I got here at the end of a 500-mile long drive in a 10 foot U-Haul filled with thrift store and hand-me-down furniture and with a '93 Ford Festiva in tow; no not a Fiesta—a Festiva. The Festiva I bought with the cash I saved by eating free pizza and salad while delivering pizza and salad, which made me feel a little bit greasy and a little bit dried out and somewhat colder than expected. Not exactly what I’d been promised in high school. Not exactly what I’d paid for in college. What I’m still paying for. My first car out of college, the final relic of my childhood, with continuous all-wheel drive and a turbo charger and a freaking window wiper defrost option, had started dripping oil out both ends and smoking out the right side of the hood and basically having its way with my bank account. That was why I hated red lights. I hated any time that I had time to think, any time I was still and could see the smoke rising right in my face.
For the sake of survival, I had to go back to the drawing board. I had to ask myself, did I still want to be an astronaut? Police officer? Firefighter? Park ranger? Was there some perfect occupation out there that I wanted more than anything, regardless of how difficult it would be to achieve? Were there, for instance, bears setting fires in the International Space Station, and was it up to me to stop them? Or at least to write them a citation?
At the end of that brainstorming session, I landed on electrician. I wanted a career where I could learn skills worth being proud of, that I could use to serve my community and better my own life. I wanted my days to be filled with tasks that challenged my mind while at the same time getting me out of my own head, because I spent enough time there as it was. Making that decision, and pursuing that goal, was the first time in my life that I felt motivated to do anything for more than a week-long stretch that felt like it was my idea and what I wanted to do, even when people I trusted tried to discourage me for my own good. I’m grateful for the opportunity that the IBEW has given me to learn this trade, but quite frankly, if it hadn’t been offered, I was going to take it anyway.