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Learning to Be a Rookie

Learning to Be a Rookie

Have you ever noticed that some of the most obvious things become news stories? For example, a headline might read, "Sources say the family and friends of the accused plan to cooperate with investigators." What other choice do the family and friends have in this situation? In another example, a television news reporter may state, "Police have determined that speed was a factor when a small sedan careened off the road and into a tree." Really? Someone was driving too fast? No way! I do realize there are other possible outcomes and factors involved, but many times the progression of situations is obvious. That is kind of the case with this column. I don’t really have to tell you change is inevitable, change brings out people’s insecurities and everyone adapts to change differently. These realities are repeated, sometimes daily, in our experience.

Imagine you have just gotten your first professional job after college. (If you’re like me, that doesn’t take much imagination because that’s exactly the situation in which I find myself.) Armed with all the theoretical knowledge of years of education, you show up at your new workplace believing you are as ready as anyone could be to do your job. Still, before you have been there an hour, you have five questions that need answers and a dozen scenarios that don’t fit the mold presented in any textbook. This is exactly the situation the rookie police officers find themselves in on ABC’s Rookie Blue. And each one of them, like each one of us, copes with the pressure in his or her own way.

Having been burned by a quick judgment on her first day, Andy (Missy Peregrym) triple-checks information before acting on it. She is usually competent but hesitates a moment too long before acting. Chris (Travis Milne) lives by the rules, which is only a bad thing when he confuses doing everything right with doing the right thing. Gail (Charlotte Sullivan) is out to prove her worth, even at others’ expense. As you might imagine, her approach isn’t exactly winning the love and loyalty of those around her. Traci (Enuka Okuma) follows her gut rather than orders, which may lead to some success, usually followed by trouble further up the chain of command. And Dov (Gregory Smith) fights first with humor and sarcasm, making it more difficult for him to gain respect from other officers and the public. The result is almost too realistic to be entertaining.  I’m not so sure about the authenticity of the police work scenes, but the necessity of and strategies for coping with new situations definitely feel as if I lived many of them within the past week. Oh wait … I did.

None of these strategies for coping with new situations is entirely right or entirely wrong. Thriving in our constantly changing lives is not as simple as mastering a single coping strategy. We can’t always stop to ponder every positive and negative outcome, although sometimes we need to do exactly that. We can’t let the rules of our chosen profession make us robots, but usually no one benefits from our failure to follow them. We can’t always make decisions that make us friends, but we shouldn’t be willing to step on others to further our rise to the top, either. And I’m convinced a sense of humor is paramount to human adaptation to change, but like everything else, it has a time and a place.

I have yet to settle on the exact balance of strategies and approaches needed in my new professional life. If past experience tells me anything, at the moment when I begin to think I have figured out the proper balance, something else will change and the pursuit of balance will begin all over again. Between changes, maybe all we can realistically aim for is professional excellence achieved with more friends than enemies. That’s a hard enough target for a rookie to hit from the desk in my little office. I can’t imagine being a rookie with a badge and a gun.

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