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...so 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.