Unemployment Season and Staying Focused

When it comes to my future wildland CAREER, there are 4 aspects I focus on: Networking and Applications, Physical Training and Learning. Since I’m still a temporary worker, the goal is to gain permanent status, to get benefits and actually have a career. Being a temp is a dead end job, with no end in sight, if the goal isn’t to gain permanent status. So I apply to all the senior firefighter positions within 150 miles of my house. I write cover letters, email, correspond and make phone calls. I build packets of documents and neatly organize them into large envelopes, mass mailing them to referrals like Val Pak, hoping something comes of it all, these hundreds of applications and emails. And if not? I return as a temp, to repeat the process until the day I get that call, when fire management officer joe schmo says” Woodbridge, your a standup guy, and god damn if you wouldn’t be just a perfect fit here.” And I’d say “hell yeah, mr. Schmo. I won’t let you down.” I’d buy a new bulletin board, a bigger one, and start putting notecards up of new ideas I’d have. The training would get more intense and I’d watch more boxing movies.

Training, regardless of whether I’ll have a career next season, doesn’t change. It has become part of my identity. Two things I cannot stand are being late to something, and feeling out of shape while doing something physically demanding. Pretty easy thing to implement countermeasures against. Be punctual and be consistent. Right now its a mix of aerobic, body weight and free weight exercises. I basically follow the core workout the navy seals use involving dips, sit ups, pull ups, push ups and running minus the swimming. I run 3-4 days a week with an average distance of 3.5 miles. When the joints are sore I bike, to take some of the strain away. It’s nothing that complicated and I don’t spend more than 60-90 minutes a day doing it. But I’m consistent.

Learning is a different matter. It requires me to be honest with myself about my comprehension of wild land fire and the overall intricacies of doing my job safely and effectively. It’s more of an art than building cardio or clicking the boxes on a USA jobs app. It involves creating projects, reading maps and books, making sense of things. I like to think of myself as a private detective. This helps me unravel lessons from previous fires and gives me the freedom to pursue anything, rather than viewing the genre of wildland fire thru the overall glaze of an organization. It’s the autodidactic way of becoming a better forestry tech or wildland firefighter, fueled by a true interest in the job and those who came before.

I’ve got a list of small projects to keep my mind occupied throughout these hibernation days.  Some of them get me out of the house, walking in the woods or talking to other people.  And others require me to put in some time in a chair, just reading.  The important thing is to keep moving forward.


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