I love the saying when one door closes another one opens. A few years ago, my depression became so bad that the thought of going back to work was paralyzing, I felt useless, and at the time, I thought it may just be the worst thing to ever happen to me.
I had worked hard to put myself through school, sacrificing fun and sleep while working two jobs to pay for school and I was so proud of myself when I passed my state exam and became a respiratory care practitioner. The thought of possibly never being able to return to a job I once loved was devastating.
As my depression got better we broached the idea of me going back to work, dreaming about how nice it would be to have another income and be able to have a little wiggle room in our finances, the kids were older and we knew we wouldn’t be having anymore babies, despite our youngests’ wishes. I loved my job previously and I made good money, like really good money, but it just wasn’t calling to me anymore.
I had been driving by this “FIREFIGHTERS WANTED training provided” sign for months and never noticed it, then one day it jumped out at me. And I remembered trying on a hose pack at a fire station tour with the kids the previous year and I thought, “I could do that”. So, before I could overthink it (which I’m super good at doing) I dialed the number from the sign and when no one answered I nervously left a message. What’s the worst that could happen? I got a call back that evening and the Chief explained what the volunteer position entailed and invited me to attend a drill and check it out. How was I going to tell my husband that this may be something I wanted to do? “Hey babe, I want to work, for free, at a job I’ve only considered, just to see what comes from it…” Well, luckily he’s crazy supportive and he agreed I should check it out.
I started attending the weekly drills and felt right at home, they all seemed excited about my medical background and my lack of fire experience wasn’t a huge red flag, phew. Fast forward a month or so and I was interviewing to see if I could go through backgrounds and be cleared as a volunteer, I almost passed out from nerves before going in to the panel interview (2 chiefs and an engineer) but I did it and I survived. And the next day they called to say it was a great interview and I’d be moving on to county clearance. Apparently I did better than survived, I nailed it! Another month and all of my background and medical was done, I was officially a county employee and a volunteer.
Now, the real fun could begin, I didn’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch at drill I could now join in! I learned to hoist ladders and flank hose, to put on an air pack for time and cut hand lines in 100 degree weather, I started saws and memorized the compartments on all the engines and what each one contained, I practiced medical calls and radio etiquette, I did blind rescues in full gear and cut up cars with the holmatro (jaws) cutting tools. And when the kids started school I devoted that time to the department, learning everything I could and doing chores around the station. I attended the volunteer fire academy, went back to college for a semester and graduated the EMT program, and attended driver/operator 1A & 1B where I learned how to drive the big type 1 engines and passed my pumping tests to become an engineer.
I had found what I wanted to be when I grew up and I was in love.
A few months ago when our full time Engineer left I voiced my desire for the job and was told I needed more experience, it was true, I did. I could have given up, but that’s never been me, so instead I buckled down and decided if experience is what they want then that’s what I’ll get. I spent full days cross training at other stations, learning rescue, ladders, SCBAs, forcible entry, pump drills, hose lays, and anything else they were willing to teach me. I sweat like I’ve never sweat before and gave it my best every day, I was learning and moving forward and I was proud of myself again.
And 3 months later when the position remained unfilled I got a call from the “Big Chief” asking if I was still interested in the job. I’m sure you all can guess my answer, a resounding YES! (play it cool, Trudell).
Some days I just drive around with a giant “pinch me” smile on my face because I can’t believe this is what I get to do. It is the GREATEST job in the world and I get to do it. So, I guess closing doors aren’t a bad thing after all, it may mean something better is in store, just don’t get stuck staring at that closed door for so long that you miss the one that just opened.