How would you feel if suddenly you were trusted with the world's most powerful and destructive weapon? Some of us can't handle a shot of tequila, let alone a nuclear missile.
What if I told you that your daily duties included sitting 60 feet underground, watching a console that potentially could give an order for you to unleash a $7 million missile at Mach 23 that can reach any city on Earth faster than Domino's can deliver pizza?
This is the reality of twenty-three-year-old Sarah Jesse.
"Doing missiles," Sarah explains, "is short for being an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) operator. Your primary duty consists of manning a console that controls the ICBM force. Being an Air Force operator is awesome, because every day you get to see other agencies on base that directly support your mission."
Controlling nukes. That'd be a hell of a Tinder bio. There's got to be some drawbacks, though.
Photo of Sarah Jesse with the patch she designed
"The weirdest part about my job," Sarah explains, "is having the clock be your only source of proof that time has passed. It’s a bit unnerving and I’m still trying to get used to it."
Sounds a lot like something out of Black Mirror, or equally as desirable as getting back together with my ex, who is ironically...also a missileer. Fortunately, she's pretty cool, and has no desire to land a Minuteman III on my forehead.
But seconds, hours, and weeks are all human inventions. Only by keeping track of them, writes historian Daniel Boorstin, "would mankind be liberated from the cyclical monotony of nature."
Now I'm no expert on this kind of power (except the gym. Roll through, ladies), but I'm betting that she takes her job more seriously than Leslie Knope handles parks and recreation.
"I take being an operator very seriously," see, I was right. "Because of that, I see my work life and personal life as one entity. That doesn’t mean I’m always talking shop, but I dedicate most of my energy to making sure that I am doing what I can to support the mission. When I do want to really drive a stake between the military Sarah and the regular Sarah, I will dress in a fashion that people wouldn’t expect of me (obviously off duty). I like to go a little over the top with hair, crazy combinations of denim, Chuck Taylor’s and crazy socks. I try to make it as tough as possible for people to look at me and go ‘oh yeah, they’re military.’
Drawing by Sarah Jesse
I can speak from personal experience that this girl knows every thrift shop by name within a 50 mile radius.
With or without Chucks, being an ICBM operator is still a pretty big obligation. ICBM...couldn't that also stand for "I Create Big Masterpieces?" It's a stretch, but it's also Sarah's unique hidden talent.
"Drawing has always been a love of mine," Sarah smiles with her best Disney face, "I’ve always had a particular love for animation. Growing up, I wanted to be an animator and work for Disney more than anything. I started drawing people in middle school and my passion for character art/design has just grown from there. I never had formal training or schooling for art, so I mainly learn by studying artists that I admire. My style is always changing and evolving because of this."
Drawing by Sarah Jesse
So I ask myself, why should I follow these drawings? Isn't everyone out there "an artist"?
"Why follow me? Because I'm hilarious," well, she's not wrong. "A lot of my art trends towards pop culture and fan art. I’m a huge nerd, and I love to present my own interpretations of characters from the latest Star Wars film or a new season of Stranger Things. I have lately been doing pieces that represent interesting aspects about my job, and those seem to go over pretty well. You never really think about it, but there are a lot of people out there who are really interested in the missileer way of life, so my missileer caricatures are some of my most popular posts."
Ironically following her self-compliment, Sarah's advice to stand out was to be humble.
"There is never a point in time, or a situation, that you could conceivably be stuck in where you can’t shape, form, or put good vibes out there," coming from someone who spends the majority of her time in a hole, she probably has room to speak on this challenge. "People have a tendency to get so full of themselves and act like the universe owes them something. I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t. We don’t have to be slaves to our circumstances."
You hear that, Eeyore? Stop bitching to Pooh and Tigger all the time. The universe does not control you.
But there are a few things about the universe that we can control. This missile launching artist told me about some things she does to stay unpredictable and on top of her game.
"Do something productive every morning," like scope out @MoonstruckTraveller's Instagram? Ok, maybe not. "Whether that’s going to the gym, washing those dishes that have been in the sink for a week, making your bed, or calling home to tell your family that you miss them. Even on lazy days (we all have them...I’m having one right now) if you accomplish one thing that’s even the slightest bit productive, you won’t have that sinking feeling at the end of it that you’ve accomplished nothing. Probably."
Did she forget to mention diet?
"I didn’t eat a salad until I was 23," she admits. "I’m currently 23."
Rock on, sugar queen.
Photo of Sarah Jesse. Bonus points if you find Buzz Lightyear.
"We are often inspired by the beautiful things we surround ourselves with," which is why I've stayed friends with Sarah for a while now, "and I hope to make my art into something that inspires others. Or at least makes them laugh. Whichever."
Don't forget the nuke thing. You're doing that too, SJ.
"Being unpredictable is being able to blow your own mind every once in awhile," ahh there's our favorite u-word. "Go to the movies by yourself, show a complete stranger your silly side, and smile until it hurts. My #newyearnewme motto is to live with intention. It’s so easy to sit back and let life happen to us, instead of going out there and grabbing it by the balls. Mic drop."
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