‘Please renew your National Police Check’ urges the email from the telephone counselling service where I’ve been volunteering for nineteen years. I’m annoyed and wonder, ‘Do I have to fill this out again, I’ve only just completed my Working with Children form?’ I make a half-hearted attempt and search for my licence, passport and birth certificate.
I quibble really, knowing that I have a greater quandary that’s tearing me asunder.
But first, I want to know whether I’m alone in setting benchmarks or goals for things that I enjoy especially when it relates to clocking up ‘number of years’. When I ran my business I became fixated on reaching thirty years, but when I got there I let it slip by without a single sip or celebration. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the chase…
Telephone counselling is the same, twenty years looms large. I started at the busiest time of my career when I was managing staff, moving into larger premises and taking on more complex projects.
Back then, after six months of extensive training I was ready for my supervised probation shifts before going solo.
As part of my commitment, overnight shifts were required during the first two years, On a Saturday night I’d go to bed at 8pm, get up at 11.30pm and drive to the city for the 12am–6am graveyard stint. My obligation was rigorous with weekly schedules, ongoing training and group supervision. Thereafter, the regime became more flexible and I found myself taking on advanced roles including Information Nights to give insight to others considering training.
Back to my dilemma. For the past few months there’s a stirring in my belly and I’m restless. I’ve invested a lot in the position and spent many challenging hours actively listening and helping callers. A large part of me says ‘stay’ because I’ve been more than rewarded for my caregiving and it fulfils my need to give back to the community.
It works both ways you see. The caller, lonely, distressed, isolated or disadvantaged has a voice and for my part, I’m more than satisfied to sense a change in mood or disposition by the end of the call no matter how great or small. The role is demanding but familiar and I’ve become a better listener with an armful of empathy and skills that I use in and outside the phone room.
Unfortunately, within this sector, expectations have changed as well as regulatory processes relating to say, child protection and domestic violence. Regardless of experience, there’s an increase in accountability, number of hours on the phones, professional development, supervision and consultation during calls. I’m not only struggling with this load, but when I leave the phone room I’m not as upbeat.
I’ve listened, I’ve talked and more often had to juggle supervisory consultations during the call and yet, I’m less satisfied as to my contribution.
Rather than walk away, I lie in bed at night and consider or invent other volunteering roles for myself within the organisation. I discuss these with my supervisor and for a moment I’m optimistic until I’m reminded that I still need to supplement them with phone work.
Three months has passed and I haven’t answered a call. There’s still the feeling of disloyalty, but having had my purge onto the page I’m a step closer. Yesterday I found myself searching for Volunteer Positions on the internet. It must be time to say goodbye!
Thank you for listening.