Tall Tales of the Trade

In the modern world, students are pushed and prodded to excel at their academics. To be the best of the best and get into the biggest ivy league school they can get into. Our society has put such a weight onto the backs of students to not just get through high school Suma Cum Laude but to be Harvard and Princeton honors as well that it’s almost insane to think of doing anything but that.

Getting a good job isn’t, well, good enough for the world anymore. They want us to be college graduates with masters degrees and honors certificates out the behind.

Why? Well, I had an experience at work today which I think explains it.

For those unfamiliar with me, I work full-time at a salon doing hair everyday. A fairly modest job, but I worked quite hard to get licensed for it. Regardless – I do hair, and today I was doing just that. Now I had a lovely guest in my chair, a woman whom I shall refer to here on out as Charlene. As I was chatting with Charlene and creating her style she started to tell me of her nephew.

Charlene, “My nephew has been thinking about becoming a stylist.”
Myself, “Oh really? That’s cool, it’s a very fun job!”
Charlene, “I’ve been discouraging him from doing it, though.”
Myself, “What? Why?”
Charlene, “I want him to be successful.”

Charlene went on to tell me how no one can be successful doing hair unless you’re in New York and you do hair for celebrities and TV shows. All this as I, the apparently unsuccessful stylist, was cutting her hair. Now I don’t make six figure, but I don’t struggle to pay my bills, I have plenty to eat and I have clothes on my back. Hell, I have money for luxury goods as well. So why the hell am I, and even my colleagues, aren’t successful.

I even tried to express to her the success of some of my colleagues – but no. To Charlene working the trade of hair styling meant you were unsuccessful. It hit me hours later, but I realized why she thought that.

Because working trade means working dumb to her.

And, I would bet at least, to most everyone else it means the same thing. I mean, how many of us hear “hairstylist” and think of the classic beauty school dropout girl from Grease?

Image result for beauty school dropout grease

“Beauty School Dropout… Go Back to Highschool”

Hell, even I used to think that before I ended up at beauty school (and absolutely  loving every second of it). Come to think of it, we as a society think this way about a lot of trade practices. Electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and just about anyone who doesn’t need a degree to do the job they do. It’s always assumed that if you don’t go to college you’re either lazy or stupid. Which is ridiculous considering how much work and effort it takes to do these jobs.

So why do we insist on everyone going straight to four, six, eight year colleges to get degrees for jobs they might not get for paychecks they might not earn. Well, after bidding goodbye to Charlene and having some time to think about it – I’ve got the answer.

We are vain.

Even if being a plumber could bring you home six figures, people don’t do it because it isn’t “glamorous”. A PhD sounds more impressive than an official license and years of skills. Yet when things go wrong it’s our trade professionals saving the day.

I know stylists who’ll wake up at 5 in the morning, pack their kits and rush to meet a loyal guest to fix their hair for an emergency family meeting. I know electricians who never truly clock off, because even on their “off” days someone will ask them for help and they’ll do just that.

Trades run the country in the background while no one else is paying attention. These jobs are hard, you work long hours and you destroy your body doing it. Don’t believe me? Google “health risks + hairstylist” or any other trade of your choice.

Workers of trades destroy themselves for everyone else, and constantly the societal view is pushed upon us that we aren’t important. It happens everyday when parents tell their children they need to go to college or they’ll end up plumbers. You need to study or you’ll end up changing peoples oil. Why do we fear that line of work?

Of course, I’m not trying to discredit our college graduates, or our PhD applicants. They work hard as well, but my point is in fact that we need to stop discrediting our trade pros. Their work built the world and it keeps the world running. Let our children become electricians, plumbers and yes, Charlene, – hairstylists.

Sure coming home covered in hair and product isn’t quite that wonderful (and honestly, if you could see my lint catch on the dryer you’d be horrified) but my job is so fulfilling. And I’m sure the people who come home covered in oil or dirt feel that same sense of fulfillment. Likewise, I would hope our college grads feel that as well but we need to stop this idea that you have to be a college grad to be successful and happy with your life.

I’m tired of asking people what they do for a living and hearing their voice quiet down – to hear them almost sound ashamed of the hard, honest work just because it didn’t require four years of college to get there. Besides it isn’t as if doing one prevents you from doing the other. A trade job specialist could one day go back and get a degree, paid for without loans thanks to their trade – and the opposite is  true for a college kid, getting a trade skill years down the line.

Our world has come to far to look down on others for the work they do to keep us all chugging along. It’s a difficult world as it is, we don’t need to separate ourselves because of what type of skill set we invested our lives and bodies in.

Don’t let societies expectations rule how you will live your life.

More later, but signing off for now –
P. Anthony


About P. Anthony

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