There is a time and a tide in the affairs of men, wrote Shakespeare. He is in fact quoting an even older source, Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." As one gets older, and presumably gathers some wisdom, there comes a point when one appreciates that it is right. There is a 'season' for everything and within that season, a 'time.'
Several things have made me realise lately that one season has passed for me, and with it, the time for certain things. It concerns my former career.
I had a great one, yes there were lots of tears and frustrations, but there was a lot of laughter and some superb friends - people I would trust with my life. I am still in touch with most, if not all of them, and hope to remain so. I learned a huge amount, not just the acquisition of knowledge and experience, but about myself in the process. At times things sort of plodded along, at others it was a wild white water ride, but each part of it was worth every knock, every scrape and every scar. Some time ago, I realised that I saw my work as a 'vocation' and not as a 'job.' That, in itself, was a revelation.
As I worked my way through the service, I accumulated qualifications, some, like the two degrees, would have astonished some of my school masters (and still amaze me!). I met people and saw places I'd never dreamed of either being associated with, or seeing. When I moved to the UK, I knew I would be putting the job I loved on a siding that would end, one day, against the buffers. But still, thanks to some of the super people I worked with and under, managed to carve out a new career path and, I hope, make a useful contribution to the UK Fire and Rescue Service.
That season has run its course. I retired six years ago, and, because I enjoyed teaching fire investigation, fire service command and management and fire safety and protection, I continued offering my services to my former employer and others. That led me to some fascinating places and experiences and to meeting some really super people from totally different cultures. Six months in Tehran was an eye-opener, so were several weeks in Libya (pre-Arab Spring), so too was a spell in Jamaica. In each country I have visited, what has made it special is the students and the people I have met. I treasure the memories and the friendships, but I feel the time has come to let others pick up what I have been doing, and to accept that it is time to step aside.
Yes, I will miss the challenge of keeping up with the latest science, the latest techniques or the latest developments. So I won't stop studying them or thinking about them, I'm really only going to stop accepting contract work to try and teach it. I will miss the interaction of the classes, and the opportunities to explore something in a lot more depth, or to draw on someone else's experience. I've enjoyed the ride, I've had the fun, but the season has moved on and so has the Service.
It isn't the service I joined in South Africa 1970, and I'm happy to say that I was among those who moved it out of the 'Dark Ages' and into the realms of professional qualification and forward thinking. Nor is it the UK Fire Service as it was in 1992. But neither are the Fire Services I thought I was helping to create either. It is time I stepped back, adjusted my focus, and looked at what this new 'season' in my life is leading me toward. That said, should someone ask, I'll always be ready to share my knowledge and experience.