During my senior/18th year growing up in Sacramento, I pumped gas, washed cars, parked cars, waxed and rented skis, photographed properties for my uncle's real estate business and girls at my high school who needed photos for their modeling portfolios, and, as mentioned in a recent blog, collated-folded-sorted-stuffed papers in the bindery at a printing plant. (I should note that at 18 I assumed I was going to be a professional photographer….)
My son Whitman has no job but sells things through eBay and other venues, demonstrating a sometimes shockingly modern entrepreneurial ability to buy, trade, sell—and earn. On a good day, he makes more with a few keystrokes than I ever earned in an eight-hour day. It somehow represents the changing nature of work. When I ask him about all this, he grins and takes an almost paternal tone of patience while trying to exlpain the modern world of digital commerce to me.
The article paints a portrait of a world that could not be more different than the world my father stepped into at 18, taking a job at a place (the Office of State Printing) where he would work for the next 38 years until he retired (early due to cancer). And shockingly different than the world my father-in-law Melvin occupied at 18 as he prepared to ship out to China during World War Two (his brothers going to Omaha Beach and the Alusian Islands).
I want to say I am worried about the young men I teach, and I suppose I am; but I also find them all good young men who seem not to turn away from work. What I do know is that the world is not waiting with open arms and easy jobs as it was for me, my father, or my father-in-law when they were the same age.
It was, of course, a different world then. Now we must help our sons and students learn to live in this world, a world where women and my female students appear to be much more at home and willing to do what they must to make a living so that when the work day's done they can then make a life.