security: You are hands down the reason that Alek was able to put together this program, follow it, and finish it. Alek could not have gone this far in such a short period of time without your guidance.

To Bentley Garner: Thank you for sharing your time and your talent and for your dedication in getting Alek ready for the CPAT. You infused him with the knowledge and this drive to REALLY, REALLY WORK when he exercises. He has taken your mantra (“If you’re not ready to puke, you’re not working hard enough.”) to heart and has carried this with him for two years. He can now take any available open space, set up a circuit and kick his own ass.
To Captain Davis and Captain Valdez: Thank you for being such incredible mentors to Alek and for giving him such an amazing learning experience while he worked with your crews. Those internships were his first taste of what life would really be like in the fire service, and he LOVED IT. He knew in those moments that this was exactly what he wanted to be doing.

To DA, Atwood, Rock and All the Guys on Two’s; To Penick, Butler, Roberts, Reardon, Howard and Williams: Thank you for the countless hours spent in carpools and tutoring and in study groups and creating test prep guides. Thank you for access to ECG machines and for letting Alek practice IV’s on you. Thank you for believing in Alek as much as I did. Thank you for all of the advice and encouragement and day to day support. Alek is still learning and you are still teaching and I cannot tell you what that means to him. And I had no idea when this all began that it would end with so many friends. I am excited that you are a part of our lives.

To my incredible parents: You have been there from the first day in so many ways. We literally could not have done this without you and I don’t really have words to express how I feel. You jumped into this with as much wholehearted enthusiasm as I did. Thank you for the countless dinners that made the countless leftovers that kept Alek extremely well fed. Thank you for always understanding why Alek was busy or why we were so stressed and for sitting us down and trying to help us keep things sane these last two years. Thank you for all of the beautiful gifts and tools that Alek uses every day. Thank you for financial support (not the least of which: for co-signing on the student loan!) Thank you for being passionate about the process, excited about all of the little things, and celebrating every achievement, every step of the way. And thank you for letting me hang out with you while Alek was on shift (you know that’s pretty much what I’m going to be doing from now on, right?).

To all of our family and friends and everyone that I forgot: THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. Thank you for understanding why Alek hasn’t been there for Holidays/Birthdays/Special Events/Brunches/Dinners/Lake trips/Parties/BBQ’s and countless other events. Thank you for your constant love and constant encouragement.

To Alek: Can you believe that this is the last link in the chain? I still can’t believe it. I am so incredibly proud of you. I am so in love with who you are at your very core. Thank you for moving past your fear. Thank you for going after what you really wanted. Thank you for working so hard. Thank you for being yourself. Thank you for showing me what following your bliss really means. Thank you for inspiring me to follow my bliss, and most of all, thank you for showing me what it takes to get it.

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