Jan. 19, 2022

It's Never Too Late To Start Over- Rebecca Ethington

In this episode, we have Rebecca Ethington, a single mom who went through Fire Recruit Academy. She's going to talk about the mental and physical strains it took to get through a crew Academy and to get to her full-time job today.


In this episode, we have Rebecca Ethington, a single mom who went through Fire Recruit Academy. She's going to talk about the mental and physical strains it took to get through a crew Academy and to get to her full-time job today.

In this episode, you will learn:
⦁The application process of fire recruit camp;
⦁Tips and tricks while taking the test;
⦁What are the things, thoughts, and emotions to be expected and in the tests;
⦁Why are first responders tend to shut down their emotions often;
⦁How to avoid mom guilt and many more!

Huberman Lab
Hosted by Andrew Huberman, Andrew Huberman, Ph.D.

Wim Hof Method Breathing Exercises

Host Information
Your host Jerry D. Lund can be reached at 801-376-7124 or email at enduringthebdage@gmail.com or voice message use the icon microphone at www.enduringthebadgepodcast.com. Please feel free to give my information to anyone that might be feeling down or anyone you would like to be on the podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.  If you like the podcast please share it and join the online community at www.instagram.com/enduringthebadgepodcast.

Transcript


Intro  
Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of Enduring the Badge Podcast. I'm your host, Jerry Dean Lund. And I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode. So please hit that subscribe button. And while your phones out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes or Apple podcasts. It says, "Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people". So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review. And just maybe by doing that, it will push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. 

Jerry Lund  
Today in this episode, we have Rebecca Ethington, a single mom who went through Fire Recruit Academy and she's going to talk about the mental and physical strains it took to get through a crew Academy and to get to her full time job today. Let's jump right in this episode. How're you doing? Rebecca?

Rebecca Ethington  
Good. How are you?

Jerry Lund  
I'm doing good, too. So nice, sunny kind of ish day compared to the crappy weather we've been having. So I'm good. So nothing. In the window. I'm seeing some sun.

Rebecca Ethington  
I yeah, I think we're gonna get more snow. So

Jerry Lund  
yeah, it's good for the West.

Rebecca Ethington  
It's good. I I'm doing a challenge, where I have to work out once a day outside. And I haven't done my workout outside. Until I get that. I don't know. It's gonna be hard.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Rebecca Ethington  
Um, I I am a firefighter. And I am 48 years old. I have three kids. I'm a single mom at this point. Um, I've worked a lot of jobs in my years. I worked with you Jerry long time ago.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. And we're for started. Yeah, yeah.

Rebecca Ethington  
And so I don't know, what else do you want to know?

Jerry Lund  
So you what are some of those other jobs that you are you mean, you recently became a full time firefighter. But what are some of the jobs that you held before getting up to this point? 

Rebecca Ethington  
So I worked I started as an EMT back in an agency that was a small agency that paid on call, and then they combined with their fire department. And that's kind of when you and I met and I went through the fire school at that point and got my fire certification for the state of Utah. And I worked as an what they called an intermediate EMT, and firefighter four. All together at that department, if you count the years of the on call paid, it was almost 12 years. And then during that time, I got my degree in education. And I also was a school teacher. So I taught sixth grade for nine years, which was pretty great. And then, at, when I had my second baby, I was kind of a late bloomer, so I didn't have children till I was 32. And around here, that's a pretty late time to have kids. But after I had my second baby, my ex husband and I, we looked at our finances and decided it would be best if I stayed home and, and it really was a blessing. It was a really great opportunity. And I stayed home for nine years. And then as I was facing, getting back out into the out into a career, I I started back into the medical side, and the teaching and needed full time employment. So i i recertified as a firefighter and got picked up by a full time department, which I'm extremely grateful for. So

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, we started together several years ago in in Lehigh, and I spent 17 years there, myself working as a volunteer and combined and our time and yeah, it was a great and still is a great department to, like, get some great knowledge is so many great firefighters have come out of there, and they have so many, so many now. So as you try to get back into the workforce, what were you What were you looking for?

Rebecca Ethington  
Well, as a woman, my age facing a divorce and facing looking at a potential where I needed I needed a pension or some sort of retirement. I was kind of weighing my options. I was a school teacher. And I looked at maybe going back into that. And I, I know it might shock you, but in any public services not very lucrative. And so I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay bills and take care of everything I needed to take care of just kind of being on my own and almost starting from square one again. And I ran into one of the battalion chiefs from Lehigh that we both knew really well. And he and I had worked together and taught together. And he's, he's always been a friend and a mentor of mine. And he just was like, just let's just get back into it all, just just do it. And, and I started running an ambulance with a couple of smaller departments that just do ambulance and they really have their fireside is more of a volunteer, but they, they staff their ambulance. And that was a really great few years to get my, you know, my feet back under me and remember everything and, and I started teaching again, at college, and I teach at a university now, and I'm looking at my retirement options, really, because of the system I was in for retirement. Firefighting was my best option. But I was a 47 year old female. And I worked with a guy I worked with a few guys that were just like, go just apply at this department just, they're there, they've got it open, just apply. And I kind of made it through each step. And I'm sure everyone that's listening knows kind of how its structured. In order to get a job as a firefighter, there's usually a written test and a physical test and series of interviews with panels, and then chiefs and then and then if you make it through all of those, then they make you an offer. And, and every step that came, I just kept thinking, Well, that was fun. They'll never offer it to me. And because I wasn't certified as a firefighter anymore, all of those had expired. And when they made the offer, I was pretty surprised because I just I had kind of told myself that it wasn't going to happen. And they were like, you're gonna need to go through a fire recruit camp, which I knew, I thought I knew how hard that would be, I was aware that it was going to be extremely demanding, and physically exhausting. But I agreed I, I was just still kind of, I think, in shock that I had made it that far. Because it's, it's not I'm not the typical firefighter. I'm like, I don't come in and like I don't fit that mold. I don't think for a lot of people. And so I entered a fire recruit camp as I could have been the mother of every other year, which was, that's not fun. They were all young and new. And they were fantastic. They the group that they had in that camp, like just really fantastic. young, young people in this field and just starting out and I, I had so much respect for 'em. And it was it was probably I will I can say hands down the most difficult physical thing I've ever done in my life. I, I've always tried to work out and keep physically fit and do the things that you know, to keep myself in shape to do just normal everyday things. And this, this was a whole different level. And I used to joke with people when they would be like, Why do you go to the gym all the time, you must want to look good in a bathing suit. And I was like I'm in my 40s I'm just paying payments on my extended warranty. I'm not worried about a bathing suit. At this point. I'm more worried about just being able to get myself up off the floor every day. And so then from that going into recruit camp for those people. I mean, should I explain kind of what they do? I don't?

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, let's let's go back up. Let's go back just a little bit. And then we'll jump into the recruit camp. I want to talk about maybe some of your thoughts and feelings about let's just start at the application process. You know, you were encouraged to fill out an application by a great individual. And then what were your thought when you went to go fill that application? How do you feel?

Rebecca Ethington  
Um, I would say that it's a lot of and I think we all deal with this everyone but you're narrative in your head is so critical and, and it really puts you in a mind of like, no one will ever want this like, right, like, I'm never gonna meet this standard that they have. And so and I, like, I'm not where I was at 20, at 20, I was a different, the narrative in my head was different. But I filled out the application, thinking, you know, almost, it was almost as much for me as it was for the job because I was just answering the questions and, and really putting a lot of thought into my background, because my background and my, my job experience, and all of that is so different than it was when I was 22. And so, you know, when they ask you to list all your jobs, that's a, that's a lot. And so I, I went through all of that net, that was it, that I submitted it kind of kind of just like, let it go and see what happens. And, um, because I did have I was working at the time, I was working five jobs. And so it wasn't that I wasn't making any money, it was more I was looking for something more, that I could pare it down and be a little more focused and stable. So that's how I sent the application in. And then the written test was the next step.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah. So they accepted your application, you were able to move on to the written test, tell us some feelings, and some thoughts and emotions about the written test, because I'm assuming this is probably some material that you haven't really seen for a while, but

Rebecca Ethington  
I remembered I remember, like, so it was a combination test. So it had fire skills in it, but it also had, it had like a public servants test, if that makes sense. So it had like, basically half reading comprehension, and then that type of thing, and it had some spatial reasoning, questions. And then the last part of it was more of a psychological evaluation, which is always fun. And so, um, as far as like the the math, the reading, it was like basic geometry and some, you know, a little bit of algebra and things like that. And I felt pretty confident with those. You know, having taught sixth grade, I feel like I can do some of that, too.

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Rebecca Ethington  
But as far as the fire skills, you know, remembering all the details about ladders and the different tools and the and then hydrants and in our area, we don't really have a lot of different colored hydrants, right? We just, we live in a very cold area. And so everything's kind of the same. But I did remember the hydrants, just because I don't know why that stuck in my brain from years ago. But as I took the test, it was about two hours. And it just, I left that also with this idea, like, well, I've given it my best, you know, I don't know where will where we'll be like, we'll see how it goes.

Jerry Lund
Did cuz I know with me, and taking tests like that, I'm like, uh, always, like, they're like, I just, if I pass this by, you know, barely.

Rebecca Ethington  
I know, I, I felt confident and I, I don't know, um, I have a lot of test taking. Like, I have kind of almost like a ritual when I take a test that I go through and, and this is one of the things that I've recently just started to try to apply with the students that I teach because I teach EMS, and I realized in talking with colleagues of mine that a lot of adult learners never learned test taking skills right here, right and and I have never put that together. I taught my 12 year olds that I taught in sixth grade. All of these strategies in order to help them apply it to any test. And I've, I tend to do pretty decently written tests if I study, but as I got back in, especially at the university level, I realized that like, there's so many adult learners that have no, they've got no bag of tricks to pull from. And they have it, they already have test anxiety, and then that lack of tools to help them just adds that anxiety. And so for me, when I left that test, it kind of was like I left it feeling. I felt decent, like during and I wasn't, I wasn't worried about it. As a contrast, the hazmat test for fires, I left that going, I don't know if I passed. I did. But during the and I was there, there are times when I do feel like well, I'm not sure if I pass, but that one I felt pretty good about. They don't give you your score, though, they just tell you if you passed or not. So,

Jerry Lund  
Right. So can you briefly describe some of those tricks that you have maybe that taken in test?

Rebecca Ethington  
I, in talking with one of my friends, our mutual friend of ours, I don't know if I should say the names. But um, so Brandon Howard, he works as a medical director for a big department. And he was like, Rebecca, he we were we were traveling to teach something I can't remember. And he's like, why don't you I want you to put a lecture together on test anxiety and test taking skills and, and I had never really thought about it. So I did, I started putting that together in like a an actual class like we would teach a class just on that. And so I talk about specifically about mindset, because, remarkably, the narrative and the voice in our head is going to set us up for failure or success in a lot of ways. And if we've already defeated ourselves by saying, We can't do it, then then you're, you're already one step behind going into the test. And then I talk about managing the anxiety that you feel so it because test anxiety is not like, it's it's not a diagnosable disorder that you need medication for. It's not like anxiety disorder, like there's, there's are two different things. And test anxiety is a learned behavior, because we throughout our throughout our lives are, are basically taught, especially here, in at least in our area, and in the States, a lot of times your performance in school equates your validity and value. And it might not be like, your parents might not have said that your parents might have been like we support you no matter what the in your mind through peers and teachers and the system, you start to make your scores or your grades equivalent with your value. And, and then you come into our profession. And that adds a different level, because it's our job. And we have the ego, because shockingly, in this profession, there's a lot of ego. And if you go to try to take, you know, for example, like an ADO test or a test to move up a step or something, and you don't pass it, there's a shame and a stigma attached to that, that whether we just prescribe it to ourselves, or we feel it from someone else. That that builds on to our test anxiety. So then every future test you take, that all comes back to you and it weighs on your mind. And quite frankly, it it heavily. It makes your cognitive load more than it should be and you can't perform at your capacity. 
And so I talk about ways to manage that. And there's they're funny. Like I teach him like breathing techniques. And there's a there's a huge you can find breathing techniques all over the internet. But I am a big fan of a guy named Andrew Huberman who does a podcast he's a neuro scientist, and he talks about the physiological side. And this is something I the only things I've included in the lecture are things that I've used, and I feel like it worked for me and the physiological side is something that they studied years ago, when they would put it was back in the 30s. And they they would put people into like a confined space and stress them out. And then they watched how their bodies responded to the stress. And our bodies will naturally do this to try to calm ourselves down. And the physiological side is taken to inhale and a long, slow exhale. And I know it sounds silly, but it really will calm you down. And I'll do it before I have it. I did it just before we came on here. Like, it just kind of like brings your heart rate down, it brings that whatever it does for your body, it really works. And so I try to teach people to do that before they click Start on the test, do it three or four times. And then another breathing technique is Wim Hof. Are you familiar with this guy? Yeah, yeah, he's, he's pretty remarkable. I buy into a lot of his stuff as well. And his breathing technique is applicable in so many respects. But I would say, before you go into take a test, it's extremely effective. I would say before you even take a physical test, it's very effective. Yeah. And my reasoning when I teach this to students is I tell them, like, you know, we're all we work in emergency medicine and, and when someone is altered when their brain isn't functioning, what do we look for we look for is their brain getting oxygen is it got glucose? Like, what why is it got a toxin that's affecting it. But oxygen and glucose are kind of the number one things right that we, we try to mitigate immediately. And so when you are anxious, most people don't breathe effectively. They're right, hold their breath. They it's shallow breathe. And and so by using Wim Hof technique, it's like you're flooding your brain, you're hyper oxygenating your brain, and you're giving it some of the fuel it's going to need to function and I have used it and I'm telling you, I think it works wonders. I have other things like that. Like I don't know how far you wanting to

Jerry Lund  
No, breathe, I like to breathe in breathe. It's really good and really important. I mean, the I mean, it's something we check on a patient, right? And that's one of the first things that we can maybe, like you said, adjust, you know, their breathing, kind of calmed them down, slow them down. I feel like it's so overlooked about how we breathe. We take her tell her kids take a couple deep breaths, relax for a second, and then you know, and come back to us. There is science behind the way you breathe and the way it changes your chemistry in your body. So yeah, no, it's this is great.

Rebecca Ethington  
Absolutely. There's another study that were they they looked at local field potentials in your brain, and that nasal breathing so like if you do Wim Hof breathing and you come in through your nose and out through your mouth, the nasal breathing that sound in your terminates in your nose. This is I found this I'm kind of a nerd for this kind of thing. But that sound activates our frontal and temporal lobes of our brain. And it helps it helps with recall and memory and clear thinking. So I'm like it applies in that way too. Because of course, we want to activate those parts of our brain before we go in and try to regurgitate information for a test. So the breathing I think is a huge, huge portion. And I teach there's I have a list of things I also teach. I teach people to palm their eyes. Have you heard of that? Have not right, you do this. So when you're overwhelmed and you're getting too much stimulation, or if you've been staring at a computer screen for too long. It bogs down and it causes your eyes and your feedback to have a delay basically, and and to refocus. The palming is where you would take the hollow of your palm, put them over your eyes, so you're not pressing on your eyes, but you're blacking out your eyes. And you can sit and breathe. You can use your breathing technique if you want, but I teach them to sit and put their hands over their eyes so that it's all black. And they rip they rest into their palms and sit there until their visual purple has died down meaning all you see is black. And typically it's two to five minutes. Sometimes it's as long as 15. But at the end of that you are it kind of resets your visual field and it resets you for clear thinking and the jumble in your head that you feel has settled down so to speak. So I teach people not to do that after they've started their time to test because we also talk about about like, budgeting your time when you're taking a test. So you can't do this for five minutes while your time is running. But you can do it before. And so I teach him that, but there's all of these these little tiny things that people don't. Either they don't think about it, or they think it's like bogus, they don't think it's gonna work. Right? I feel like it's invaluable. And if they just will give it a chance, they will see, they will see that it works. And, yeah,

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, maybe we'll have to have you on another episode. So we can really like dive down into this test taking. 

Rebecca Ethington  
Yeah, I honestly become it's actually ballooned, I the last time I gave it because it's ballooned from test taking, I also has realized that there's a lot of, at the, that's at the end of their course, right. But at the beginning of their course, a lot of adult learners don't know how to take notes, they don't know how to make flashcards, they don't know how to assess their own reading comprehension. And these are all skills that as a, as an educator, I learned how to do with, with 12 year olds, right like, and I made them very accountable for their own comprehension. And it's just been in these last couple of years, I realized that, you know, as adults going into a class or a whole bunch of classes, we have a different level of, of distraction on our kids, as an adult, we have bills to pay families, spouses, we have all of these things that come in and kind of pull us away from being able to be like this model student. And I saw that directly when I taught courses with 19 year olds, versus courses with people, you know, 2930 and above. And it's, it's not because our brains operate differently. I they do, but I don't think that's the whole reason, I think it's because when you're 19, and you live at home, and I know, your only worry is to pay your car payment or whatever I don't know, like, right, like, you have a different level of stress, then when you have a family that's depending on you, and bills, and you know, the car breaks down, and then you've got some sort of appliance repair, and you know, all of that comes in, and then I'll hear you go, you've still got to do your class. So yeah, come on, 

Jerry Lund  
I can understand that.

Rebecca Ethington  
Dinners not just waiting for you, you've got you're responsible for it all. And I think that's, that's something that in all fields, but this field, specifically because we work in a field where you're expected to constantly learn and take courses and improve. That's different. It's it, we're it works differently from the time we're 20 to the time, we're all there.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, that's it, I love those tips. I'll probably be using them here, you know, in the future, and we'll have you back on for those like a separate one, I think that'd be great for any adult learner who hasn't had that, especially if you're in the first responder because you're constantly taking tests and doing things like that. So after you, you take your written test, and then they notify you that you can get a

Rebecca Ethington  
I got a panel interview, and I went in, I did, I have some still great friends from like, the people that I worked with, you know, that we worked with, together years ago, we were all we all are still family, like I still think of you as like one of my brothers because we work together in such a respect that you just, you just are friends forever. And he told some of them that I was going through this. They were so helpful with advice and and then I also had new friends that I've met in the field that you know, work as captains or battalion chiefs and, and they were so good to offer me like a mock interview. And to give me pointers in that respect, and it was I it was so helpful I would recommend if you're going to go to a panel interview, have people who conduct panel interviews mock interview you Yeah, not in like a fun friendly way. But like a legit like, I'm going to interview you and then I'm going to talk to you about where you screwed up. That's you'll walk away from the interview. I think if you don't do that you'll walk away from an interview going I don't know how I don't know how it went. And and to be fair, when I went in I was the first interview of the day and and I immediately I mean I I know enough about like how things work in the fire service. I made sure I greeted everyone with their title. And I started with the highest title in the room. I had a I didn't have any battalion chiefs there, but I had captains and, and I, you know, you can always tell by their little insignias. And so I tried to make sure that I was you know, duly respectful to all of that. And then you sit and you've got five or six people sitting in front of you with notepads ready to ask you questions, and they kind of take turns and and after about the third question. They, I started talking, and it was it became a back and forth almost just like I was having a casual conversation. And my what anxiety I did have was just, it dissipated, because I didn't I wasn't nervous anymore, like I was. I felt like I was answering questions and talking to them, just like I would anyone else. And I think that's something that comes with my age. Because I do talk to a lot of people and I don't, I don't I don't have worries about you know, talking to people. And specifically, I had brought up because I'm an ACLs. instructor and I brought up how my, my approach to teaching ACLs. And that kind of piqued the interest of some of one of the interviews, viewers specifically in it. And it just turned into this conversation. And then when it was over, I kind of got up and I left and I was like, I didn't film it. And then I as I walked away, I thought Well, me either that's a really good thing or it's a not a good thing. I don't know. And so but it turned out to be a good thing. It because then I got contacted for a chief's interview. And so

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, so how was the the anxiety as you're moving through these levels of the testing levels? How was the anxiety going each level now you're at a chief's interview level? [Did[ was the most anxious part? You know, the process so far.

Rebecca Ethington  
I, I was pretty anxious. The Chiefs interview was interesting, because I had COVID, I got COVID. And I got very sick. And the it was the week I was supposed to interview with the chief. And they were they said they would do it over zoom. And that was fine, except I had a fever of 104.3. And I was not completely lucid. I was I tried to get myself all put together. And they knew I had COVID. And so I was trying to not look sick, or act sick. And I I brought out a note paper. Gosh, Jerry. And I, I don't remember almost anything. And I was gonna take notes, right? Because I knew I was not completely with it. And after the interview, like for the first part of the interview, I couldn't figure out how to get this the audio to work properly. It was it was not great. So at the end, I was exhausted, it hit exhausted me to the point where I just like kind of went and crashed on my bed. And I woke up a few hours later. And I thought, what like, what did I say? And I go in, and I look at my notes. And I literally had written two things. I had written rumen contents. And I wrote taskforce one. Oh, apparently, I don't know what we talked about. But then I was like, Well, I must have bombed that because I have no idea what I said, I have no idea how that went. And I was too sick to even worry about it at that point. And and then after the Chiefs interview, they wanted me to run the physical test, which is a little out of order. Usually they have to do it before but because I don't know if it was because of COVID or whatever. But I had lost 10 pounds in a week on COVID. Oh, wow. Yeah, I was, like I said I was sicker than I think I've ever been. And the I was six days off of COVID when they wanted me to run that physical. Just was like, Well, this is it. This is the end. I don't know. And the battalion chief at the physical was just like, we really just want to see where you're at. And he's like, You got to finish it. And I ran and he they didn't tell me my time. But he shook my hand and he said, I think you I think you did well and was just like left it at that

Rebecca Ethington  
I was so pleased that I even finished because I was not in my best physical shape. And then I got a call the next week that they made an offer. And I just was a little in shock, to be honest. And I didn't know how to I didn't know whether to accept it or not during me and I was so scared, because I knew that I would be in a recruit camp, and I knew it would be a very physically demanding. And I, I've never even when I worked as a firefighter years ago, I never wanted to pass because I was a girl, and I never wanted to be the weak link, I always wanted to be a value to the team. And my biggest concern before I accepted the job was, was that like, I don't want I don't want anybody thinking that I got this job because I don't know, I was a token, you know, in email, and I was older, and I didn't want any of that. And, and I really milled it over in my head for a while. And I got a call from the, from the chief and they were like, can you come in and meet with us? And I went in and met with the chief and the deputy chief, and they were like, are you gonna take the job? Like, I at the time, I said, you know how old I am. And the deputy chief said something that I, I deserved. And he goes, Yeah, we do. He said, Is that a problem for you? And I was like, No, and he goes, because it's not a problem for us. And I don't want to hear about it again. And I was immediately like, you know, put in check, like because that was just so heavy on me. And he immediately was like, No, we hired you. Like, don't like, I don't want to hear about it. Yeah, no, I took the job.

Jerry Lund  
That's awesome. That's awesome. So now recruit camp comes. And like you said in the beginning, and you said, you know, you're going to be the oldest person in recruit camp, you know, basically can be all their moms and stuff like that.

Rebecca Ethington  
Yes, it was it was almost funny to me, like I thought, "How have I got myself in this position at this age?" And because I wasn't it's not I wasn't trying to prove anything. Like I was all I was was trying. And even throughout the camp, I the only thing I worried about was my time versus my last week's time. And my ability versus my I never, I just didn't worry about where everybody else was. But coming into it, I knew it was going to be hard. And I got I got the best piece of advice from one of the gentlemen who encouraged me to apply at this department. And I worked with him at it at a smaller department down here. And he's kind of one of those salty firemen. It's just seen it all and done it all and he's tough as nails and and he was he was just, he was so proud of me. And he was just so happy. And he said he says the only thing I'm going to tell you is when you're going through hell, you better walk through it, like you own that place. And I just as like, okay. And that I tried to remember that every single day because when I say it was hell, it was hell. It was physically and mentally demanding. And it's run in a paramilitary style for those people who've never done it. It's, it is, I think, comparable to boot camp. I've never been in boot camp, but there's a lot of yelling. There's a lot of physical punishments like our punishment, if we didn't, if as a cop, as it as a recruits, we didn't do something. They had a three storey tower, that we would have to run towers, and that's all the way up and all the way down. And you know, at one point, I think we had 60 Towers we owed. It was it was a lot it was a lot and oftentimes we would be running those in full turnouts with air like we it was like 45 pounds a year running these towers and, and just you know, you averaged 150 Push Ups a day and 100 or 150 situps. Like there was all of these physical requirements. And the very first day was we started, you know, there's like, Girl push ups. And they were like, well, if anybody drops their knees, we can all do another set. So you can dare to bet like nobody wanted to drop their knees like you would sit and hold it in a plank before you drop your knees because you're so you didn't want to be the one that caused everyone else more more suffering. So, um, and the car Dre that first week with all the homework and the physical demands, and the time I was, you know, I have kids at home, and I would get home and have to do my kids and dinner and all of that. And then I would do my homework, and I was getting to bed at midnight. And I had to be up at four in the morning in order to be up there. Because it was about an hour, hour and a half drive depending on traffic. And I, I was so overwhelmed that first week, I realized, like, I needed to make a change, and the homework is online. And so that weekend, I got myself three weeks ahead in homework, because I was like, I don't want to do this again. And i i that weekend, I also prepped all my meals, which you know, should I should have maybe thought of before, but that helped. And then the, the CADRE the instructors, were these men that have that, you know, the fire services, their life, and they, they, they've been there done that and they are these toughest nails, guys, that just, they they're gonna hold everybody accountable. And I walked away thinking these, these men hate me, they don't want me here, they don't want me here. And I, I, the second weekend, I was ready to quit, I was I was ready to quit I was I didn't feel like I needed to be yelled at like that. And I, I was finding myself that that voice in your head that tells you, you know, you could just give it up and go back to what you're doing. Like it would be easier. And, um, I I've always kind of prided myself as a person that doesn't cry, like I can usually check that. 

And I will say I cried almost every day coming driving home by myself in the car. And I don't even know that I could tell you why other than I had just been pushed mentally and physically to a point where I was ready to break. But I couldn't. I couldn't do it while I was there. And so I would and I had to pull myself together before I got home for my kids. So I would just, like let it all out. I hadn't done that I don't even know the last time before them that I had done that. And, and I do have a theory on that. As I've, as I talked to so many responders and people that work in our field, we get really good at shutting emotion. For our job, we have to see horrible things we see, we see situations of human suffering that most people never see, most people never see. And so we have to learn to shut it off. And I think this is my theory. Just like if you get a pain pill when you break your ankle, and and it takes the pain away. And then you start to use it for other pain. And then pretty soon you start to use it for any discomfort. And then you become addicted to this this pill that I think that applies in the same way to first responders we learn to shut our emotions off at work. And it's not the job's fault. But we we've learned that skill. And then when we have our interpersonal relationships or something outside of work, that is pulling that heart emotion out, we've learned how to shut that off, and we can shut it down. And then we start doing it for a lot of things we can shut our emotions down for, for all sorts of things and, and it's our own way of trying to cope with things. It's not healthy. It's not good. It's but it's in our profession. Specifically, we learn how to do it really well. And then we apply it in all areas of our lives. And I see this with so many responders that don't want to I don't even know if they consciously think about it. They just can do it. You just You just do it. You just oh it's it's it's sad or it's it's hard. I'll just shut that right off. And so yeah, all of that came to an end during recruit camp as I drove home and and I, as much as I hate to admit it, I I cried. I cried driving home. And this second week, at the end of the second week. I texted one of the guys that had told me to apply and I said I'm done. I can't do it. And he was on a fire in California. And so I just texted him thinking he'll get it sometime, you know. And in within 30 seconds he was calling me. And he was like, don't you quit? And he's he might have swore it was just like don't do it. Rebecca and I said they hate me. The Qadri hates me. I like I'm in there with a bunch of kids. Like I just feel you know, and he's just like, Don't Don't do it, don't quit. And I hung up the phone. And you know, I had the weekend kind of think about it. And I showed back up on Monday. And I, I realized, I think that weekend was when I realized that we, we choose how we suffer, we can suffer with regret, we can suffer with our lack of physical condition that makes it so we can't do things that we want to. Or we can suffer through the pains of trying to accomplish a goal. We can suffer through pains of working in the gym, we can suffer through, like, we can eat garbage now and suffer the consequences of that later. Or we can suffer through turning down this stuff that might make us feel good at the moment. And so I feel like we choose we choose how we suffer. And and I realized like, I can quit and regret it or I can just suffer through and see how it turns out. And I'm like magic at like week four or five. The cadre just suddenly like, we're not they weren't as mean, we're not it like he changed all of a sudden and we were now like worthy of being part of the group or something. I don't know. But at that point it was it was so rewarding and and it was so much fun. And I we lucked out because we as a as a recruit camp got a lot of life fire. And and I'm really grateful for that. Because I know working in the field from years ago, you don't get a lot of fires. The fire fire is not like you don't have house fires every month. You don't Yeah, you don't have you don't get the opportunity to go interior tack on much in your career. I mean, that's, that's that's a pretty rare thing. And so the fact that we, we were fighting fire multiple times a week, and we were burning through bottles every day, I felt like is something I will be forever grateful for because I feel pretty ready. I know that it's still an unknown, but my skills are as good as I could possibly ask for.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, he'll definitely be ready. When that when that time comes, your skills will just kick in just like all your EMS skills from the past learning will kick in. I want to go back to you know, the way you cried in your car on the way home and stuff like that. I know No, no, this is I don't feel bad or any shame or anything like that by him. That's not what I'm asking. I'm just like, Did it feel better? To like, cry for a little bit and get it out? Because like, like you're saying, right, as first responders, most of us haven't cried for a long, long time legitimately. Legitimately cried. And so I know I haven't it comes up, you know, every once in a while and I'm sure to shut it back down. I'm really good at that. Just, you know, kind of like your analogy. But Did Did you just find after you cried? Or did you feel like how'd you feel?

Rebecca Ethington  
I felt like it had helped. I mean, I don't know that I could consciously say, Oh, that was so helpful. But I got it all kind of out and pulled myself together. And I got home and I I had to kind of switch hats, right? Because I got home and I had kids and I was you know trying to make sure they were all taken care of and and then I became extremely protective over the sleep I could get because I had to be up so early and and so I really focused on getting good sleep. And I think it helped me. I don't know if it just made me tired, more tired. It like made me not sit and stew over everything. I just it was it was cathartic. I still struggle. I don't like to cry in front of people. I don't like to. I always joke and it's the truth. I mean, in 20 years, I don't watch movies that make me cry. Because I refuse to pay for entertainment. And people are like you're crazy. I I just don't I just won't and so if it's a movie, it's like emotional you can pretty much count that I haven't watched it. If it's got a horse or a dog. You know those that's that's a given. There's I'm surprised. But I, I felt like for me having been so long, just pushing that down inside me as far as that, that outlet. It was good. It was good. And I I really started focusing in on listening to podcasts that were helpful in kind of self discovery and self awareness and motivation. And I, I've kind of done that for a while, but it was, I really, every on the drive up and the drive home, I listened to words of support and encouragement that I just needed to hear. And I feel like that's an untapped resource that a lot of responders maybe don't use? Because I don't know, if they don't recognize that they need it. But I think we all could could use it.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I mean, this podcasts are a great tool for someone that's listening, you know, right now that may be find themselves in the situation that you found yourselves in, you know, making a career change, feeling like it's really very late in life to make that career change. And what maybe some of the things you went through would explain in them will help them go through them easier. That's kind of like my whole goal with a with a podcast, you know, is, yeah, we work on, you know, mental health and stuff. But these things that people go through will help you, right, I mean, podcasts, that how you're going to get that information, because it doesn't really come out the same way in a book.

Rebecca Ethington  
And someone else's experience is extremely gratifying. I know specifically, and I should I should have liked it. I'm sorry, Jerry, you had a flight nurse on who talks generically about mom guilt. I've listened that one probably five times. Because I don't I don't know that it's the same for men. I honestly, I couldn't tell you. But I know for me, and the women that I've talked to that are moms in this field, it is real. And it is a struggle, every every shift every shift, you feel like because you're you are not available. It's not like we're working at a desk, right? Like, like, I could take a call sometimes. But you can't take a call from your kids, when you're working in a trauma or when you're, you know, where whatever you're doing, if you're out on, you know, even on a smoke investigate, like you, you just are not available. And there's a there's an unwritten rule that, as a mom, you're you're supposed to always be available. And that's hard. That's hard. And that goes back into I think, just in for women in general. And I because I can't speak for men. But we live in an area where there's a really strong religious presence. And the culture tends to be that as long as everyone else is happy, like if you're a mom and a wife, if your kids are happy and your husband's happy, you should be happy. And if you're not, something's wrong with you like, and there's a lot of people who say, Oh, that's not true. But I would beg to differ because I've talked to enough women that have this overwhelming sense of guilt. Because they are unfulfilled. Yeah, they have they have poured their life which I I know I did it for that I would stay at home as a stay at home mom for nine years into their families. And then they end up on the other side feeling empty inside or lost like they've lost themselves. And then they feel guilty because they feel that way. And they're in that feedback loop from hell if you listen to Mark Manson at all or read his books, which I am a huge fan of his. It's he calls it the feedback loop from hell, where you feel guilty, and then you feel bad for feeling guilty and then you feel bad. And then it's just it just never stops. And make sense. Yeah. And so I think as as women, we can easily fall into that when we have put ourselves last on the list all the time. And then there is a sense of guilt or shame maybe if you love your job. If you love your job, it's like oh, you must not love your kids as much I don't think that's true. But I can I think I can. And I've just gotten to where I've, I am pretty confident in saying, you know, I love my kids so much, but I love my job. I love Yeah. And, and I'm okay I'm okay doing that and, and going through a divorce and going from being a stay at home mom to this this type of working mom has provided me with the perspective on on that that I didn't have before. I think that and I can only speak for myself but I my children did every extracurricular activity on the planet. And I was I was running from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed and, and it was homemade meals. And we were out doing every you know, baseball, rodeo football. You name it, we did it. And I started to realize in the last couple of years that was that because I wanted them to do that. Or was it because they wanted to do it. And yeah, it turns out that it was mostly me. It was mostly me. Because when I set them down and asked them what they wanted to do, it was a little different. And I decided as much of the Jagged Little Pill it is to swallow that I was going to let them choose. And I was going to encourage them and support them in what they wanted to do. And it didn't matter what I wanted them to do. And that has been probably one of the most freeing things as a parent that I that I've done.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I'm sure they're enjoying it too, right now feeling any pressure to to do the things that they they truly love. Right?

Rebecca Ethington  
Right. Like, cuz it's all about, it's all about just them learning to love themselves and to feel good at what they're doing. And if you don't want to play football, that's okay. There's a lot of really great people that don't play football. I, I realized that my my wanting them to do well in a sport and wanting them to do all of these things. And I could justify it like all the parents do, like, Oh, it's so good for their, you know, they learn how to work as a team and they learn how to do you know, there's a million ways they can learn that there's a million ways they can learn that and, and I had to dial it back and realize, like, I need to let them kind of be the Master and Commander and me just make sure they don't drive it into the ditch. Right?

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. Yeah. Before I let you go, what what does it look like being a single mom and a full time firefighter right now for you if you can just kind of briefly describe that. Well,

Rebecca Ethington  
I share custody with my ex and so when I'm at work for my 48 hour shift they are with their dad, so that removes a lot of my that would be difficult because if I didn't have that it would be really hard to be gone for 48 hours. It it's it's hard it's like I said it's hard to not be available at the beck and call of your kids. And I think it would be very difficult if you didn't find rewarding value in your job. And I I've lucked out I've said this to so many people, as I've kind of been talking about my experience and stuff and I've had like chiefs be like why don't you lateral to me to my department. And I looked at that and I'm like I Jerry I can say I don't know how I struck the lottery to get the captain that I got and the crew that I have but they are amazing. And I like I recognize that I might not get that it anywhere else and and like I I am so grateful for that captain and crew that I got you know, however lucky to get that it makes me I still I still want to go to work every day. I like I'm excited to go to work I'm excited. Yeah, to put on that badge and look sharp and I want to I'm reading I'm a probie I'm a 48 year old probie Jerry so I but I still I still want to hustle I want to be the one that's jumping up to get everything done and and so as a single mom like I can I can get home and I make my time is valuable and as as meaningful as I can with my kids, and then when I'm at work, like I'm, I'm 100%. And I, I have always kind of done that. I don't know if it was us, like how I learned from Lehigh, because we had a lot of great people that we work with in Legion. But when I whatever shirt I've got on, like, if I've got your shirt, like, if I've got my department, my little department down here that I help out with, I'm 100% for them. If I've got my badge shirt on for my big full time department, that's, I'm 100% there, if I'm home, and I'm like, I'm a mom, I'm 100% of them. And, and I think that's the only way to really go to bed every night and and feel like, you know, you did everything? You could Yeah, and it's, it's, uh, if I didn't get that feedback, if I didn't, if I didn't have that, you know, at the end of the day, I'm tired. I'm exhausted. But I wake up every morning ready to go again. I, I don't know that I could keep going. But I like I still I wake up in the morning and I'm like, out of bed. Let's go. What do we what do we do? And let's go. Let's do it. And I hope I hope I never lose it. Because that's, that's, it keeps.

Jerry Lund  
That's awesome. Yeah, I love that. I love being 100% where you're supposed to be you know what you're supposed to be doing. I tried to do that the best I can to because it just feels less rewarding if I'm trying to tear my self up to try to be in multiple places or doing multiple things. Rebecca, I mean, I know there's going to be some people who want to reach out to you open without giving out maybe your Instagram or whatever, so they can get some advice. Where can they find you out?

Rebecca Ethington  
They so I like you on Instagram. Yeah, my, my handle on Instagram is @chubbylittleballerina. There's a story there.

Jerry Lund  
You'll have to messenger to figure that out.

Rebecca Ethington  
But that's my handle on Instagram. And then I'm just under my name on Facebook. I don't really have I mean, I'm on LinkedIn as well, under my name, but I I haven't really networked that much. This, this whole process has kind of opened me up to some new possibilities. And I I worked with a life coach. That's been amazing. And I'm at the point where I think I've I almost could write a book about it. Like, I feel like I don't know, the life coach that I've worked with he's he's remarkable. And he's been a huge factor in me staying on track and and just keeping myself focused on the the prize. Right? Um, yeah, I mean, I know. And so I, I owe him a lot. And yeah, I, anybody's welcome to reach out to me, because I'm happy to I don't I don't know what I have to offer. But I'm certainly willing.

Jerry Lund  
You have you have to offer this valuable experience of going through the process. And you, you know, from start to finish as from volunteer depart time to full time to being a mom going through divorce, you have all that experience in those different in different areas, those different areas that would allow someone to maybe I think, when they reach out to you like, hey, and have a question, you might be able to save on some time and some struggle by answering, hey, this is what I did this may work for you. And maybe that'll work for them. And they're like, Thank you, that saved me so much, you know, hardship, trauma and time to do that.

Rebecca Ethington  
Yeah, that I would happily talk to anybody. Because I know for me, if we tend to think that we are alone in our struggles, and if there's one thing my age has shown me is that everyone, we all share it, we share it and we just we just keep it to ourselves. And so most everyone has a struggle that can relate to yours, it might not be exactly the same, but they can relate and we should all we should all have compassion and especially in the first responders in that field. You know, we're really good at having compassion for our patients, but we should definitely take care of our own and have compassion for the people that we work with and that that share us as brothers and sisters and and I feel like that's something that's important. So

Jerry Lund  
great. Great. Well, thank you so much for being on today.

Rebecca Ethington  
Thank you, Jerry.

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Rebecca Ethington

Firefighter

I am a mother of 3. I started in EMS in1994 and became a firefighter in 1998 with a local part-time department. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in education in 1998 and began work as a public school teacher as well. I taught EMT classes during that time. I also worked for 5 years as a tech in a small emergency department. I left teaching in 2006 after I had my first baby. Then left Fire/ EMS in 2009 after I had my 2nd baby. I was a stay at home mom until 2018 when I returned to EMS and teaching EMS. Facing a divorce, I looked into returning to a full-time job and applied at a full time fire department and was offered the job. It was conditional upon recertifying as a firefighter. I entered a fire recruit camp at the age of 47 and completed it last fall. I am currently working as a firefighter AEMT with that department full time. I also teach at a local university. as well as work with two smaller part-time fire departments. I am a coordinator for the state with EMSC and teach PEPP and Handtevy for them. I also work as an AHA instructor for ACLS and PALS.