Posted by: joha5 | April 21, 2010

Earning in Earnest

There is something to be said about not getting exactly what you want whenever you want it.  There is also something so incredibly rewarding about working really hard for something and feeling like you earned it.  Whether it is a college degree, a new cell phone, a vacation, or whatever; actually feeling like you earned something is much more gratifying than just receiving something for the sake of it.  I think that many people take this for granted and it can be really tough to witness. 

The sad thing is that this is truly evident almost everywhere you look – especially in Washington, D.C.  I will not sit here and say that I have worked for absolutely everything that I have received or that I haven’t been afforded advantages.  I have.  However, I have worked very hard to get a great many things in my life and I do my absolute best to not take anything for granted and can sometimes be almost too conscious about it. 

I was at work yesterday when I was asked to take care of some of my student’s phones while they went and played ultimate frisbee.  This group of 12, 13, and 14 year olds handed me their phones and ran off.  As I lay them next to me on the bench I noticed that these were extremely expensive phones.  There were Droids, iPhones, and Blackberries galore.  I know I should probably have expected this at a wealthy private school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. but for some reason it really shocked me.  I mean, having a cell phone in this day and age is to be expected.  It is necessary.  But without trying to sound old, bitter, and disenchanted, I just can’t figure out what it is they need them for at school everyday much less have the latest and most cutting edge technological advances on their phone.  Additionally, most of them were scratched up or had dents and cracks all over them.  I suppose people look at these things differently than they did when I was growing up.  back then it was a luxury.  Today it is mandatory.  I suppose I just wanted to see one that was gorgeous and pristine because then I could have thought ‘Wow.  That person really cares and is thankful for the fact that they have something so nice.’

I couldn’t help but think back to when I was 15 – just a year older than most of them – and I started working at Hollywood Video down the street from my house.  It was absolutely miserable.  It was open until 2am almost every night.  The work was tedious and boring.  The customers were rude and I often just wanted to be out of there and hanging out with my friend’s instead of plugging away for $5.15 an hour watching the same damn films on repeat over and over and over again.  My work was vindicated though every other Friday when I got that paycheck.  I would rip it open with my awkward 15-year-old hands and exalt about how much money I had earned.  It all seemed like so much money back then.  $300 one check.  $180 the next.  Maybe $400 or so if I was lucky.  But it was all mine

As a consequence, I guarded it and I guarded it tightly.  I would put it in savings.  I would try not to waste it on silly things.  And I would watch my bank account grow.  But when I did spend it on a computer game or a night out with friends or whatever, that game or that experience became the embodiment of my work.  I had traded my blood, sweat, and tears in order to do something or to have something that I really enjoyed.  Thus, I treated those computer games well.  I put them in their case when I wasn’t playing it and I would put it back on the shelf.  I enjoyed going out with my friend’s to the movies just that extra bit more knowing that I could buy a large popcorn if I wanted and not ask my mom for money. 

I don’t begrudge these students – much less anybody – for what they have.  I am no better and no worse than they are and my life isn’t necessarily richer due to the fact that I don’t have all of the creature comforts that I crave.  I would love a new car, a high paying job, the latest technology in my home, expensive vacations, new toys, etc.  I, for better or for worse, almost always have to work very hard to receive these pleasures.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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