My Line in the Sand

For those of you that are regulars to my blog, you have likely come to realize that I like to write about situations that I have personally experienced or, otherwise, have direct knowledge of in the hopes of not only making them relatable but also that you might gain some insight from my experiences. Some call that wisdom. I prefer to say, “I hope you can learn from my experiences so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.” Either way, this chapter of my blog is no exception. One of the best compliments I have ever received, in that regard, was actually from one of my coworkers when she told me that she could actually hear me discussing X, Y, or Z in her head as she read an article. So, I’d say mission accomplished. Now….on with the show:

We’ve all read the articles on how EMS as a whole is riddled with staffing shortages, blaming a variety of causative agents such as low pay, less than desirable working conditions, ineffective leadership, and on and on and on. Plus, let’s face it, the events of the past few years have not done a lot of professions any favors. Pick your poison. To that end, in writing this edition, I reflect on a point that I spoke a bit about at CAL ‘22 and touched on in my last article. That being: When you find yourself in a job, ANY job, or organization that you can no longer get behind (pick your reason), draw your line in the sand and don’t second guess yourself. No buyer’s remorse and no changing your first guess on the multiple choice question.  

Many of us that are in EMS, flight, transport, or any of the emergency services professions for that matter, did not get to where we are by following a straight path. I am no exception. I have a number of past lives, one of which includes a twelve-year tenure in law enforcement….a job that I knew I had to leave because of what it was doing to me both mentally and physically. My departure wasn’t easy. In fact, for many reasons, I struggled with the decision to depart law enforcement for almost eight years after I handed in my resignation. Sometimes, though, the best choices aren’t always the easiest ones to make. Even though I KNEW I needed to leave the job, there was still a feeling of comfort and familiarity I got from the profession that was destroying me. Eleven years after moving on, I’m happy to say that while I miss my coworkers (I worked with a really amazing team), I’m glad I stuck with my decision to move on.

While I digress a bit in my example, it illustrates that change, while not always the easiest choice, may sometimes be necessary and that, more often than not, you should follow your inner (Dan Rauh) voice. In my case, it was uncomfortable to move on but I knew it was something I had to do. Fast forward to today when, once again, I am making a change. I’m not making a change merely for the sake of change, though. It’s a welcome change that is good for not only my professional career but my family as well. Ok, I’ll be honest, while I’m very excited about it, I think my family is even more excited than I am. Let’s face it, if my family is happy, I’m able to perform my job better and thus be happier as well. I drew my line in the sand and haven’t looked back.

Now, when it comes time to contemplate your inner Clash (yeah yeah yeah…..cheesy 1980’s punk reference) and draw your line in the sand, you need to be honest, and when I say honest I also mean realistic, with yourself when deciding where that line is. Is it safety? Is it pay? Is it your schedule? Is it the skill level at which you’re able to practice? Is it some boss that you don’t see eye to eye with that’s likely to move on in a year or two anyway? 

Hand in hand with where your line in the sand is comes the question of what you’re willing to do to obtain what you’re looking for. Are you willing to move? If so, how far? Will you accept a lower pay rate? How flexible is your schedule? Knowing that in this career everyone tends to start in the proverbial mail room, are you willing to start at the bottom of the seniority list again? All very important things to consider. The last question to ask yourself is (bonus points if you can tell me what movie this line is from): Is the juice worth the squeeze? There will always be opinions when it comes to decisions such as these, but remember, they are just opinions and only YOU can truly answer them.

I’ve been fortunate enough, over the past several years, to have had a number of job opportunities come my way. While they were all with absolutely amazing organizations that I know I would thrive in, they weren’t quite the right fit for one reason or another, be it the pay, the work schedule, distance from family, etc. Trust me, my wife and I looked hard at a number of these opportunities, but at the end of the day, we had to be realistic about what life outside of work would be like if I accepted them. By no means was my decision to decline these offers a reflection of those organizations. It just means that it didn’t completely mesh up with my family’s situation at the time. I knew where our line in the sand was and had to be realistic about it. 

At the end of the day, when you find yourself in a job that you’re not thrilled about, take a deep breath and realistically (huge emphasis here) decide where your line in the sand is. Take twenty-four hours to calm down after a bad shift (never write a safety report or make rash decisions when you’re mad) and ask yourself what’s important. No employer is perfect, so how much stuff are you willing to accept before you feel you’ve come to your line in the sand? 

As always, I hope this little peek into my life helps those of you that may need a bit of encouragement with a decision and, as always, please reach out if you need somebody to bounce some questions off of, need some advice, or simply someone to chat with. Heavy Lies the Helmet comes with an amazing support group and decades of experience….use them. 

Safe flying!

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