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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crossing from Comfort to Quiet Terror

A strange thing happened to me several months ago.

After a nondescript fire department planning meeting, I wandered into the kitchen. We had four in the house for the shift, including a new intern and a ride-along cadet. As we enjoyed some pizza and shooting the breeze, I noticed how the new kids were regarding the Shift Captain. Like always.

New volunteer kids and cadets have a certain regard for new career guys in the 22-26 set, like, they're the shizzle, they made it, they're gung ho, I want to be like them and succeed. They treat the middle-career guys differently, a little more silent respect, as a source not so much for how to get the job, but how to succeed and stay alive in the job and get the goods on a promotion in a few years down the road. And then of course, senior officers are generally to be avoided, you don't trouble the white-shirted Oracles unless absolutely necessary....

I realized that the new kids were treating me almost like they were treating the duty Captain.... middle group treatment. I at first wryly thought, I must be getting a little older, it has to be my age, 'cause I'm not that good, heheh....

And then the little whisper of terror hit me. These kids hopefully have a long career in front of them. But most of it depends on how they are formed and raised in the service. If they survive or not depends a lot on how we shepherd them, whether we're individually officers or not. How we protect them, and how we train them using whatever means are necessary to safely see them through to being productive contributors and eventual trainers and leaders themselves.

Good lord, the responsibility! Am I capable of that?

I was all comfortable in my place as a fairly well-experienced non-officer just 24 hours ago. Suddenly, I felt terribly inadequate. Can I do my part to keep these kids alive? Can I effectively utilize my knowledge and experience to help them save themselves and countless others of future generations in the future? Suddenly I was afraid of what I might forget to teach, all the things that can go wrong.... all the fears I have about raising my own children, amplified.

Just like that. I was terrified. I never saw this line in my career progression coming up and being crossed, and it was quite a shock. Especially because it happened in one second: bang.

In the intervening months, the quiet terror still smolders. As long as I don't let it prevent me from doing my job, I am glad it is there, reminding me of what it is I am responsible for.

Do you have the fear?

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