Friday, April 8, 2011

Blue Collar Pride

I've been a white collar desk jockey for the better part of a decade now. While I have kept myself in pretty good shape for a man approaching 40, by eating a nutrient dense diet and exercising regularly with martial arts and my sporting hobbies like hunting and hiking, I've come to realize that there is something really missing from doing desk work...something that I think defines masculinity at it's core - that is, doing some kind of manual, physical work with other men to achieve some definable task - to build something.

Ever since I escaped the confines of my high school institutional indoctrination facility, I've worked hard, physical labor-based jobs. Even as I attended college, I still worked and earned a living from the sweat of my brow. I've been a construction worker, a mover, a concrete pumper, commercial painter, trench digger, airplane freight loader, traffic paint striper, and all around laborer for a variety of companies and businesses.

It was one of my goals while going to college, to punch my ticket and take off the blue collar once and for all and enjoy the air conditioned comforts as a white collar desk jockey. It was my primary motivation to exel at my collegiate studies. My attitude had been that once I got my degree and moved into the white collar world, I would confine my physical exertion strictly to recreational pursuits.

And for about 7 years after graduating, that is precisely what I did.

But thanks to the Return of the Great Depression, I've found myself picking up side jobs in the blue collar work world once again to supplement my dramatically reduced income, in order to provide for my family.

Since I've only been doing it a couple of days a week now, I find it quite enjoyable actually. Getting back into hard physical work has made me appreciate escaping the daily grind when it was my sole means of income...but doing it once or twice a week? I find it's almost a real pleasure.

There is something profoundly satisfying to work with a crew of men you know very well, that you all work with a minimal of direction. Every man knows the job, what it takes to get done, and the job comes together beautifully in the end. You fall into a mindless rhythm of labor...a rhythm that makes it seem like the time flies by, and before you know it, the days work is done, and you can sit back and survey your handiwork. The sense of achievement and accomplishment is deeply soul satisfying. I've done huge deals in the past where I've earned a literal windfall in unexpected commissions at my desk job...and those moments feel like I hit the lottery or won a spin at the roulette wheel. Exhilarating as those moments are, it's not the same sort of satisfaction you gain from seeing a manual project completed and feeling the exhaustion in your body from the exertion. It's like you put a piece of yourself into your work, and it shows.

I've worked for two men in the past year...both I'm very good friends with, and who are in fact my hunting partners. They both own their own businesses and they work very hard to support their families. They are always willing to have my extra hand thrown in for a day or two of work for some cash on the side. I know their work, and I can help them complete their work much faster with my contributions.

And that extra income has literally helped put food on my family table when there was not much money left from my regular job.

I think I've discovered something about myself. Should the economy recover and my desk jockeying becomes extremely profitable again, I think I'll still find some means of doing the occasional blue collar project.

It just feels "right" to earn my living the old fashioned way.


Anonymous said...

Every white desk jockey can't do construction on the side, if for no other reason that plenty of Hispanics have been imported for that function.

Anonymous said...

I'm 27 and I build houses for a living. Self employed, I work alone building one or two houses a year. Some nights when I come home from working a fast paced 10 hr day I can feel my heart racing and the blood pumping. The feeling sticks around for a couple hrs after you quit. Its a feeling every bit as good as a fat line of cocaine (I haven't been a saint my whole life) In fact I think it's the same chemicals that are getting pumped around (dopamine, seratonin). That's something I think office guys are missing. I read somewhere that men of older generations used to have a faster heart rate on average than women, but now they're close to same.

Default User said...

I enjoy physical labor, for all the reasons you list. However, I expect a lifetime of it takes it toll on the body. Even if he will eventually move into the deskbound professions, I think every man should spend some time on work that leaves him dirty, dusty, sore, and tired. To progress from sitting in school, to sitting in college, to sitting at a desk, leaves something out. It is easy to romanticize blue-collar work, but it is far easier to dismiss it as unrewarding or even unworthy; the second one is the greater mistake.

Ulysses said...

I've done both hardcore blue collar work and desk jockey work. Currently a desk jockey. Some days I sit at look wistfully out the window at the father/son landscaping team that maintains the grounds at my office. Not only have they used a lot of business acumen, learned in the world rather than taught in a classroom, to build rather nice lives for themselves, they also get to finish their days with tangible accomplishments behind them. Even when I accomplish things, it's not the same sort of accomplishment as the landscaping crew experiences. Sure, their work will require maintenance and updates and care, but they can look at the landscape, literally, and say, "We did that."

Wrote a post on this a while back, though it included some discussions of modern women.

Herb said...

Even if he will eventually move into the deskbound professions, I think every man should spend some time on work that leaves him dirty, dusty, sore, and tired.

Although I'm no fan of the draft a lot of men got their one shot at this via the military.

I spent my 20s as a mechanic in the Navy. While perhaps not construction submarine mechanic is a physical job and a very blue collar life. Today I wouldn't trade those experiences for the college experience I was so angry about missing back then.

Anonymous said...

off topic, your blog crshes in internet explorer.

Anonymous said...

I have been doing white collar work (high tech) with a brief foray in desperate times into spraying insecticide and sales. I have two degrees and most of a third before I dropped out. Just for kicks I recently took a welding for hobbyists course at the local community college. It was great to pick a project and work on it in a well equipped shop for one day a week over a couple of months. My crowning achievement was building a portable welding table that folds up. Roughly tv-tray sized. The course and required safety equipment and tools didn't cost much. Every man should do something of this nature, especially if he works in an office. In my opinion.

MarkyMark said...

When I get hot, dirty, and sweaty from working on my bike, I feel GOOD... :)