This year I have struggled in so many areas of my life, wondering what I am meant to be doing after what I thought was perfect clarity at the end of 2011. I started this year in year one of my degree and found after the first month that I wasn’t sure that this was what I was meant to be doing. I am studying journalism through a communications degree and found myself second guessing tutorial instructors, questioning their limited writing skills and never stopping to think for one minute that the problem was me. I got through the first semester (barely!) and moved on to semester two with a new attitude and promise to myself that I would make it work.
It is now week 7 and I have never been more un motivated to do assignments or even bother heading to class so I applied for a leave of absence while I get my motivation back. I do not want to be a news writer, there is nothing I can think of that would be more tedious that reporting on news, especially Newcastle local news. This is something that is deemed essential for the studies of journalism, something that I had no desire to do at any stage of my life. I am not good with strangers, I cannot just walk up to someone and start talking to them, it’s not me and I don’t feel confident enough to do anything like that. It was through this that I convinced myself that journalism was not for me and that I should move on to something else like creative writing and stick with that.
My plan was coming along how I wanted it to when all of a sudden I found myself being surrounded by strangers talking to me, usually I am extremely awkward and this is the reason I walk around with my headphones on all the time. It is something that I have been working on, to have more quiet time and meet new people and put a smile on my face when I walk around in public. Yesterday I went as I normally do to review two movies (hmm that reminds me I should probably write those!) and I was waiting for a bus to take me from Glendale to Charlestown. The bus was parked at the depot and through the front window I could see the bus driver, an elderly man with sun soaked skin talking to a young and thin pretty girl who looked in her early twenties. As they talked away merrily the line of people waiting for the bus grew more impatient, the driver obviously seeing this embraced the young girl in an awkward hug and kissed her on the cheek. My jaw dropped to the ground and I raise my sunglasses off my face and onto my head to get a closer look at what had just happened.
The doors to the bus opened and we started to pile in to our seats, as I bought my ticket the driver said to me “That must have looked pretty weird hey” I nervously smiled politely and said “Well maybe just a little” giving him an awkward grin. He put up his hand and said to me “There is a reason why, it is not what you think” I looked into his eyes and he had small tears glistening in the corner of each eye. “Twenty years ago that girl was a baby, she was in a house with her family that had caught on fire. I used to be a firefighter you see.” His crispy red skin on his forehead made sense now. “The house was on fire and I got all of her family out, she was in the corner and it was extremely hard to get to her, almost impossible the chief told me.” I pushed myself into the front seat “Please continue” I said. “She wasn’t making a sound, wasn’t moving. Her family on the pavement outside could not stop crying, they began to mourn for her. I ran back inside, picked her up in my arms and ran out of the building.” It was at this point that he wiped away the tears, a million memories spilling with each drop, “Once she started breathing again I knew my life would never be the same. The family rejoicing and screaming for their baby’s life, and I myself knew that this is why I was meant to be here, on this earth, to help people.” He finished his story and there was a ten second silence as I drank in his words not knowing the right thing to say. “Our families became extremely close since that night, she is like my own daughter and I have watched her grow up into the most incredible young woman. Don’t believe people when they tell you that this world is bad, that it is full of bad people.” I don’t think this firefighter/bus driver had any idea just how much these words meant to me right at this point.
We pulled into a bus stop and an elderly gentlemen with a walking stick got on the bus. I gave up the front seat for him but stood next to the driver and continue to quiz him about his time as a firefighter. He had fought for many people’s homes, lives and pets, and through all the sweat, the tears, the training, the agonising pain that your body feels after a day of being a rural firefighter in a densely bush populated area, this guy was a hero. “Thank you for listening to me, it’s not bullshit you know” he said to me with a smile enveloping his face. “Thank you for sharing it with me, it was an incredible story and so amazing to hear” I responded. “You know there is something about you, easy to approach, easy to talk to. I don’t tell that story to a lot of people” he replied. I smiled at him and thanked him again as I glided out of the front step of the bus at my stop. I was waiting for friends to arrive for dinner as I kept replaying the story over and over again in my mind, writing down as much exact quotes as I could before a feast of thai food riddled my brain with exhaustion.
While writing news stories still sounds like a one way ticket to snooze town I won’t be doing it forever. I love writing and it is what I want to do with my life. What was I to do? It was after this that I realised, these are the kinds of stories I want to tell, this is the reason I want to be a writer, to tell stories that inspire, stories of courage, of compassion and of love. This is the reason I want my degree and I have an elderly firefighting bus driver to thank for showing me the way back.