Friday, June 12, 2009

Blue collar mind

I have been thinking about blue collar minds in white collar worlds. Specifically how people who think in a "blue-collar" framework succeed in moving "up" the ladder and if they have to change their mindset to do that.
I guess you can see that I view myself as a blue-collar mind. My definition: those who have to do to learn; those who only can be comfortable moving up the ladder if they had started on the ground floor, never a lateral move to a new sector, only back to beginning to learn how.
As for me, I left school (basically) between age 14-15 and truly walked out at 16. I got a job (thanks to mom) as a dishwasher in a hotel and worked myself up the ladder and then left that sector for others, always starting at or near ground and moving up through hard work and ability to improvise and link myself to people with vision who had principles. If I could do that, I learned a ton and was grateful for the work, until the day when I was doing the same thing again and again (people relying on my "sure, I'll do it" attitude a bit too much) or me realizing I did not have the social skills for the newly expanded workplace that I had helped build.
Left and found another thing to do and glad of each opportunity.

I always felt that school's main work was to teach socialization, which I resented (funny I know) and was suspicious early on of the larger lessons one was supposed to learn: how to line up properly, take standardized tests, to move down stairs and our fire exits carefully and later on, to study general information to give yourself a good "base" of knowledge to make it in the world. (Yes, oversimplification, but really what is the classroom about really? Isn't education a daily, hourly task that should be kept simple and direct for each person?)

Anyway, back then, I felt I needed to keep my wits about me to figure what I needed for myself and not let anyone tell me some cookie cutter information. So, I left. And, I wanted to WORK. I thought work looked pretty cool and wanted to have the freedom of deciding what I was going to be defined for most of my life. so why not get started?

and that worked out pretty well for me (as outlined a few paragraphs above), except for a few things I never figured out:
1. How to keep my desk clean
2. When to courteously interrupt someone who is boring me (and everyone else) in a meeting
3. How to follow along when people read aloud (seriously- I cannot understand more than 3 words in a row)
4. How to curse in Latin (ok, how to speak any other language).
5. Why it's important to know how to format every document (ha! thanks to Word, I don't HAVE to know how to do that in my head any longer. That's one I win!)
6. When to join the party and when to leave. I think this is one of the big ones I missed, as high school and undergrad seems to be the place for this. Am always too early or missing the good parties.

Today, once again, I find myself in my current field surrounded by smart people, all of whom did a significant time in college and often find myself not...connecting all of the time.
Now listen, this is not a pity session (gee I wish I was smarter) or a bitch session (who do they think they are?) cuz I think I am at times pretty great and so are they.

But I do see (at 44.5 years) some of the things that education might have given me, although those things would have come at some costs too. I see that my fierce attachment to doing everything from square one every time or having to say things in my word choices so that I can understand can alienate or even piss people off. But, I also see that people who use their education as their only framework of logic sometimes do not think through why (or why not), just how it is to be done, in the proper protocol. Yes, I have more than a few friends who are educated at university and somehow have kept their individuality. I appreciate that some of you succeeded in spite or because of the schooling. I just think I would have shipwrecked...

However, I will say that many of those I know that are HIGHLY educated (Ph.D plus) often seem to rid themselves of the need to find the direct educational context for every conversation and start to think out of the box again. So, oddly, I get along with those folks pretty well and find that mostly they get me too (no sarcastic comments from any of you Drs. please..)

So, education is fine I think, and yes, maybe I did miss some stuff, but am always glad of being a Polish Midwestern girl with a eccentric Southern family, daughter of a autoworker and granddaughter of a jukebox repairman, who can go many places without fitting in. That's right, I hope I am always the square peg, and am keeping a lookout always for those of you who know how to operate a commercial dishwasher and would still be able to put on that rubber apron and get to it.

1 comment:

Frolic said...

What a great post.