Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Most of you know where I grew up. If not, my hometown can be expressed by lyrics from most country songs, "A little bit of chicken, fried. Cold beer on a Friday night."  Or any part from "Fishin' in the dark." Or "Country folks can survive."

And if you ain't into that, I don't give a damn.

I grew up understanding that a person's worth was dependent on his work, not the money he had. That anyone who comes home sweaty and sunburnt has done real work. Someone who has callused hands and a tired back is someone you can depend on.  Of course no one ever said this to me. But I saw my dad come home from his days at MoDot. His shirt sleeves ripped off at the shoulders and the smell of road tar, burned skin, and sweat filling the house when he slammed the door, poured an ice tea,  and asked about dinner. 

And though Mom didn't work outside, she taught me that working hard every day, no matter what, is what makes a person a whole, dependable person. She never really took a day off, and when she did, she felt guilty about it. For nine years she worked at the school's kitchen, a hot and horrible place, so she could be off with me in the summers.

My parents never took time off from work unless it had to do with me. Never a sick day. Never a "mental health" day. They both went in early and took shorter breaks than everyone, if they took breaks at all. 

Because of those lessons, I started working when I was sixteen. It was out at the Readsville store. This place was opened sometime in the 20's, and when I worked there, it looked about the same except for a t.v., and phone. My job was to check out customers, fish out the minnows for bait, make ham sandwiches, and sometimes pump gas. There were days when just a few people stopped by., so my day was filled with watching videos (on VHS) or soap operas (since those were the stations that came in). There were days when old men would slap my ass and and tell me to make a sandwich for them. "You know what I want."

I've had a job since. Even in college, I worked 30-40 hours a week. I think the longest I've been without work is 3 weeks. I'm lucky that way. Very lucky. 

But since I learned that the most important thing is a job that pays any kind of money, I've taken any kind of job. I collected pee at the nuclear plant for a while. The last  job I had as an office manager/receptionist was awful, but I hung in there because I have a kid and it paid more than any job I've ever had. Yes. Including teaching at universities. 

And that's really what I'm writing about. My parents had shitty jobs. Or jobs they hated... for me. To feed me and clothe me and take me to ball games and dance and all that. Since Cyrus, I've tried to think of jobs that way, too. I can't have any 'ole job because I have to pay for his daycare and the food that goes in his tube, and the medical bills are stacking up. I have to have work all the time to support him. And I've stayed longer at jobs that made me feel horrible because it was more important that I have a job than be happy. The fact that I quit what most would consider a cushy job teaching (and having summers off) was confusing to my parents. It took the Holzhauser in me one year to talk myself into leaving because I didn't really like it. After working just a few weeks at an office job, I nearly quit, but the Holzhauser in me made me stay. For Cyrus. Because, Christina, having a job is what is important. Your happiness doesn't matter. Cyrus' happiness is what matters.

When I took this last archaeology job, I was elated. I was never as happy as when I sweat for my money, digging holes all over. The job was supposed to last a month, 60 hours a week. Lots of over time. My plan was to work hard so I could come home and spend a whole month with Cyrus without work. Unfortunately, the job didn't last as long as it was supposed to. I was offered other archaeology jobs, but being away from Cyrus, well, it's not easy on anyone.  But right now, it's really my only way of earning enough money for him. 

So, there's my struggle. I'm washing dishes right now at a nice restaurant in town. Three days a week. The dinner shift. It's not enough to even pay my rent and hurts like archaeology. I like it, though. I wish it came with more money. 

I've applied to a lot of jobs. Jobs that require no experience, jobs that are just perfect for me and my career, jobs that look awful. I blew one phone interview just a month or so ago because I had the flu and thought I was fine to talk on the phone. 

Something I always struggled to explain to my students is that having a degree or two doesn't automatically improve your income or your chances of finding a job. I've considered lying on some applications. I could say I just have a high school diploma or maybe just a bachelors. Being over educated can be a problem, you know.  

I know, boo-hoo, Christina, you have an education. First world problems. All that. But I'm still paying monthly for that education, and so far the jobs I've landed with that degree haven't been able to pay me enough for me to pay all that off. The Holzhauser in me tells me I shouldn't've quit teaching, even though I was miserable with my job there. The Holzhauser in me says I shouldn't've quit this last office job (well, I actually got fired at the last minute, but that's another story). The Holzhauser in me tells me to take more archaeology jobs to pay for my kid, but it also says to work any job so I can spend more time with him.

It's incredibly frustrating because I've worked hard my whole life. I went out and got educated, just like society told me to do. Just like my former students were trying to do.

We're taught that more education means more money. I was never good at math, so I need someone to explain to me how that formula works. 

Of course, I don't think that my job is my life. That's why I held on to the last one for 6 months. To me, it was a place to go to get money. I know that's how most of us function in our jobs.  But, there is always a point where it becomes too much. When we'd like those 40+ hours a week to be meaningful and fulfilling.

I guess that's another formula I'll have to figure out.

UAF Museum of the North, 2005.
(Author note: The Holzhauser in me has held on to this blog for a week or two. I keep thinking about posting and then quitting because I sound like such a little dick. Ultimately, I've decided to go ahead because maybe there are others out there who feel the same way.)

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