Something amazing happens when you push past your comfort zone and stretch your abilities to their limits.
In the months since I’ve updated you about working as a wildland firefighter, I’ve massacred my comfort zone.
I’ve worked in several states, met hundreds of people and listened to more country music than I would have ever wanted to! (I admit I grew fond of When She Says Baby by Jason Aldean)
Above all, I challenged myself to get all I could have from this opportunity. Here are the lessons I’ve learned.
The Power Of Saying Yes
On day one, I vowed to attempt anything I was asked no matter how much experience I had.
I’ve held true to my word.
I said “yes” to driving a bulldozer and fire engine, leading a crew to monitor an area burned by wildfire, completing physical training sessions with Smoke Jumpers and remaining calm as fire burned around me.
And although I didn’t set out to build my confidence, I see myself in a new light. I’m no longer afraid to take on hard tasks or ask for help, and I’m positive I’ll succeed in any endeavor.
And it takes a heck of a lot of confidence to drive a fire engine up a steep, rocky mountain road. Hell, it takes a lot of confidence to be the passenger too!
Now that I’m near the end of this journey, I look back on those experiences as badges of honor. They’ve expanded my comfort zone and my personal story.
As travelers, we must embrace the chance to say yes to something new, scary or odd. In doing so, we give ourselves the uncertainty needed to learn and grow.
Carpe diem! (It means ‘seize the day’ for those who are about to open Google in another tab)
Stealing Enjoyment When I Can
Wildland firefighters work 12 – 16 hour days for two weeks before taking two days off. I was too tired after work to find a form of release and so I incorporated feelings of happiness into each day.
It’s about appreciating the little things. When the sunlight peaked through after a rainy day, I would take a few moments to relish in the feeling of the warmth.
I’d dance if I found a penny or get a burst of “feel good” by picking up litter.
I endured a fair share of teasing. Luckily, there comes a time when you stop caring if people look at you or call you “weird” or laugh about the things you’ve done.
Freedom is when you’re able to enjoy yourself without the constraints of fitting in with others.
Taking time to bask in little delights kept me feeling sane and relaxed during otherwise hectic days.
Find joy in the little things and make those the highlights of your day.
Seeing People Without Titles
When you’re with the same people for 24 hours a day, you learn a lot about them.
One person could be my supervisor during the day, pal during the evening and party buddy on days off. The same person I disliked as a supervisor, I thoroughly enjoyed as a friend. I reminded myself of this when I got annoyed to the point that I wanted to light a fire in their personal gear.
It was a tightrope of emotion.
Ultimately, I realized that my negative feelings came from a clash on leadership styles, and that once we put down our titles at the end of the day, we had a good time together.
I practiced seeing people as equal beings instead of giving them preferential or differential treatment based on their resume.
This behavior carried over to how I treated others in offices, restaurants and on the fire line.
Seeing people without titles means that you treat everyone you meet as if they could be an Angel in disguise or Buddha reincarnate. It’s a practice of connecting with people and leaving trails of goodwill on your travels.
If you’re ready to hear the screams of your former self as it dies before your eyes, go ahead and massacre your comfort zone. You won’t miss it.