By John Catoul
After countless hours of training, courses, and exercising – the phone finally rings. You answer it and on the other end, you hear the words, “would you like to be a Firefighter?”
That’s right, you’ve done it. The chapter in your life of trying to become a Firefighter is complete and a new one is about to commence. I’m confident that if I polled all the members in my department, they would all recall what they were doing when they received the call, as I am sure all of you can too. Now that you are thinking about it, let us look at what takes place in the weeks, months and years that follow and why.
It doesn’t matter whether you attend a fire academy or a recruit class, what matters is that you show up for work everyday with the same drive and desire that put you where you are. As the weeks turn into months and months into years a lot will happen in your career that will change the way you view your choices. Will you be the Firefighter you hoped you would become, or will you become something that you’re not proud of? The latter part of this question may seem a bit abrasive but that’s fine because it’s intended too.
When you started your career, I’m sure you had every intention of becoming the best Firefighter, Captain, Lieutenant, Platoon Chief etc. that your department has ever seen, but the reality is as the years accumulate your drive and desire that was once at an immeasurable level may begin to slip. The path you’re travelling may dip, remain status quo, or rise.
No matter what path you choose or better yet chooses you, you will inevitably have some bumps to overcome. The drive you once had is now harder to find which might be part and parcel to an accumulation of issues that now are rearing its ugly head, manifesting itself in your actions… or lack thereof. The title of this article is specific for a reason. It’s important to remember the feelings and values surrounding that phone call. Throughout our time spent as a firefighter, you must sometimes do a self-check, hit the reset button, and remember that you chose this career for better or worse – though sometimes it’s hard to predict what the worst looks and feels like. Dips can be caused by any one of the following: training too much or too little, running too many calls or not enough, working with that crew, not working with that crew, the person next to you chews their food to loud, low drive and motivation to be healthy, displeasure of having to cover dispatch and so on and so on … see where I’m going? All of these and the hundreds I did not include will affect the way you perform. Typically, we don’t always see our performance slipping, if the masses are doing the same thing, then who is there to question it? Remembering the phone call is like a reset. This reset might be all that is needed to remind you that you worked your ass off to get to where you are today. The reset might be all that is needed to get out of the dip that you have fallen into. It’s easy to pick apart something in a negative way, to look at the glass half empty and not half full. Who said firefighting was easy?
This article is not meant to point the finger or to go on a witch hunt to track down the ones that are not pulling their weight. This article had one purpose – remember the phone call. Self-reflection is an invaluable tool that every firefighter should get comfortable (albeit uncomfortable) using. The memories from that one phone call are and will be forever etched into your brain. Tap into that when you are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, tired, or like this job wasn’t meant for you. Embrace the dips, easy spots, and highs – we all experience them and are working alongside one another to be successful whether we realize it or not.
Photo by Matt Chesin
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