I don’t recall anyone ever asking me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The usual, tired mantras, espoused by parents and teachers alike, were rooted in an unchallengeable work ethic. Keep your head down, keep your nose clean – easier said than done, whilst pressed hard against the grindstone – and learn, learn, learn.
Frankly, much of the last part was lost on me, as it was on many of my contemporaries. The incentives to learn were not so clearly explained in those days, and academic apathy combined with painfully narrow horizons, resulted in many of my cohort stumbling out of school, into a fug of employment possibilities filed under ‘Dead End’.
I recall someone I had an appointment with, a nonchalant woman – I don’t think the term ‘Career Advisor’ had been invented then – who offered me 17 ‘possibilities’ from her card-index of jobs. The options were hardly mouth-watering. Making wooden crates for a packaging company, creosoting railway sleepers, carpet factory, etc, etc. Eventually I settled for an apprenticeship with an agricultural engineering firm. Well, why wouldn’t I? I’d be working outside, undoing nuts and bolts and, most importantly, I’d be out of the classroom and into a world that was suddenly adorned with prospects. Although, a career wasn’t among them. Within four months of breaking free from education, I was already in my second job.
I hope I don’t come across as someone who’s feeling short-changed in any way. It was what it was, and I’d probably take the same path all over again. There have been some moments worth reliving.
What triggered this line of thought? Well, it was something that our twin grand-daughter, Thing 2, said when she stopped over, recently. “My friend told me, her mummy’s a doctor. I told my friend, my mummy’s a worker.”
Great, isn’t it? Kids draw little or no distinction between the lady that saves lives, and the lady that serves school lunches. The truth is, both women play important roles, and do valuable work. It’s a thought worth holding on to, and I’m confident that Thing 2 and her sisters will grow up with a much clearer idea of how different people contribute to society, and how society regards them, in turn.