"No offense, Mom, but I don't want to end up working at a factory like you and dad," said one of my teenagers to me, though I'm sure the other one feels the same sentiment.
"I agree. I want you to soar higher than we did. And that's why we work at this job, so we can help support you pursue your education and aspirations," I replied in my bestest non-lecturey-mom'ish voice.
"I'd love for you to have a job that doesn't require a hairnet," I joked.
Oh, the idealism of youth. I totally remember being a teenager and SWEARING that I would not end up like my parents. Their jobs seemed so.... boring... and meaningless. I wanted to change the world and leave my mark, and clocking in at some cog-in-the-wheel repetitive work position seemed like a sentence to the lowest hell in life.
"Your story matters," reads a magnet I have hung on my locker at work. It is with strategic intention that I posted this on my locker within the first two weeks after being hired at the cookie factory. I need frequent reminders, so much so that I am considering having it tattooed on my forehead in reverse in order that everytime I look in the mirror I will see those life-empowering words blazing from my hair-netted face.
It is a paradox that is wrecking my youthful complexion as worry lines deepen. I am encouraging my teenagers to go after what fires them up, to journey towards what excites them and engages the depths of their imagination and vision. Yet when it comes to me and my kind--middle-aged workers in the shadowlands of a recessed economy--I struggle to remember my dreams as I settle down into contentment that I at least have a good paying job.
But then again, perhaps my dreams have evolved. What was passion in my teens and thirties has decomposed into new forms. I have dreamt of the writing life for years. Today I am happy if I manage to get one or two blog posts out a week and a few journal entries. I dream hard of being able to support my kids as they thoughtfully pursue higher education and explore the world with new-found independence and the exuberance that comes with it. Like any mom, I want my kids to shine like stars in the night sky. I want them to leave their mark any way and anywhere they want on this big blue marble called earth. (just as long as they come back home to put their roots down after the wanderlust runs out)
My mark, as it were, is found in the mundane rhythm of showing up and the git-er-dun American-style work ethic. It's not a bad thing. It's just a different....dream... I've traded my crown of glory for a hair net and a blue shirt with my name patched on it.
"Well, if by the time you're thirty you are unable to settle into the dream job you hope for, apply at the factory. Wages are good, and it's honest, hard work. Not a bad job if other doors don't open," I told my college sophomore daughter who is paying attention to the job market and new normal of the American economy and as a result frets about what the future may hold for her. "Life is what we make it," I continued, again trying my very best not to sermonize cuz God knows as well as my kids that I can get my preach on faster than a just mopped kitchen floor getting muddied up before it's dry.
"Yeah, I know, Mom," she says with hopefulness that all is well and all shall be well and that her world will be brighter and shinier no matter where she lands. Her story matters... as does mine, even with a hair net.