Friday, May 30, 2003
quote du jour:
"There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success." -- George Burton Adams
From the Friday Five...

What do you most want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as someone who looked at life just a bit differently than the rest of the world. I'd like to be known as the guy that not only wanted to live life, but had a never-ending & often frustrating quest to understand it all, too. Remember me for the deep conversations I tried to start in the wee hours of the morning, for my drunken epiphanies and for my perverse humor. I'd like people to remember my ability to dream crazy dreams about tomorrow and, at the same time, be madly nostalgic about yesterday. I hope people remember me as a friend... As someone who tried to make them laugh when they needed it, listened when they needed it and gave them a straight shot whether they needed it or not. Whether through friendship, journalism, firefighting or some other endeavor... I really want folks to remember me as someone who wanted to leave things just a bit better than I found them. That is, after all, what I'd like to accomplish.

What quotation best fits your outlook on life?

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What achievement are you most proud of in the past year?

In the fall of 1999, I put together a silly survey for the staff at the SUO campus newspaper. It was supposed to be a part of a "meet the staff" type of area on our Web site that I never got around to creating. However, I still have the surveys.

There were between 30 and 40 question covering a plethora of subjects. It asked about everything from our favorite movie quote to our favorite Muppet. Near the bottom, it asked about our dream job.

Jonathan said that his dream job was being an "idiot slapper," because he'd never be out of work. Alex, quite the Atlanta Braves fan at the time, listed hers as "Mrs. Chipper Jones." I simply replied, "fireman."

From the answers given at the time, we all listed things that we wouldn't mind doing... But the replies were essentially from out in left field. They were things that didn't seem realistic or likely. At that time, I figured that I would end up as a journalist who always wanted to be a firefighter.

On June 24th, I'll celebrate one year on the job as a career firefighter.

The chief of the Smallville Fire Department keeps a list. It has the name of every man and woman who has ever served that city as a firefighter since the department was organized in 1910. I spent two years there as a paid-per-call firefighter and so my name is on that list. It's one of the things I'm most proud of. Regardless of what I do from now on, having been a part of the department can never be taken away from me. I feel very much the same about being on the job full-time.

I am blessed. My dream came true. The one thing I really wanted to do more than anything was to be a firefighter. That's me. That's what I do now. The crazy thing is that the City of Lakeland actually pays me good money to do it, too. I'm still blown away by that every now and then.

People live their entire lives without realizing even small parts of their dream... and I've been given it all. But you can take nothing for granted. Tomorrow, the dream could end. They could fire me. Or I could quit. Or I could be hurt or killed and that would be that. But regardless of what happens tomorrow, I'm a firefighter today. The dream has come true. They can never take that away from me.

Thank you, Lord.

What about the past ten years?

I have a bachelor's degree.

The piece of paper is hanging prominently in my bedroom in the swankiest frame I could find. Yet, it's not so much the degree that's the achievement as it was the whole process of getting it.

When I finally decided to enroll at SUO in 1998, I was two years removed from high school and had all of a dozen or so college hours to show for it. I was living at home, working for the hometown newspaper and pretending to go to college at Smallville University. Essentially, I was laying the foundation for a life of disappointment.

I made the decision to grow up a bit, moved to Oakdale, made friends and involved myself in the crazy struggle between fun, school & journalism. I didn't always manage things well. If such records were kept, I'd probably set the mark for poorest attendance record of any student that actually graduated. In college, I saw the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But, in the end, I muddled through it all. I did it. I set a goal and reached it.

I then promptly got a job in separate field that didn't require a degree.

My college career didn't follow the plan I would have liked it to. If I had it to do all over again, I'm sure I'd change plenty. But it worked out okay. I'm glad things happened as they did. I'm better for the experience. And I don't want to imagine my life without SUO as a part of it.

If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say?

Be yourself. Doing your own thing is as awkward as hell at times. It can get your alienated by some folks. When you march to the beat of a different drummer, people will question the music. But, if you do things your way... the people that do become your friends will be your friends because of who you are, not how you want them to perceive you to be. When it hits the fan, that distinction will become more important than you can imagine.

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Copyright © 2003, Thomas Fletcher. All Rights Reserved.