Our intrepid hero, boldly adventuring into the unknown, follows his guide deeper into the musty brick cavern. With small spots of light from the surface and their torches as illumination, they trek further into the abyss. Insects, rain like an unholy plague from the stone roof above their heads. Suddenly a furry beast leaps onto our hero. He and his guide both leap in shock at the foul monstrosity. Despite this encounter, our hero emerges on the other side, dirty yet unscathed.
Now to be clear, this is not a tale of out of a Greek epic. This really happened, albeit less dramatic as I described. It happened in the sewers of San Francisco in the early 2000s. The guide leading the adventure was a city worker whose job was to inspect the structural integrity of the sewers themselves. Most people would balk at the idea of intentionally traveling into the sewers of San Francisco. However, this hero I speak of is no ordinary hero. For years he has been the warrior of the working class. With the tenacity to try anything, a wicked sense of humor, and a voice that all aspiring voice over specialists (or just men for that matter) wish they had, Mike Rowe has inspired and entertained millions with his hit series Dirty Jobs. Now, although Dirty Jobs is no longer on the air, Mike continues his work through the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, providing support and scholarships to those looking to do something beyond the standard liberal arts education.
Growing up I watched the Discovery Channel religiously. Still do, in fact. Dirty Jobs was one of those shows that truly sucked me in. Watching a television personality go out of his way to put himself in situations that not only require years of training, but quite frankly, are jobs many people look down on and/or take for granted. Mike’s mission statement of saluting the heroes who make civilized life possible for the rest of us really struck me as unique. I learned so and only wanted to keep learning. From the trash service, food industry, construction, the military, the list of jobs I became enamored with as a result of Mike’s show goes on and on.
Going through my senior year of high school and into college, my perception of things shifted. Call it falling into the trap of hyper liberal thinking or just becoming an increasingly selfish and “thinking in the moment” only millennial, I lost my way a bit. I jumped from major to major, didn’t take the massive expense being incurred for my education seriously, and looked down on any alternative avenues I could have taken my life to move forward. It was honestly probably one of the most shameful periods of my 25 years on this earth. I began following Mike Rowe again at some point during this time, and it reminded me of a thing or two I forgot about from those days of wonderment I had when I was growing up.
Let’s start with the first and foremost point I took from Mike Rowe; There are other avenues you can go in your life that you can still find yourself successful and happy in. Honestly, college for me at that point in my life may have been more damaging to attend than helpful. I don’t know if I would have found myself pursuing a trade or eventually making my way to a 4 year, but in hind sight starting myself off at a junior college and really exploring different avenues would have been my first choice.
Another thing I have learned from Dirty Jobs was the notion of being happy with your path. Not everyone will get their dream job, become the CEO of a fortune 500 company, become a famous actor, or whatever numerous amount of jobs there can be. That does not mean striving for mediocrity and doing the bare minimum. It means learning to love what you do or find something you are willing to put your heart into to learn to do and love. The joy was so plainly visible on the workers featured on Dirty Jobs provided a prime example of someone clearly loving what they do and putting their heart and soul into it. It is a lesson I plan on carrying with me forever. So if you are in college, soon to be in college, or are someone like myself just trying to get a handle on life, try to watch an episode of Dirty Jobs. And then while you’re at it, take a listen to Mike Rowe’s podcast and go to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and check out some of the cool stuff they’re doing there. Finally, no matter where your life situation is right now, live life with a smile. Even Mike wore one through all the poo (both figuritvely and literally) during his 300 Dirty Jobs.