Bridge #2: Class

It has been quite awhile since I blogged “Bridge #1”! I live a busy life: what can I say?!!!

I am on holidays this week, sitting in a fancy hotel in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico! What a life! Santa Fe is absolutely, stunningly beautiful! While I have travelled through the state of New Mexico numerous times in my life, I had never been to or through Santa Fe. What a blessing my life has been. I have experienced so many things, have been to so many places, know people in many places, and in various walks of life.

This contributes to the view of me being a bridge between classes. I grew up in a working-class family. My father was a farmer, then turned to welding as an occupation. He then became a maintenance foreman, later a maintenance electrician. He could fix anything. He had an appliance repair business for awhile. I relied heavily on him to fix things around our house whenever he would come to visit. But he never finished high-school, at least not until later in life. And I grew up with a strong identification with working-class people. People who wore hardhats, carried lunchpails to work, were often found in dirty coveralls and with dirty hands.

I myself have dabbled in various trades. I operated machines in a book-binding shop. I worked for awhile as a mechanic’s helper, doing light mechanical work. (I have done a couple motor overhauls, which is a bit above “light” mechanical, but overhauling was never a huge part of any job I had.) I helped erect a metal farm shed; I have worked at several locations in construction, helping frame houses, pour concrete, etc. I have painted houses as a job. I have driven truck for periods of time. One summer I spent on a wheat-harvest crew, driving truck and combine from southern Oklahoma to northern Montana.

And I have gone on to obtain a Master’s degree. I have worked in several professions, including assistant nurse in a hospital, residential treatment facilities, church leadership including pastoring/preaching, suicide prevention coordinator giving educational presentations to schools and various professional and corporate agencies, chaplaincy in both hospital and correctional settings.

And currently I am a city bus driver, very much a “blue-collar” job. I have been doing this for nearly twenty years, and love it!!

I especially love driving in industrial areas of the city, taking people to their jobs, then home in dirty clothes, smelling of hard labour. I can easily talk to them about the travails of working for a living, finding a job, dealing with bosses, balancing family life with work, you name it. I’ve done most of that, and can relate readily.

But I can also mix easily with professional people. Because of my education, because of my experience in various professions, I can talk to professional people on their level. Not, of course on a technical level, but at a collegial level.

What all of this past experience in various levels of working class and professional circles means to me, I am not sure!! But it has been an incredibly interesting life; I have seldom been bored!

Having jumped around at various occupations and jobs, means I have never followed one career track for very long. Which means I have not advanced nearly to the level of many of my peers. It is tempting sometimes to look at my life as not very successful. But I don’t. I have very few, if any, regrets about my past. I made decisions at stages of my life using the best knowledge I had at the time. Sure, as we can all say, if I had it to do over again I’d make different decisions. But that sort of attitude usually results in thinking that if knew then what I know now. . . Which, in the end, is futile thinking. I did not know then what I know now. But I trust that back whenever, when I was making a certain decision, I had the knowledge to make the best decision I could at the time.

So this week I am in New Mexico, mixing with colleagues of my wife, all of whom have degrees, most of them with graduate degrees, some, like my wife, with post-graduate training and education. They are all attending an academic conference of Jungian psychology. And I feel completely comfortable rubbing shoulders with them. I don’t feel inadequate or less-than. I know that whatever level in life a person achieves, whether academic, financial, occupational, etc., everyone has similar struggles. I guess that is one advantage my very varied life has given me: a perspective to view life from different angles, from different strata if you will. For while western civilization likes to pride itself on being relatively class-less, there still exist class distinctions, like it or not.

I have experience in different classes within our society. I have experienced life at various socio-economic levels. And it is all good. There is no one class which is “better” than another. Earlier today, at a lecture at the psychology conference which brought us to Santa Fe, the speaker talked about material “success” not necessarily bringing happiness and satisfaction with life. I have the latter; I don’t necessarily have the former! And I am totally okay with that!