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.

Continue reading

Four Things My Father Taught Me and Four Other Things I Learned from Him

My father taught me how to mow the yard. It was a huge yard, and we had a riding mower. At first, I was so small that my foot wouldn’t reach the brake. When I was finished mowing, I had to drive around until I found my Dad, who would run up beside me, then hop along with one foot on the brake until the mower stopped. My Mom stayed inside, refusing even to look out the windows. Continue reading