I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve had people make a big deal out of the fact that my husband doesn’t have a college degree. Almost always I hear, “What if something happens? What if he gets injured? Or fired?” When I was in graduate school, disclosure of this fact often earned me raised eyebrows, followed by a snooty “Oh.” Even the Army makes a fairly clear distinction between blue-collar and white-collar positions: there are enlisted soldiers, and commissioned officers. (There are exceptions, of course.) My husband and I even had to work on my own family a bit in order to stop hearing, “But he’s not college-educated.”
Why does our society have such an aversion to the blue-collar worker? What about a hard working person, without a traditional education is so terrifying?
My blue-collar husband is amazing. Physical. And smart. His resume certainly looks a lot different from my own — but what stands out to me, more than any specific skill or certification, is this: the man can do anything. Learn anything. Be anything. Now nearly 30, we joke that he’s simply going to fall on an engineering degree, thanks in part to the generosity of a former employer. And if that indeed happens, we will both be proud. But I’m fairly certain, as our life together moves forward, that we will look back on this season of our life with pride … degree or no degree.
I think some people are scared of the successful blue-collar worker because this success goes against what our generation of Americans was told, that to “go anywhere in life,” you must have a 4-year degree in hand. I’ve even talked to people who told me we won’t make it. That sometime, somewhere along the way, failure is inevitable, because he needs a college degree. More often than not, I think roughnecking just doesn’t fit into their definition of success. It’s not how it’s done. It confuses them. Maybe even makes them angry.
It’s difficult to measure up to an invisible standard. It’s easy to get caught up in societal expectations, instead of celebrating those who choose a different way, and find that the path suits them perfectly. When you really think about it, isn’t that the true American Way? Hard work? Taking pride in the hours spent away from family and friends? Working to live, instead of living to work?
His office is a corner of our garage. You won’t find manila envelopes and fancy pens, but old hard hats, clean coveralls, and boots practically worn to dust (that neither of us can quite bring ourselves to throw away). In the driveway you’ll find a truck, caked with mud when he’s just come home — full of calculations written in company notebooks, duffel bags of laundry, and favorite family photos, faded by the sun.
One of the greatest blessings in my life, is my blue-collar husband. I’m so very, very proud of him.
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Follow along with the Mitchell family’s “blue-collar” life here.