I spent three years as President of my seven-year firefighting career at my local Volunteer Fire Department. I became President after many of the top leaders in the organization stepped down due to one thing or another.
Their reasons were nothing too bad except for the fact that they thought everything was personal and thought no one was behind them. Just that thinking, among other annoying traits, made people steer away from them.
I was voted in as Vice President when the President stepped down. Needless to say, similar to the U.S. Government, when the President can no longer do his/her duties the Vice President assumes command. The President, who is a very good friend of mine to this day, left because of some health concerns and wanting to spend more time with his family.
I assumed this command with no experience. I was not on Student Council, Honor Society or likewise and being in charge of the Fire Department's association was slightly over my head. However it was nothing I couldn't handle, right?
Keep in mind that this was a transitionary time for the department. A lot of old blood leaving and new blood arriving. We broke a lot of boundaries and there was some resentment of the new age, risky and somewhat corporate thinking the new generation of members were bringing to the table.
Aside from trying to move the department forward in a different direction we had to somehow boost morale. I threw picnics at my house for the entire department and tried recognizing members with awards we simply had no money for. We were on a high for those three years and it was blissfull.
But my health suffered. During those three stressful years, although I had the department running like a well oiled machine, it took a lot of stress on my mentailty, my emotions as well as took time away from my personal and work lives.
Although you should be excited to go to work everyday, as it is your chosen career, it should not be used as a retreat from your leisure life. I joined the Fire Department to give back to the community and do something to relieve the stress of the work week. I was surprised when I realized how completely reversed it was.
While I was president, I lost to members to illness (cancer and heart attack respectively) and lost three family members. I had to pull through my personal issue to be a figure for the department and then go to work and make money for my livelihood.
In the end, I became engaged to my girlfriend of 5 years this past July and decided that it was time. It was time for me to concentrate on me. It was time to concentrate on me and her and the future we would have together.
There is nothing more satisfying working in emergency services. Being a volunteer in a non-corporate environment, you can't make people do anything. I guess pushing so hard to make us the best worked in reverse with my health.
When I didn't run for re-election this year it was becuase I wanted to spend the last year in the department as a firefighter and have a good time. But I find myself trying to make good of the now older blood making their way back into the firehouse administration. I've officially coined the phrase…"once you've become someone's boss, you can never survive in the organization as anything less." It's true. It's hard for one to not to care, not to have sizeable input and not to want to make policy. That in itself is very stressful.
So I find myself wanting to continue to build and moved mountains but I must restrain myself. I have to encourage others to phone others in charge rather than make the issues my issues. It's tough, I'll get through it, but this is a life lesson that needs to be taught.
My apologies for the longer-than-usual blog but I hope someone else is in my position and can learn from this experience or I can learn from them.