By Cameron Gallegos
The professional decision I most regret was leaving North Metro. I worked my ass off the get there. I worked even harder to gain a great reputation, a little respect, and a start to a very promising career. I was on good crews and ran good calls.
I left because I didn’t think it was enough. I wanted to be on better crews and run better calls. I wanted higher standards and thought I was surrounded by low standards as a department. I thought we could do better and didn’t think we had the people to do it. I sold people short and didn’t put in the rest of the work. The actual hard stuff.
There was, as anything, more to it of course. There was my family first and foremost. There was a hellacious commute. There was some PTSD that I was reacting to at the time.
Although I didn’t realize it until later. I had my mind made up so when I consulted some advice, I gave a pretty good pitch for why it was a good reason to move. They really had no way to convince me. I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I rarely do when it’s not the advice I want to hear.
It was between moving back to Montana where my family was happy and staying where we were (where they were also happy, but it wasn’t Montana.)
It was between leaving my big department with a ton of potential to go back to a much smaller department with some potential as well. I convinced those around me that I could be happy at my new department. I could help create something there. I always had the trump card in my argument that no one questions; “It’s for my family.” Everybody agrees with you when you say that.
I thought ideologically that it doesn’t matter where you work. If you can bring it every day you can create amazing things, change culture, and be every bit as good as the big boys. I was wrong.
Now that I’m here I realize that what I thought were big problems at my last department, really weren’t. I realize I completely overlooked the great things my department had.
Our people were empowered and we had a ton of freedom to go our own directions. We just needed some guidance to break some poor habits that had been created. That takes work. Changing culture is hard. They took care of us and we were moving in the right direction. There were some great people I didn’t appreciate that could easily be swayed in the right direction. I could’ve done better in seeking those changes instead lamenting the fact we didn’t have them already. I could’ve capitalized on our strengths and worked with the good people that were there to raise the standards of the underperformers. I didn’t put in the work. Instead, I left. And I miss it.
Ironically I have the opportunity to go back. I’ve never been more unhappy in a job than where I am now. The shortcomings of my previous department are minute compared to the gaping holes of my current department. The only thing I like about my job is the days off. That is not why I’m in this career, I truly love it. I’m torn to whether to go back and try to pick up where I left off, or buckle up and dig in for a long fight to try an improve where I’m at. The last thing I want is to have two professional decisions I most regret.
Cam Gallegos is a two sport college athlete that studied exercise science. “I’ve been in the fire service for 12 years. I spend my off days in the mountains and rivers with my family. I’ve worked for several different departments, big and small. I’m still trying to find the balance.”