When I was younger, my favorite day of the school year was always Career Day.  Because I was able to discover five or six more careers, my occupational aspirations shifted on an annual basis. At first, I wanted to be a doctor because Gifted Hands and the doctor who presented it were inspiring. I thought that helping people was an important job and doctors dedicated their entire lives to ensuring the healthy livelihood of others.

I told my mother about this new-found goal of mine and she introduced me to a family friend who was a doctor. After discussing the horrors of brain, heart, and eye surgery and learning that just about every doctor was faced with having to handle blood, which I was and still am sickened by, I concluded that the medical field was definitely not for me.

After that meeting, I met an engineer by the name of Thomas. He specialized in computer engineering and told me that all the money was in computers, and surely, making plenty of money was everyone’s goal. He explained that although computers were the big money, they were several facets of engineering that I could major in. Thomas’ perspective on the world of engineering overwhelmed me, and over the next four years of my life, I wanted to be a mechanical, civil, chemical, and nuclear engineer. I couldn’t bring myself to make a decision so I was constantly found changing my career choice.

I became enlightened once again upon visiting the airport with my father to pick up an aunt I held considerable disdain for. While we waited on her unanticipated arrival, I stared out the window at stationary planes. There were men scurrying around the great metal birds fixing problems here and there. They shined here, opened hidden compartments there. Their fingers were greasy, yet no one dropped a tool. They drove little vehicles laden with blown wheels and various medal objects. I found this job to be fascinating.The moment I got home, I flew to my computer and began to research what plane fixers were and discovered the proper term. They were called aeronautical technicians.

Throughout this entire time of various self-realizations, I remained infatuated with airplanes. If they flew over my car while we traveled on the highway, I quickly rolled down my window and craned my neck out of it in an effort to spot the fascinating object in the sky. My greatest joy was watching them land and takeoff at the Atlanta airport. However, I never once thought that I would be suitable to an occupation that would allow me to be around them constantly. Though I loved them a great deal, I honestly believed that I lacked the skills that made a successful aeronautical anything. I couldn’t be an aerospace engineer because I couldn’t even build a house out of Legos, let alone a working airplane. A flight attendant was certainly out of the question because my parents feared for their mistreatment. Though flight technicians have one of the best jobs in the world, I couldn’t do it because fixing things was just not my area of expertise.

Then one day, I learned about being a pilot.  I’m surprised I had never thought of this before.  They were given the unprecedented pleasure of flying airplanes. A pilot. The word meant the world to me. Yet, I still could not picture the word meaning my profession. I mentioned the career in passing to a teacher and the man stopped and looked at me as if he were befuddled by my suppressed desire. “A pilot?” he repeated. “Are you kidding me? With your brains, all you want to do is fly airplanes? Surely there must be something that would make greater use of your time?” I was crushed. My own teacher found it to be a complete waste of time and energy. He couldn’t be wrong, could he?

Thankfully, my mother was more open-minded. She enrolled me in an Aviation Career Education summer camp. At the end of that week, I was given the opportunity to fly an airplane alongside a seasoned pilot. For that hour in the air, everything became clear to me. Regardless of how anyone felt about it, and regardless of what I would have to do, I, a tall, nerdy, opinionated person, was going to fly airplanes simply because I couldn’t stop myself from falling irrevocably in love with the sensation of weightlessness.

The sight of nothing but a wide expanse of blue sky and marshmallow-like clouds appealed to me like nothing else could. It was as if a well of irrepressible joy broke free. There was ecstasy, and there was excitement, but there was also peace. Inconceivable peace greeted me in the vast openness. I could explore it by simply shifting the yoke clutched in my hands. I breathed in and out and with each breath my love and happiness became more acute. The sun itself seemed to smile, so I smiled and I knew. I knew I knew in my heart and in my mind that it was the paramount goal. Whatever it took, I was going to fly.