When I was 22 years old I had three dark blue uniforms pressed for the first day of the fire academy and one pair of polished, steel toe work boots. The clock radio went off at 4:45 a.m. playing The Fireman by George Strait like some sort of F.M. omen. I had no idea the ride I was about to begin.
I would make some of my best friends along this 21 year journey and I’d see things I couldn’t have imagined before it. I’d watch those twin towers fall in my first few shifts and see firefighters enter the public consciousness again.
I sought out the busiest stations and the places I could learn the most. I volunteered for EMS and went to Paramedic school despite having a free ticket out of it. I’m so grateful I did. I’d polish up on Spanish as a Lieutenant at 25’s on the Southwest side and get good at landing helicopters and packing wounds. I’d get on at Rescue as a Captain and hang from ropes and slither through caves and run rapids at night. I’d make Battalion Chief and run fires and rescue calls from a radio. My hands got soft. It was one promotion too many for my personality.
The first ten years of my career was as a Bachelor. I worked as much as I could because I wanted to learn and it’s where my friends were. Then I met my better half and life changed. I still loved the job but I now had these people at home that I also loved.
My son has two houses. He spends half his time at ours. I was gone for a third of that half. That left less time to be a part of his life and development.
We started building a little business to supplement retirement which should have been coming in about ten years from now (around year 30) but we reached our goals sooner than expected. This has allowed us to make the decision for me to retire from the Fire Department and be present for both kids’ lives and to continue to grow our family business.
It’s hard to say goodbye. As hard as it would be if I worked ten or twenty more years. It was always going to be hard – whenever it happened. I’ll miss the people; the most courageous bunch of people I’ve ever known. I’m sure the world has many people who are courageous but few regularly get put in the positions to demonstrate it like firefighters do.
It is also a hugely exciting transition to working on my own time schedule building the business that we began a few years back with no idea of what it could become. There is a phrase in some financial circles on the internet called F.I.R.E. or the Financial Independence Retire Early movement. The Irony is not lost on me that I am leaving Fire and have accomplished FIRE. While I am technically retiring from the Fire Department, I am not retiring from work. I will be continuing to grow Home Again Properties with Veronica and the kids and will be exploring outdoor adventures as frequently as their school schedules will allow.
We’ll continue to find old houses and transform them into wonderful homes for amazing tenants. We’ll continue returning great returns to our investors. We will teach what we’ve learned to anyone who will listen as it has truly changed our lives. I am now going to help other people recognize that financial freedom is possible if they want it. It’s hard work and sacrifice like all good things are but I want to show you the way that has worked for us. To retire at 43 years old is surreal. We could have never expected this when we opted to rent out my house when we got married and bought our own place together eleven years ago.
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We climbed a mountain and now it’s time to jump off and climb another one. I like challenge and crave growth. As one friend said as he was absorbing the news that I was retiring, “you are the guy who bought a unicycle and learned to ride it at the station because you thought it would be fun. Then you learned to tie flies for fly fishing. You always need to be challenged.”
I think that may be the best explanation for this change. With the support of my family, we have not made the decision lightly. We are excited about the future and sad at the same time. It will be hard at times however we teach our kids that they can do hard things and we believe we need to model the same. Hard things are not to be avoided if they are leading in the direction that we want to go. In fact, hard things have preceded the best things in my life.
I appreciate the support from my friends, family and fire family. This won’t be a recliner retirement. This will be more of a “re-direction” retirement focusing on family, business, travel, growth, and learning to be present in the moments of life as it’s the only way I know to slow the hands of time that seem to spin ever faster. I may even dust off the old unicycle.
We only have one precious life and it is important to be sure we are always living the best version of that for ourselves. We cannot just do what is expected of us or follow what the norms dictate. Your prayers are appreciated as my family and I step out of the known into the unknown and do a hard thing. We are very excited and know that we are going in the right direction for our family as we attempt to always Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.