Dying to Work

Do you know these people? Eilleen Collins, James Kelly, Soichi Noguchi, Stephen Robinson, Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, and Charles Camarda. Let me give you a hint: they have spent years and years in school earning PhD’s, are at the top of their fields, and work for one of the largest aerospace organizations in the world. Got it yet? Okay, another hint: they risk their lives in their jobs and their safety relies on the quality of work done by the lowest bidder. Still in the dark? Okay, one last clue: they follow in the footsteps of more recognizable names such as Sally Ride, Deke Slayton, and Alan Shepard.

Finally the light dawns. Yes, they are astronauts. Specifically, they are the astronauts of the crew of STS-114, space shuttle Discovery that is set to launch this week from the Kennedy Space Center. This is the “Return to Space” flight, the first flight after the Columbia disaster. (Get details)

Can you imagine getting promoted into a position because the previous holder of that position was killed doing his job? Can you imagine spending years slogging through college and graduate school in order that you can hang your life on the world’s most complex machine, a machine that can be brought down by a piece of Styrofoam or a $2 piece of rubber? Most people would not even consider it, but these people do. They do it because they love their jobs. They are allowed to do it because they are the best in the world in their particular fields.

Do you love your job enough to die for it? Few people do. Astronauts, policemen, firefighters, and rescue workers do. The average stock analyst would quit in a heartbeat if he risked his life every time he got on the elevator. In fact, statistics show that 70% of Americans are unhappy in their jobs. Why do people stay in jobs they hate? Most would cite financial reasons. Others would say they don’t have any other choice.

Choice is something that we are privileged to have here in America. We are afforded the inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Not only do we have the opportunities to work but we have the ability to choose what work we’d like to do. Most of the world’s population do not have those choices. They take what they can get to put food on the table, and are usually grateful to have any kind of work.

It is a shame to waste the opportunities we are blessed with in this country. Don’t work in a job you hate when you have the chance to spend your life being significant and doing something that you love.

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