I think the most stressful time I had on the job was the time I was a probie. Knowing that I could get dismissed at any point during that first year was nerve wracking. It has happened before where a new recruit has been sent home packing and you don't want to be THE ONE... especially after all the time and hope invested....
While in Training, everything was pretty sterile and everyone on their best behaviour. The drills and tests were routine. I was up to snuff physically. We did live-burns but it was controlled and predictable and I was playing dress-up. It wasn't until I got on the floor that it really hit me where I was. My experience was sorely lacking. Driving a 40 foot long ladder truck lights and sirens to a call at 4 a.m during a snowstorm was crazy. The calls were real and loud and bloody and hot. I'd follow a senior crewmate around at calls like a little duckling grateful he had taken me under his wing. Thankfully I also had a firefighter friend in New York who would give me pointers... be the first one up and the last one down... watch your back for pranks, and always carry Vick's Vapo-Rub in your pocket to rub under my nose for those really nasty smelling calls.
There were days I felt like a total screw up and I'd go home and want to cry. My husband, unfamiliar with fire territory but familiar with blue collar work would sit and listen. And he would remind me that there might be weeks of bad days but that one call where you save a life makes the difference.
I wasn't part of this boys club and wasn't sure if I would ever be. I didn't understand or like hockey (I know... very un-Canadian of me), car talk bored me, I wasn't into going for beers or breakfast after shift, and I didn't smoke Colts.
The harder I tried to fit in the more out of sorts I became. .... until I realized that yes, I was different and that was an asset. I was a gal and no way was I about to start peeing standing up to fit in. As soon as I started being myself and stopped trying so hard I felt like I belonged.... and as they saw that I was no longer uncomfortable with them, they started being comfortable around me. I worked hard and wasn't afraid to ask for help when needed. I did the dirty work no one wanted to do. And when they pushed, I wasn't afraid to push back.
Eight years later here I am. And the weird thing is, somehow along the way, I became one of the boys.....
... all without having to pee standing up.