When I first ventured out in search of a career change, I wasn’t really sure what the hell I was going to do, not an Inkling of what was out there. I had been laid off from my job (which was working behind a desk), my first daughter had just been born, and my living expenses were through the roof due to the cost-of-living of Orange County California.
Before I became a firefighter, I became an EMT. Starting off as an and EMT is actually required by a lot of different fire departments and the fire authorities, however it was not my goal. Seriously. As a matter of fact, becoming an EMT wasn’t my goal either, allow me to ‘splain:
I had been laid off and taking unemployment for several months, doing a full time job search. I was sending, literally hundreds of resumes out a week trying to find a job to sustain the lifestyle that I could no longer afford. I don’t remember how it came up, most likely a mail flyer, but the state of California was offering reduced cost tuition for various vocational programs to help get people back in the workforce. I read through all these different programs and decided the one that was probably the best fit for me, was auto mechanic. Truth be told, I chose mechanic because I literally knew nothing about vehicles. Check the oil, put in gas, kick the tires. That was literally the extent of my automotive knowledge. It was at that point, I decided I was going to go be an auto mechanic, open my own auto shop, make millions of dollars and retire at 35.
I remember there was a specific time frame that you had to show up to the regional occupational program office to enroll in the state offered classes. I got up at the butt-crack of dawn, went up to the regional occupational program office, getting there around two hours before they opened. To my surprise, there was probably already 300 to 500 people already lined up and fighting over spots. If somebody stepped out of line, the person behind moved forward and fights would ensue. I planted my ass in line and didn’t move a muscle.
As soon as they open the doors it maybe took a total of 10 minutes for them to shut down the auto mechanic program. They had only had a few openings available in that program, so when the lady said is anybody here interested in any other programs?, I decided that I would be one of the few that actually went up to look at what they had. I remember most the programs were very basic, and would lead to jobs that paid just a hair above minimum wage; I honestly had no idea EMT wages weren’t much different, I mean, the job is dangerous and you save lives…… Little did I know
After glancing at the sheet of vocational programs over and over again, I literally just picked EMT. No deep thought behind it, no rhyme or reason. It was very cheap, and, it involved ambulances. I guess being a new father, also made me want to learn some basic medical skills, God forbid anything ever happening. To this day, I still have the most anti-climatic “why I became an EMT” story I have ever heard.
Like many jobs, your first days are your worst days. For me, my first years were my worst years. To be completely honest with you, I was a terrible EMT from the get-go. I spent the first month sitting outside on the steps, thinking to myself “holy shit this job blows!” Seeing that I graduated my EMT course at the very top of my class I thought I was completely unstoppable. My demeanor changed real quick my first couple days on the job, and that’s when I realized what people meant when they said “you look good on paper, but…..” I worked as an EMT for about four months and then quit for an entire year. As a matter of fact, when I quit, I had absolutely no intention of ever going back into EMS. About this time, we decided to make the move to Colorado.
We were at the farmers market one day, and there happened to be a fire department with a little booth and a ladder truck there, looking for part-time and volunteer firefighters. I didn’t have much going on at the time so I decided I would give it a shot. I went to work part time for this fire department, and during that time I became IV certified, I got my Hazmat certification, and I also got my Firefighter 1 certification. I lasted there for two years. Unfortunately, at that time, I still greatly lack the confidence to be a good EMT.
I ended up getting hired at a hospital in the ER and that was the best fucking move of my career. I learned more in 6 months working in the ER then I did in 3 years of EMS.
In 2017, the opportunity for me to once again get on with a Fire Department came up. Needless to say, I was shocked when I got the call asking when I could start. In my first year so far, I’ve moved into a command position, as well as taken on the EMS training and coordinating portion of my Department.
I know this is an awfully long story, and for that, I apologize. However, I believe that we tend to miss opportunities because we feel we’re either too good for something, or not good enough. In this case, I felt both. I believe that I should be paid a wage where I could sustain a lifestyle that allowed me a Mercedes-Benz and a luxury living apartment, and at the same time, I saw how amazingly good other EMTs were at their job and wanted to be that good as well. I believed I would never be that good. Well, here I am, six years later, working alongside some of the bravest and most honorable people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Mortgage is paid, there’s food in the fridge, and my children are happy. I had to work hard for it, but so far it’s been totally worth it.