A Love Letter To My Blue Collar Upbringing

The hospitality industry employs dreamers, creatives, and vagabonds. Some are educated and some not, all in the service of mankind. The industry we all believed was indestructible has fallen on hard times and I find myself unemployed. The career I poured my heart into is currently suspended in the air and I’m holding my breath waiting for its return. Current events beg the question does a career make the person or are we all just playing pretend?

I was 9 years old and a feeling of shame washed over me on career day. My teacher spoke about noteworthy careers: doctor, lawyer, and teacher among them. My daddy was a postal worker, my mama stayed at home working assorted jobs that would permit her to be available to my sister and me. Francesca at 9 years old didn’t value those careers to the degree she should have. Social pressure and need for approval won out over gratitude and reason.

My parents have a warrior work ethic. Dad received two master’s degrees after turning 40 and is a teacher now in addition to his five other jobs. Cutting grass with him in the summertime since I was 12 was the most formidable work experience of my life. Do the work, even the unglamorous work, he would say. Mama attends to everyone in our family, pseudo parents the young teachers in her school, and pours most if not all of her energy into the welfare of my sister and me. She never tires.

In elementary school, I wasn’t evolved enough to advocate for my parents. The suggestion that white-collar careers are superior committed me to a lifelong attachment to goal-oriented values. I was tethered to good grades, accolades, and enough extracurricular activities to get into Georgetown. My blue-collar parents worked to their bones to send me to college and are still laden with loans from the pursuit. But it was their joy to do it. And it was my joy to go; I won’t argue that.

In the blink of an eye though, schools are closed, theaters have shut down, and we cannot spend time with friends over coffee. Michelin-starred restaurants and corner bar alike are out of business leaving flocks of people without income. Grocery workers and civil servants are rightfully elevated to hero status and the white-collared are safely in their homes learning what it’s like to be stay at home parents.

We subscribe to stories that hold so much weight we are unable to see outside their influence. A 9-year-old may not realize the heroism of a stay at home mom and a postal worker dad. A grown woman won’t feel worthy because her whole life she sought stability and structure through grades and pay. I am feeling my way through a new normal this evening with my feet up and no alarm set. Tomorrow’s another day, but first I’ll call my parents and say thanks.