This article is not about parenting or anything related to parenting, per se. I suppose I’m breaking the rules of the website but I had a thought I’ve been chewing around lately and wanted to record for posterity. And it is MY website so I’ll say what I want to say. LOL. This is my sad little version of creative freedom…
The old trope goes: “Study hard, kids, so you don’t grow up to be a bus driver!”
… (The other old trope goes: “Don’t live in a van down by the river!” Although living in a van is considered cool now.)
Well, I worked at a bus yard five years ago and I look back fondly on the experience.
The job itself was tedious but the people I worked with made the time interesting. We spent our days carting folks through the hilly labyrinth of San Francisco traffic, dealing with all sorts of obstacles and personalities along the way. Not a glamorous or distinguished job for a second, but among us were the most fascinating folks. And I’m not talking about the colorful denizens of San Francisco. That’s a topic for a whole other post. I’m talking about the drivers.
We had on staff folks from so many different places and cultures. Many of our drivers were immigrants who had moved here from countries such as China, The Philippines, and Honduras to pursue the American Dream and make better lives for their families.
Many of our employees had other jobs outside of driving busses. One of our drivers was a caretaker for the elderly. One of our employees moonlit as the bass player in a Cuban funk band. And another one of our drivers was a CrossFit enthusiast who also claimed the title of World’s Best Dad. We had amongst us a few athletes. We had students working their way through school, and several proud veterans of various military branches.
We even had a driver on staff whose pencil drawings were so intricate and hyperreal that they were nearly indecipherable from photographs. This person ended up becoming my best friend, Dave. He still does his art on the side, but he makes good money as a commercial truck driver based out of Oakland now.
And what was I doing in the bus yard days? I was attending night school to learn graphic design and spending a good deal of time volunteering with CASA each weekend. It was a pretty decent work-education-life balance.
Yes, we all worked out of a grimy old bus yard. But we were not defined by our job titles.
We were defined instead by our interests, experiences, passions and pursuits. And this was the best group of people that you could ever pull together for a bbq, which we often did.
After this job, I found work at an art gallery on Fisherman’s Wharf. My role here was more challenging and the office itself – with its gorgeous view of fishing boats bobbing gently on the Bay – just couldn’t be beat.
While I worked at the gallery, we had a stock boy on staff whom I knew was good with Photoshop. We had discussed it in passing here and there. What I didn’t realize though, was that he was an extremely talented photographer on the side. All the time that he was working with us, he was quietly and humbly hustling to build his own photography business.
Yes, he was a stock boy, but he was also an entrepreneur.
I follow his business on Facebook now and I’m so inspired that he was able to turn his passion into a thriving career. He didn’t come from easy beginnings. He wasn’t able to attend a fancy art school, intern, and place himself in the right network to bolster his career. He had to work hard, take care of his family, and figure out a much more circuitous route to success.
…Say what you will about these “darn millennials,” but I see at least two things that this generation is getting right.
The first is a rising awareness of class privilege and the fact that we all start this ridiculous race from different points along the track. The second is a widespread reexamination of the old institutions that no longer work as they once did.
It’s no longer the traditional formula: study hard + attend a good school + find the perfect spouse = “success,” the white picket fence and the gold retirement watch. The dream that we were sold in the nineties. As a college education becomes more expensive and less attainable each year, the times they are a changin’!
I’d argue that in some ways, society is becoming more creative as a result. As a country, we are definitely becoming more self aware.
Now let’s contrast this with the hot millennial meme, “Karen.” She embodies everything that we now love to hate. She’s privileged, entitled, and totally clueless. She waves the flag for old class divisions, looks down on the people who serve her and sees them as nothing more than their job titles.
She judges others based on what they can provide for her, rather than viewing everybody as human beings with inherent self worth. In short, she’s a narcissist, and anyone who’s worked in the service industry will tell you that they can see her bad energy coming from a mile away.
… So what does this all add up to? My final thought as I chew all these ideas around?
We are redefining success, and it’s no longer: Don’t grow up to be a bus driver!
It’s instead: Don’t grow up to be a Karen!* And that, I think, is a very good thing.
*Unless your name actually IS Karen, in which case, sorry about the meme!