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A Santa Barbara Legend: Jessica Gray

Recently, I asked Jessica’s co-workers to describe working with her and I think Amy Di Chiro summed it up best, “Even though Jessica has given up drinking Coke, I always knew we were on our way when I’d hear her crack one open. She meant business. She is the best leader we have ever had, and an amazing teacher and friend. I always feel safe with Jessica on my team, and I know no matter how gnarly things get she is going to save us.” Jessica is a true legend – this incredible leader can bike, kayak and climb with the best of them; all while graduating from the Fire Academy, working for Harbor Patrol and being an incredible mother and wife. So crack open your Cokes, raise your can and let’s toast a legend. Cheers Jessica!

Name: Jessica Gray
Age: 29
Favorite Beach: So hard to choose!  I’ll have to say Carpinteria State Beach, since it’s basically in our backyard, and we spend more time there than anywhere else!
Favorite Park: Another tough one.  There are so many amazing parks in this area.  Both Rocky Nook and Stevens Park are favorites because there’s so much wild space to explore with my little one.
Best Place to have Lunch in Carpinteria: The Spot is always a good choice, although there’s a new sandwich place in town called PeeBee & Jay’s that’s quickly becoming a favorite with my husband and me.
Toughest challenge: Creating the time to follow all my interests, to stay caught up with all my friends, to workout as much as I need to, to keep up my house and my garden, and to spend quality time with my husband and son, all while trying to pursue a new career.  It never seems to all be working at once.
momma Jessica at the beach
There are a few guides that can really handle any situation and make it look easy, though I am sure it isn’t. You are definitely one of those guides. What is your secret?
I don’t know what the secret is.  This has actually come up recently at my new job with the Harbor Patrol.  After successfully maneuvering our largest boat in a really tight space the other day, one of the officers told me, “Wow, you really get it.  You know not to panic when you’re in those situations.”  Actually, I was panicked.  Apparently, I’ve just learned not to show it.  And to be honest, maybe that’s the secret – particularly when you’re guiding and you have guests watching your every move.   I’ve definitely had nerve-wracking moments guiding (like the time when a guest had a heart attack on the ropes course), but because I needed to stay calm for the sake of the other guests, it’s forced me to slow down and react rationally.

Any tips for someone just starting to guide trips?
As for anyone new just starting to guide for the first time, if you get into a difficult situation, remember to stay flexible.   Don’t get caught up in needing to run the trip exactly as planned.  There are always options, and you have to make decisions based on what’s best for the safety and comfort of your guests.
boy watching firemen
You became a mom 3 years ago, has that changed the way to guide or work?
Well, it’s definitely changed my priorities.  Since I’ve had Colten, I’m constantly reevaluating, asking myself, “What do I want my life to look like?  Am I happy with what I’m doing?  Am I spending enough time with my family?”  I don’t know that having him has changed the way I work, but it’s changed the way I make decisions regarding work.

These days you are focusing on a career with Harbor Patrol and Fire, not your typical “mom” jobs. What is your inspiration?
Colten is my inspiration, hands down.  I’ve sort of always known, deep down, that I wanted to do something along the lines of fire and rescue.  But it took having Colten to make me take the risk and begin actively pursuing this line of work.  I want him to see me working towards my goals and understand what it takes to follow one’s dream.  It’s been a surprising process, with lots of ups and downs, and unexpected twists and turns.  What I’ve learned, and what I’m hoping he’ll grow up knowing, is that life is all about learning and growing and enjoying this journey, no matter where or when or even if you ever “arrive” anywhere at all.
kiss from her son

You have a lot on your plate with work and family, what do you do to relax?
I work in the yard.  This may not seem all that relaxing to some, but for me gardening and yard work is like active meditation.  There’s something about it that’s just good for the soul.

Any adventures planned for the future?
Nothing too crazy planned for this year.  We love camping and boating, so we have a couple of lake trips planned for this month and the next.  We have friends in Delaware we want to visit, friends in Hawaii we would love to see, and family in Washington that we’re hoping to get up to soon.  In the meantime, we’ll be playing around here, getting out to the Channel Islands this summer (Colten still hasn’t been!) and out to the Santa Ynez River for some lazy days on the water.  That’s what’s so great about living here…every day can be an adventure, if you let it.

Thanks for sharing with us Jessica.

family camping trip

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