Go to college, my parents said, you’ll never have to do hard manual work, they said.
Don’t follow your grandfather — and every construction worker — around while he’s working and ask how it’s done, they said. You’re smart enough you’ll never have to work with your hands and you’re a WOMAN for heaven’s sake.
A) They were wrong. B) We all are.
Their advice was absolutely right for their time and place. I get a kick out of going back and listening to my friends being called “doctor” by their nannies and live-in maids and what not.
No, they’re not doctors, but in Portugal there are so few doctorates awarded and through my time it was so difficult to get my degree (the rough equivalent to a bit past the masters here, at least when I tried to finish out my doctorate I had a year to go — then I got pregnant and had pre-eclampsia, one of the ways in which Himself kept me from wasting money getting real credentials when ALL I really wanted to do was write.) that people just called you “doctor” anyway. I don’t know if it’s the same now, because now there are private colleges which are easier to get into and get through (failure rates of 2/3 after a selective process that cut out 99% of applicants was normal in my time.)
However, my friends get called “doctor” even with degrees easier than my own (fact, it was easier to get into geography, philosophy or a dozen other degrees) and never have dipped their hands into dish soap.
I chose to come across the sea, and regrets? Well, sometimes, while fixing the fence or painting a wall, yeah. But on the whole no.
What I got in exchange for having to do some of the “rough” with my own lily-white hands (more like golden, really) is that I get to break out of class stereotype, which I couldn’t have done in Portugal, as a college graduate, of my year. I’d have had to be a lady and dress just so and talk just so, and the heck with that, I was never good at fitting in. As for doing the rough, I always enjoyed a good day or manual labor.
So, worth trading my birthright for a bunch of hard work. BUT OMG, not days on end of it, no. I’m too old for this, and I’m starting to think that if I wake up and nothing hurts, it’s a sure sign I died.
So — I will not do this again. Once the house is finished (please G-d, before the end of the week? Though the fiddly details at the end are proving harder than I thought) I will write like a demon so next time we move (what not moving? Not an option, unless everything comes out just so and both boys end up in CO, something that’s less than probable) I DON’T HAVE TO FIX THE FRICKING HOUSE WITH MY OWN HANDS.
Also, from this day on I will buy no more Victorians, forever. I’d like to live in the 20th century for a change. The 21st can wait.
The advantages of this, though? Days of 12 hours of writing will seem easy.
On the wider application of all this — my parents couldn’t tell what would face me, even if I hadn’t moved — I understand even in Portugal, right now, handymen and manual laborers aren’t as easy to find as they once were, and people have to do manual labor who are unsuited to it.
So under “Change is coming faster and faster, here is my “teach your children well” advice:
1- Teach your kids all types of work you possibly can. Manual, intellectual, and just fiddly craftsman.
2- If you have a specialty in something pass it on, even if you hope your kids never have to do it.
3- Teach them work is work and nothing is beneath them. Even the loftiest of minds can sometimes need to be kept alive by manual work. Do it. Don’t repine. Work is work, and adults work for a living.
4- Teach the kids that change is normal and learning is fun. I learned to use a computer for my job and didn’t throw fits, because, well, change is normal.
5- someone did a test in which the probability of success in life was strongly correlated to ability to lick tape. Licking tape is not harmful and doesn’t hurt, but it’s unpleasant. The more tape you can force yourself to lick, the better the chance you’ll get where you’re aiming to go. Teach your kids (and yourself) to lick miles of tape. I don’t care how talented you are, in the end every success story I know that remains a success story (not a flash in the pan) licked miles and miles of tape getting there. Persistence is 99% of success and sometimes it’s d*mn unpleasant. Do it anyway.
And now I’m going to
lick tape scrape and wax floors.