As I was driving home tonight from my shift, I realized it was shortly after midnight and it was officially my 14 year anniversary of starting my dispatch career. Where have those years gone? How quickly they came and went.
I realized during my very short drive, how much my life has changed in the last 14 years. Then when I got home and tried to go to bed, the thoughts kept running around in my head.There have been countless battles, countless victories, and many, many lessons learned.
When I began my career in 2002, the Olympics were just around the corner here in Salt Lake City. I had been married for six years to a police officer. I was naive and full of ideas of what it would be like to be a 911 dispatcher. I thought how cool it would be to dispatch my husband on calls and be a part of "that" world. It was a world I had always been interested in. I grew up with a step-father who was an officer. It was a world of mystery, lights and sirens, and of helping people. I have always wanted to help people. I have always been a caretaker. It is who I am and who I love to be.
As the years went by, my marriage fell apart and I was, for lack of a better term, lost. I was broken. I felt as though I was beyond repair. But something happened. I realized during those moments that I was surrounded. I was surrounded by a family that I never knew I had. They are my dispatch family. They are the individuals that let me cry, that let me laugh, that asked if they could throw a shoe. They made me realize that I was a member of a family that was far bigger than I could possibly realize. Following a very serious car accident in 2010, it was my dispatch family that checked up on me. There were visits, phone calls, papers faxed, and A LOT of mint chocolate chip shakes delivered to the rehab center I had the pleasure of calling home. Their support and encouragement meant the world to me.
I am no longer that naive rookie from 14 years ago. I know very well what this world is capable of. There are a lot of bad guys in this world, and there are days when I wonder if the bad guys outnumber the good. But then there is just one phone call, one dispatch that reminds me that humanity and all its wonderousness is so very alive. It is helping a young couple deliver a baby on the side of the road. It is the phone call of a young man desperately calling out for help. It is letting him know that there is someone in this world that cares about what happens to him and to give him just enough hope to throw away the gun and knife in his lap andwalk out to waiting officers. It is talking to an elderly spouse that just lost the love of their life of sixty years. It is love and it is kindness.
I have found and lost many friends during my years. There are some that I never met, but whose lives, deaths, and courageousness has touched me more than words can express. The solidarity among emergency services personnel is beyond comparison. When you hear someone say that they are members of the largest family in the world. They aren't joking. We rejoice in each others triumphs, and we weep with each others losses. I have made friendships that will stand the test of time.
My mother once asked me why I don't cry and how can I be so strong all the time. My answer? It's the job, Mom. The job has given me some pretty thick skin. It has taught me to stay calm and to not let the situation get out of control. But it doesn't mean that I don't feel it. I always feel it. Without fail, that commercial with the lost puppy will come on TV and I am a blubbering mess. A soldier surprising his children with his safe return? FORGET IT! There aren't enough tissues in 25 miles!
Fourteen years later and I am very happily married again to a man that isn't "on the job". A man that takes all of my crazy shifts, my blubberingness, and odd stories in stride. He has given me an instant family with three step-children that I love to the moon and back... even if they don't realize it quite yet.
I am stronger, wiser, more confident, and more stubborn than I was my first day. I am who I always wanted to be. Who knows what the next 14 years will bring, but I'm excited for the journey!
To those of you that are just starting out, hang in there. It is a crazy, emotional, up and down kind of ride. But oh... is it worth it!