Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It seems that life is about many things, but mostly it is about changes and changing. Life throws curves at you and you have to adapt your life to fit what comes. Due to some of those curves, I did things differently than the norm, and I took the road less traveled.

In the three phases of school, I seem to change and develop in different ways. In Elementary school, I was the skinny, quiet, timid, non-athletic kid. But even though I was timid, I still was one to jump in between two friends who were fighting, to stop them. I think most of my friends will say my best trait was that I was friendly. I was one of those, “last person to be picked onto teams” type. Because of that, I got C’s or D’s in Physical Education. It had nothing to do with how well I performed in games, but how much I participated. This grade also lowered my average and kept me out of the “Gifted” program, so I was not given a chance to get in advanced programs.

Junior High was a new experience, a different way of learning, and meeting new people. I felt awkward. Still, I adapted and made new friends, some that I still see to this day. This is where I started trying to be more athletic than academic. I guess I felt that that was where I was lacking, and wanted to develop more. I let my academic side lapse and I lost interest in some subjects like English and History. Math and Sciences were the only subjects that kept my interest. Yet I was still not very good at sports. But I tried. Trying is better than not trying at all. You can’t win the Lottery unless you buy a ticket. This was also when I learned how to play the French Horn, and played in both a Marching Band and the School’s Orchestra. I heard I was good at it, but no one told me that at the time. It seems I rarely got encouragement from anyone. I just did what I did, and I only heard about things if I did wrong.

In High school, I became rebellious. I wanted to do my own thing and I didn’t really want to be there. Being in the LAUSD system, I seemed to recognize that in most classes, you were just there to be baby-sat. Learning seemed to be secondary, unless you were in advanced classes. Though I was in some advanced classes, I only tried to do well in Math and Sciences. I dropped out of High School during my Senior year. Yeah, that’s right, I was a juvenile delinquent. I took and passed the GED test, and didn’t look back. That was the second best thing I did in High School. The best thing I did in High School, was to try out for the “B” Football team. I never played in a game, but I was a part of every practice, and did everything that they made us do. I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, but I wasn’t the weakest or the slowest. This is where I got a little tougher both mentally and physically. I was pushed to where I didn’t know I could go before, and I took a lot of punishment.

After dropping out, I should have continued my education at a Community college, but I didn’t. That would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I went to work. My best friend’s mother had a boyfriend who was a plumber. We both worked for him and learned a trade. We did new and remodel plumbing, and I got to see how homes were built. I watched and learned.

During this time, my friend found out that the LA City Fire Department was recruiting minorities. This is when I first got the idea to become a Firefighter. Most of my friends will say they saw a light in my eyes early on, when I watched the LAFD in action. I took the written test and passed. I did not continue on because I knew that the job required a lot of physical strength, and I felt I was lacking. So I set out to get in better shape. When my father learned of my desire to become a Firefighter, he told my mother he thought it was too dangerous for me. Still, I think he would have been proud of me upon my graduation from the Fire Academy at 31 years old. Remember that number.

When I was 25 years old, my father died from throat cancer. I can still hear him tell my sister, "Don't worry, I'll be alright." Then my sister calling me, saying, "Daddy's dead!" I ran to his room and it was the first time I did CPR. His death hit me hard. All the guilt from arguing with him when I was rebellious, haunted me. I learned that being “right” is not as important as you think it is, and some things, a lot of things in fact are not worth arguing about. His death changed me in many ways. I grew up right then.

I got out of my then dead-end job, and found another that allowed time to go back to school. I started taking Fire Science classes from East Los Angeles College at night and got my EMT license. I also took some regular classes during the day, Chemistry, Algebra, some others….. and I got all A’s. I even made the Dean’s list. Damn. I think I still have that certificate somewhere. I didn’t get a degree though.

I tested for many Fire Departments, from Santa Rosa, California to San Diego. At my last interview with LA City, they had announced a City-wide hiring freeze. Things looked dim, but I had a good attitude, I wasn’t afraid. I knew I would get hired, but it had to happen at the right time. I just needed to be patient.

The 1992 Riots happened and the hiring freeze ended. Back then, there was an age limit, 31 years old. Remember I told you to remember that number? I just made it. I was in the first class of Firefighters to get hired in over 2 years. I did well during my probation, though there were some hiccups. I did get hired at the right time as everything seem to fall in place, and I had the best ”teachers” from the Training Academy and all through my Field assignments. Little did I know that all those things I learned early on would help me become a Firefighter, even stuff I learned as a Boy Scout. I earned a good reputation as a Firefighter, and after 5 years as one, I signed up to become a Paramedic. That is my main duty for the LAFD now, but I am both a Firefighter and Paramedic.

I never got married or had children. Not that I didn’t want to, but it just never happened. I still wonder if it will happen. My father got married in his 50’s, but I saw how hard it was for him and I don’t know if I want that for me. But, if it’s right, then it will happen, as things seem to happen to me when it’s the right time. Yes, I feel like I’m blessed. “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be……” Oh sorry…….

180 days. I wrote that on my Facebook page. I didn’t say what it was about, though some guessed that my birthday was in 180 days. Though that was true, it was not exactly what I had in mind. 180 days meant a countdown to my birthday, the day I turn 50. So here I am, near the end of my second 25 years of life, and reflecting on it, 152 days left as of this writing. I had been reflecting on my life since the year started, and decided I needed to do some things differently, and to make some changes before I was 50. No, I won’t change like flipping a light switch, but I hope to evolve and improve.

My first 25 years was about learning about life, developing mentally and physically, gaining skills, and rebelling. Those were the best years when I had the most fun. I learned many things from many people. My father taught me to work hard, and instilled in me my moral values. He also taught me how to drive a stick at 12-13 years old. My mother taught me devotion and perseverance. From my friends, I learned about life, loyalty, mischief making, and “ragging” on each other. Work and hobby experiences gave me some skills in automotive mechanics, plumbing, electrical, and construction work.

My second 25 years was about education, career, priorities, and responsibility. I started looking at the “big picture.” I no longer just lived for today, I also lived for tomorrow. These are the years that were most fulfilling. I feel I helped so many people during this time. I definitely feel that I was a late-bloomer, and I blossomed between the ages of 25-40. Do real men blossom? I don’t think so, but real men don’t care what you think.

My third 25 years should be about something else. I don’t know what it will be, but I know what I want it to be. Sometimes your future is in your hands, sometimes it depends on other things that happen or don’t happen. Sometimes your life has already been planned for you, and you just don’t know it until after it happens.

Life is a mystery; I’ll tell you how this third 25 year mystery ends, 25 years from now. I hope this mystery has a happy ending, and not “the butler did it” kind of ending. Then I’ll write about my fourth and final 25 years. Yes, I plan to live a long and happy rest of my life. Will you be there with me?


shoveltrick said...

very moving... i think youre definitely "on to something" with the idea that life is divided up into quarters like that...

ericka said...

really beautifully written...i am excited for you and what is next. and i can't wait to hear what the next 25 years bring.

Gail said...

You are a wonderful writer, Masa, and I hope that you continue putting your thoughts into words for the next 25+ years. Thank you for sharing!