I had a brief late night text conversation with another worker that I’ve been in contact with over the last few weeks and he said something that really made me look back on things…and I agreed.
I dropped out of high school in the twelfth grade for my own personal reasons and went to work. At 17 I didn’t know shit, but I was working full time and making money. By the time I was 19 I was working for a trucking company operating a forklift, a yard switcher and running a container yard. I was doing ok.
My dad always pushed that I needed to work my way up, get into management, sort of implying I get a “real” job. It seemed that everyone I knew had the same idea. I believed him and everyone else.
At the age of 23 that opportunity presented itself, and from years of being conditioned to think that’s what I had to do, I accepted. After about a month I hated it and couldn’t accept the fact that I was in charge of anyone. I couldn’t be a boss. I made every excuse to get back out into the yard switcher or on a forklift just so I could get out of that fucking office. Shortly after, I left the office and went back to what I was doing for a few more short months until I was let go and the company eventually closed. Ten years and now I had to start all over.
I had a choice. Being that I was still pretty young with a lot of experience, I could have looked into management again. That’s what everyone was telling me I should do. My other choice was to get a commercial license and drive a tractor trailer, which I already knew how to drive. I chose the latter because I couldn’t imagine myself being in management, especially after my short attempt. Also, after being in this industry for ten years, driving a truck seemed so much more important.
After submitting a ton of applications I was finally hired as a truck driver. It was a good job and paid much more than I had ever made… and I was a Teamster now too. I was so proud!! I put some time in and slowly climbed up the seniority list and felt I was really making it. Then the company closed and I found myself in the position of starting all over, again.
I found another job in my local. The work was harder but the money was good. I climbed my way back up the seniority list and things were good until that ended and I had to start over once again.
I’ve gone through this several times over the years, starting over, and I’m not young anymore. My body aches and the work always seems to get harder and harder. It never gets easier.
Over the years I’ve made a decent life for myself but it’s never been easy. It’s been quite hard actually and my body and my life have paid a toll because of it. At the same time I’ve always felt like I was contributing and the job I did was necessary to society.
I often wonder what would have happened had I pursued a management career and then I think of what Robert said (the dude I was texting). He has a much different story but yet somehow it’s the same. Both of us, and many more, took what society would consider “the hard road.” We could have made a different choice and perhaps had it much easier. Instead it’s been a constant struggle of two steps forward and one step back.
He said to me, in spite of all the shit he’s been through, that he wouldn’t change a thing. I agreed, and his response was, at least someone else gets it. I get it.
It’s a hard life and a rotten system, but as far as what I do and the choices I’ve made, I wouldn’t change a thing either.
(Chris, Nov. 28, 2016)