• Marc Aloan

Just A Nobody From Nowhere

The more I learn and do, the more I cannot help but question many things I once thought to be true, a quandary that frequently leaves me feeling hypocritical as I struggle to resonate with some of the thoughts and people once woven into the fabric of my beliefs. Some would label such reflection as growth and maturity while others would insinuate such perceived hypocrisy makes me artificial or phony. However, I think perhaps everything we experience has a shelf life, leaving some influences to last longer than others. I also believe certain things and people are designed to be impactful at very specific points of our careers, falling out of favor once their purpose in our journey has been fulfilled. Such a realization can plague our minds as we cling to loyalty of what once seemed so important to our progress, but no longer resonates with our beliefs. And if we want to go all HAZMAT on the topic, consider the TWA of a substance as it relates to its toxicity and maybe that same theory is equally applicable to the people, places, and things we encounter throughout our careers…

If I have learned anything through teaching, traveling, and sharing my thoughts over the past few years it is that we are all just nobodies from nowhere, but sometimes we are lucky enough to be considered notable by others. Unfortunately, many place more value on “who” we are talking to than “what” we are talking about, blindly regurgitating the thoughts of our biggest names without question while automatically dismissing anything from someone foreign. Personally, I have met some “big names” whose message I couldn’t get behind and people I had never heard of whose influences have fundamentally changed my career. These encounters taught me the “fame” and notoriety many seem to desire are simply a matter of perspective that does nothing more than caress our little egos because for every person we hold in high regard, there are 100 others who have never even heard of them.

While I would concede that experience is certainly important in our profession, everything we use was once nothing more than a theory or concept by one of us nobodies from nowhere until the right people made it notable. Yet, we promote a narrative that says the substance of the material can only be valid if the person conveying it meets a checklist of prerequisites that fuel our bravado. While there is no requirement that fire service romantics, visionaries, and innovators come from large departments that see work daily, there is very much a fire service expectation that only those on these types of jobs are qualified for such titles. And while there is certainly a high degree of knowledge that only comes from the opportunity to repetitively execute day in and day out, it could also be argued that those who do not have the luxury of a similar call volume are actually in a much more arduous environment where the level of persistence, preparation, and discipline it takes to be equally proficient is much more remarkable.

What I have unfortunately settled on is the fire service isn’t always as “friendly” as we would like to believe. There is no tolerance for mistakes, errors, or bad judgments, just a façade nobody wants to discuss that divides us up into favorites, factions, and foes based on arbitrary information and folklore. There is an in crowd and the “other guys” complete with egos, images, and downright disguises created by subjectivity and group think that are on the same magnitude as high school popularity and politics. There are equal parts cooperation and unhealthy competition, dividing those who are on the same page as they argue over semantics instead of uniting their message. And while none of this comes as any surprise to those of us who see fallacy in the concept that assembling groups of individuals from different backgrounds, preferences, opinions, and goals around a common interest would somehow come without conflict and challenges, it is this very fact that leaves many disappointed and lost in our profession.

As I continuously struggle to understand why it was in my cards to share my thoughts with a far bigger audience than I ever dreamt of, I stick to the foundation of this venture which was to make whatever it became about what I had to say and not that it was me saying it. While my reasons may have changed as has my life, the fact I am just another nobody from nowhere who is fired up about what we do has not. I share these thoughts to encourage those steadily pushing to make the fire service better every day, whether they are known for doing so or not. Just because our notoriety will always have a shelf life doesn't mean our influence has to. Don’t sell yourself short because of who you are or where you are from. Names don’t make the fire service better, people do. Keep grinding, keep sharing, and keep advocating. The best name we can make for ourselves is one that is referenced more in our absence than it ever was in our presence…

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