How Failing as a 911 Operator Changed My Life.

I thought I finally found my dream job — I was wrong.

Photo via Unsplash

For most people, 2020 has been a difficult year. Between a raging political climate and viral disease dominating the globe, life has been hectic, to say the least. I also experienced some turmoil in my own personal life in recent months that completely altered the path I thought I was on.

At the start of this year, I felt like I had finally figured my life out. My new roommates were amazing, my relationship was new and exciting, and I had a new job prospect on the horizon working in a 911 Call Centre.

Despite the global situation, my life was going shockingly well.

But, of course, as Nelly Furtado sang: All Good things come to an end.

Only 2 months ago, I was euphoric to be training as a 911 operator. It made me decent money, provided stability, and it was meaningful. I had applied to the job in January and after going through an intense interview process, I got an offer. Beaming, I left my last office job behind. Everything was going well. I passed all the knowledge tests, succeeded in the classroom training, and actually loved the hours (night shifts are where it’s at).

I was a perfect fit.

Until I had to take a hearing test.

Now, I’m not completely deaf. They never would have hired me if I was because answering the phone is the main aspect of the job. However, when I got my hearing tested, I did fail some aspects of it. My ability to hear at the low range was according to the paperwork: below average. When the staff at the clinic gave me my results, I wasn’t that surprised. I do tend to nod and laugh at parties or loud restaurants when I didn’t quite catch what someone said. But everyone does that, right? Well, I guess not.

While the staff member at the hearing clinic didn’t outright say I needed a hearing aid, I could see in her eyes that my results were not good.

Still, I wasn’t that deaf, right?

Ignoring the results, I fudged my way as best I could on the operations floor. My mentor was training me and I repeated her verbatim when people called in a crisis. For names or streets, I used the phonetic alphabet constantly. I just had to work twice as hard to compensate. No hearing test would stop me from saving people’s lives. I told myself it was just nerves and I could do it.

But I just kept struggling.

It didn’t help that my mentor would say things like “Did you even hear what I said?” or “Why didn’t you repeat after me?” in a judgemental tone. She was right. I didn’t hear her, but I was too embarrassed to admit it.

Halfway through the last stage of training with my mentor, I gave up. After those 2 weeks of trying my hardest — I knew I could not do the job. My supervisor noticed I was behind on the training schedule and my mentor was constantly wearing me down. Once I accepted that hearing test results were accurate, I knew I might be the reason for everything going horribly wrong. Lives were in my hands. Morally, I couldn’t accept that responsibility.

Photo via Unsplash

I drove home at 7:00am after working 12-hour shifts for 4 days straight and I cried in the car nonstop. After thinking about the decision for a few more days, I sent an email with my resignation. They understood and were sorry to see me go. I returned my headset, leaving behind a job that I desperately wanted to do, but physically couldn’t.

And that was it.

I failed as a 911 operator. That’s the reality of the situation. Now, I’m unemployed and have no back-up plan.

Luckily, there is a happy ending (at least I hope). I managed to save enough money to pay for my rent and expenses for at least a few months. I’ve also realized that I’ve been employed full-time, or in university full-time, ever since I was 16. So I decided it was a good opportunity for me to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re getting in Vancouver.

Now, with all this time on my hands, I’ve started reading about freelance writing and decided to apply to jobs online. I got one client through a friend’s recommendation and a few others that I found on Upwork.

And with that, I just might be able to make my rent by writing online this month. Then, maybe I’ll even go on to develop a career being a paid writer. I don’t know for sure as the future is hardly predictable, but I’m optimistic.

Photo via Unsplash

This has not been an easy story to tell, and I’m honestly afraid to publish it for the world to read. It took me three weeks to build up the courage to tell my own mother, and I still haven’t told a lot of friends yet either. When people ask me how it’s going as a 911 operator I respond with a quip “It’s going!” and then I aggressively change the topic. I’m hoping instead of telling everyone I can just share this article and embrace the fact that I failed and was forced to try something new.

Of course, it took Edison plenty of tries to make a lightbulb and takes plenty of writing to make a writer. But here I am. Ready for wherever the words take me.

Published by Victoria A. Fraser

Freelance writer, podcast producer, and comic artist.

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