Several decades ago, it used to be the case that it was possible not only to live a decent life, but even raise a family on a single, blue-collar income. Where I’m from, in Michigan, that meant a lot of folks worked for an automaker for about forty years, and could buy a home, retire, get healthcare, and send their kids to college if they so chose.
That system, of the family income, certainly had its downsides: I’m not a fan that it cast a lot of women as housewives not of their own free will, for example. But, the security of a single income that was stable and sure was a great thing for peace of mind. In my lifetime, (I was born in the early 90s), I’ve witnessed two major recessions, a few minor ones, a global pandemic, and wars that have lasted generations. The surety of a single-income household has not been the reality for a while now, and I think, as men if we want to provide, we have to have multiple streams of income.
Job Markets are UNcertain
When I was a kid, construction looked like it was going to be the best job anyone could hope for. I loved, and still love, making things with my hands that are not just good enough, but truly beautiful and durable. The jobs were good and somewhat plentiful. At 13, my after-school and summer job, mostly framing and installing cabinetry, doors, and trim, was skilled, paid labor. I was lucky to work with experienced and generous subcontractors who taught me a lot, and, as soon as I showed I could make a kitchen about perfect, I was paid as well as they were.
Then 2008 happened. The jobs dried up completely. What was once my after-school job for fun money became one of the only ways I was able to get through undergraduate with a loan burden I might be able to pay off before my kids go to college.
Now, I’m a teacher. But, with education under threat in a lot of states as a pawn in bigger political games, I’m very glad that I know how to hang a cabinet, and, now I can speak a few languages that are pretty common in the trades.
Novelty is a good thing!
I am very often busy. But, thankfully, I’m never bored at work. I love being a teacher and a scholar, but there are, of course, things I don’t like about the academic world. Especially in my field, philosophy, people have a tendency to use language that is not only pretentious but, in my view, gets in the way of making sense out of complicated ideas, which is the point of philosophy in the first place.
For me, the opportunity to write in places like this one is a very different task: here, I want to engage with you as a reader and give you, I hope, something to think about on your way to work or while you walk the dog. That means clear, no-nonsense writing that’s inviting without talking down to you. I want you to understand what I’m saying and have thoughts of your own. When I go back to academic writing during the school day, I find that those good writing habits stick with me, and it’s begun to get me fairly wide-ranging praise in academia for clarity.
Getting out of one job and set of routines keep things fresh, and it allows you to look at everything you do in a different light that might well make you better at all of the things that you need to get done.