Inclusivity

These days it is hard to not see a conversation on Facebook or social media about inclusivity.  In some ways, I don’t even know where to begin, but here as a few of my thoughts on what has been happening in our country.

Education

Americans are experiencing the inflation of education, in which the importance of a College education has been stressed so much that it is integral to our national identity.  Yes, an education is something no one can take away from you, but as I walked around in Target yesterday with my son, I heard a woman talking to her young daughter saying something I have heard a hundred thousand times.

“If you go to school and get good grades, go to college and get an education, you’ll get a good job and you won’t need a boyfriend or a husband to get nice things.  You can have them all on your own!”

Yes, independence!  Great!  Education.  Great! But here’s the bullshit we are all fed from a young age.  “If you go to college, you can get a good job…”  I remember being told this when I was a kid.

I watched my dad come home from the coal mine, blowing black dust out of his nose, coughing his guts up every morning before he drove off to the pit in -30 F weather to work a ten hour shift.  He hated his job.  It was backbreaking work.  The money was good, but in a boom/bust lifestyle, it was difficult.

My mom got to see doors closed because the jobs she applied for were going to people with a Bachelor’s degree.  Later, in her 50s, she got a BA and by then, doors were getting closed on her because they were now looking for an MA to fill those positions.

My grandparents ran a trucking business, which they sold and retired on on their mid-50s.  They warned against running a business because it was so much work and so much of a hassle.  My great-grandpa had started the company and he had an eighth grade education.

I hear a lot of “You just can’t do that anymore.”

I have to wonder why.

Gatekeepers

I got to thinking about this as I walked around the place where I work.  My day job is at the same university where I got my BA.  I haven’t gone far, considering the job I worked as a student was just down the hall as a computer lab consultant.  I have 16 years in the same building right now.

I work with a population of older women who got jobs here when you only needed a high school degree to work as an office clerk.  Some of them have retired with 35+ years in their positions, accumulating a lot of work experience in what they do.  However, when they retire, the jobs are opened for people with BAs, MAs, and knowing a second language.  A lot of this is because as an institution of higher learning, we ought to at least look the part.

Office staff are “educated” while custodians, maintenance, and food staff are not.  The university is drinking its own Kool Aid.  The funny thing is that even though some of us “educated” employees are independent thinkers, have a wide range of talents and backgrounds, we are continually reminded of our place.

We don’t have letters after our names.  No Ph.Ds.  So when we are working or having a discussion, those who do get to be called upper administrators or faculty, they have no qualms with interrupting whatever is going on to get what they need done.  And you know what?  A lot of people are happy to allow this.

In this country, we stand in awe at those who have amassed an education.  We consider them our “experts” even though so much of what the news reports as breaking news is just gleaned from peer reviewed papers professors have to write to keep their jobs.  And a whole bunch of other professors can refute these papers and have their differing opinion published to keep their jobs.

Really what it boils down to is a lot of people who never had to graduate high school.  They make a comfortable living dispensing degrees and holding or shutting the gates on others as they see fit.  And who tells us an advanced degree is the best way to be successful in this country?

The higher education system.

Drinking the kool-aid

Think about that.  Remember when Phillip Morris used to tell us how healthy cigarettes were?  Or what about the companies that made margarine as a healthier alternate to butter?  This country is now polarized.

We see a lot of “woke” or educated people whose perception of common sense is vastly different than the salt of the earth people who still live here.  We are led to believe that Trump won the election because of Russian collusion, or maybe even racism.  I see more of an indoctrination of the “educated” who also tend to have more liberal leanings.  Because as a person who has been through the system, I can assure you that being told about my privilege, my whiteness, and my affluence is ruining the lives of the same people of color or those poor uneducated bastards who would love to be in college right now but can’t, just reminds me that people who bought into the lie of “get an education and you will get a good job” look down their noses at plumbers and electricians and people who own their own sanitation businesses.

While an “educated” man such as myself is paid less than a new hire with zero experience just coming into this institution. Much less than someone who sells beer to restaurants for a living. Because being saddled with $100k in student loan debt makes sense when you are getting a degree to teach English for $15 an hour.

I’m smarter than you so I know better

These are the “smart”people who plaster Facebook with diatribes of how the Right are Nazis.  Where did they learn that?  Because the people who didn’t go to college, usually don’t flex their intellectually superior nuts like that.

I walk on these grounds without concern, because I went through the system and I no longer hold it in the same awe as someone who didn’t.  Certainly not like that lady in Target.  I make a living from being here.  But I also know I am not a part of it other than a cog in the machine.  It exists because it reminds everyone how important it is.  How successful those at the top are.  How the idea of not having it limits capable people who are brilliant, but don’t have the degree to validate this.

But how important is it, really?

Does the professor calling a towtruck from the side of the road consider this whenever he gets a flat he has no idea how to fix on his own?

I can see why Mike Rowe made a whole living off telling people the importance of trade professions. Or maybe that’s how my lens is tinged because I’ve worked here for so long and see just how ridiculous it all is.

I have known people who make six figures who have considered themselves underachievers, because unlike me, they didn’t get their BA.  People, I went to college to make that kind of money and I probably never will.  Definitely not in my major’s field. Back in the day, I was told to better myself, just like that little girl, and that meant going in a different direction than what my parents did. That meant college.  What would my life have been like had I gone to a trade school, rather than driving a desk around people who are infinitely wiser just because they sat through six more years of school?

I’d probably be on vacation right now.  Running my own company.  Cashing checks.  That’s what people do who have worked a job for 20 years solid usually.  They aren’t just sitting down the hall from where they worked as a student.

If you are making a good living, regardless of where or if you went to college, you won.

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Deadlines and what it means to be Freelance

The other day, I visited my friendly local Starbucks.  Only because I was running late for work and didn’t have the half hour to drive to Dutch Bros.  There, I talked with Suzie the barista and caught up, since she hadn’t seen me in awhile.  She mentioned to one of the other baristas, a skinny college guy, that I was a writer and had my own travel blog.

I could tell from his reaction that he was an aspiring writer himself.  I offhandedly mentioned that I had five articles to write about boats, compasses, rigging, and PFDs.  Due on June 1st.  That’s today.

He said “I don’t write anything with deadlines.  I like to keep everything I do more freelance.”

Freelance.

You keep using this word, but I don’ think you know what this word means.

With his mindset, if that was how I wrote, the only thing true about “freelance” would be that I was writing everything for free.  Yes, I have written a book and many short stories that may as well have been for the love of writing.  But as a writer, as some point you might want to get paid doing what you love.  If you truly love it, then writing about clamps and pocketknives and boat rigging and asbestos testing won’t diminish your love of the craft.

It will get you out of a freaking office where everyone thinks you suck and one day you will die having nothing to show for it other than hemorrhoids and carpal tunnel syndrome.  At least as a writer, you get those, AND a sense of fulfillment.  You have created something.  That is rare in this world.

So, I just nodded and smiled because the kid is 20, maybe 21 and knows everything.  Just as I did at that age.  And it has taken me that much longer to understand that sometimes you don’t want to write the stuff that isn’t fun.  But when the checks come and you get to fly to London and dink around for nearly two weeks, it was worth all the stupid copy you had to write for companies.  It is an investment in getting to experience more of the world for the stories that matter.  Inspiring pieces that are beyond the scope of your imagination, which I gotta tell you, without inspiration from the outside, is pretty limited.

Anyway, enough procrastinating.  I have copy to write and maybe some stories.  Because that is what a freelancer really does.

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Making Progress (?)

The new website is still stalled.  Anytime I try working on it, I get some error telling me my IP address has been blocked by the firewall.  This is after two or three failed attempts to login, which turn into the black hole of resetting my password.  Then customer service with the hosting service just sends back a cursory “It’s fixed, try it now!” which is the equivalent of helping your dad work on the car and he yells out from under the hood “Okay, turn it over!” and then nothing happens.

I have been using WordPress to blog for a while.  LiveJournal before that.  And I am the guy who makes changes on the website for work.  But for the life of me, I cannot get this to work.  It is frustrating.  I am losing time I could be writing with fiddling around with authentications, email proxys, and DNS errors.

When people say, “Hey, Danger Harris!  Why don’t you work in IT?”  I have two responses to them.

First of all, “Danger” is my middle name.

And second, I don’t like the alphabet soup of IT.  Even the name of the profession is an abbreviated version we are forced to say.  I personally take offense at this.  I am a writer.  I write entire words (mostly) and sometimes I even make up words and slip them into the conversation.

Recently, I was commended on my invention of the word “Canadia.”  It means the same thing as Canada, but it is much more majestic.  One could say it is the most majesticalest.

But I digress.

Anyway, there are delays, but I haven’t given up hope. I have an entire week to work on the website and hopefully I can really get it going.  I might stick to more personal posts here or writing posts.  But the travel and adventure stuff is going to be at the new site.  Rest assured, I will promote the hell out of that.

It simply beats the idea of sitting around here at the dayjob, (which is not as sexy as it sounds) waiting for the day when my neck is on the chopping block.  They are laying off lower level admins.  Because cutting eleven jobs for people who make under $50k per year is going to fix a $10m per year deficit.  While the upper administrators who caused this mess all still have jobs and just happen to be the people who were at the helm for the last ten years, driving the ship straight into the iceberg.

When people caution me about leaving this place because of my retirement, I am reminded that the decision to stay won’t always be mine.  One day, like a couple friends of mine, I could get dismissed without warning and I would be in the same situation anyway.  Being let go is a lot more emotionally taxing than leaving.  The difference is control.  Would you rather be pushed into the swimming pool or dive in?

The end result is the same.  Uncharted territory.  Working on my own to build a business.  Maybe I will have success.  Maybe I won’t.  But I take the words of the Great One to heart.  “You miss 100% of every shot you don’t take.”  –Gretsky.

What I know is I can write.  I can observe.  I truly enjoy new experiences.  And I am young enough to be able to pull this off.

Ironically (to bash the dayjob) I am usually passed over for simple editing tasks or writing memos.  Because reasons.  The amount of condescension around here is enough to make me aspirate. (I’ll give you a minute.  Just flexing on my $5 words).  I write copy for companies that pay the company I write for around three times the amount they pay me for each of my assignments.  Why not work for myself?  It could be the greatest thing I’ve ever done for my writing career.

So, onward. Upward.  Everword.  TTFN.