Adrenalin Junkies — Risking Your Life On The Job

I’m no adrenalin junkie. I have a fit of the vapors just watching the Blue Angels airshows from the relative safety of the ground. As I read the news this week and follow accounts of the CNN freelancer killed when Iraqi security forces regained control of a government building or the Japanese engineers who are risking their health and lives to contain the nuclear crisis at the reactors, I think to myself, “There’s no job on this earth that is worth risking your life for.” But is there? It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “work life balance,” as in your life is in the balance while you do your work.

There seems to be so many reasons why people feel that gambling their lives while on the job is the right thing to do: honor, to get “the story of a lifetime,” to protect your country, to protect your loved ones, to get that next rush, to save an injured victim. And I am torn. It is one thing when dictators put such a low premium on human life, especially when it’s not theirs.  But what about workers who risk their own lives? Are they consciously devaluing themselves?

I understand; I know we need people to do these jobs, and in some cases, they actually understand the risks. And, yes, you could be an accountant who does not have to take life-threatening risks and who ends up finished underneath the wheels of a crosstown bus tomorrow. And maybe knowing that you are doing something worthwhile with your life while you continue to have it helps you get up out of bed and out the door every work day morning.

But I don’t know. I search the faces of the young cops I know. I remember the conversations with a firefighter friend who has broken just about every bone in his body while fighting fires and saving lives. I look at the face of a young cousin I have never met in a battlefield picture taken before returning to the states after his last tour of duty in Iraq. And what I see is that job risks have changed them and not for the better, I think. There are people who are not in these risky fields who find it easy to say “Thank You” to those individuals who risk their lives on the job every day. I guess I’m not one of those yet. I’m still too affected by the changes I see in my adrenalin junkie acquaintances and horrified by them putting themselves in harm’s way.

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