The Privilege of Pursuing My Passion

What are you passionate about? What kind of work feeds your soul?

My father worked 25 years at a chemical plant. His father–my grandfather–worked and died in the coal mines of Kentucky. My father-in-law worked 20+ years at a series of power plants belonging to TVA, power plants his father helped build.

My father managed the trains: driving the engines as they pulled the cars full of coal and before that, applying brakes to all the separate cars. He was the other kind of engineer—the kind that doesn’t have a four-year-degree and “a head full of knowledge but no practical sense.” His words, not mine.

I never asked my dad what he wanted to do with his life. If I had, I think he would have looked at me sideways because it wasn’t the kind of question people asked themselves when their dads worked in coal mines and their best friends died in Vietnam. He graduated from high school, got married, and moved south for a “good job” that would pay the bills and leave him a little time for fun on his days off, which weren’t necessarily the weekends.

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I’m not the first

I’m not the first to make a long drive
up a familiar four-lane,
to shake hands with an earnest doctor
who bears more bad news than any one person should bear.

I’m not the first to swallow vomit
and grab the glass door of an ICU room
as my own breath is ripped away
by the ragged breathing of one I love. Continue reading