My adolescence leading up to college was pretty much your utopian dream of a childhood. No broken home, no tragic deaths, no real hardships in general. My father was a deputy (now a state detective) and my mother is still a Registered Nurse; typical nine to five jobs that put food on the table and clothes on my back. I never worked hard for my grades because it always came naturally. A’s and B’s were expected and it was not a problem to achieve. My dad came from a poor family and my mother came from a broken home. My childhood did not relate to theirs a great deal. Unlike me, they had to work for every penny they’ve ever earned since they were freshmen in high school. It wasn’t until this past summer after my freshman year that I learned the living definition of hard work. Of course I had jobs in the past, but it was nothing more than working in a clothing store or filing papers. Every now and then I did some landscaping for my family but it was usually at my own pace. It was not until about four months ago that my understanding of hard work changed.
Luckily Miami operates on the semester system, so I got first crack at most of the summer jobs in my hometown while several of my friends were still stuck in a classroom. Much to my surprise there wasn’t a damn thing available. I originally wanted to work at a video store or department store; anything but the food industry. I put in about twenty applications around town ranging from Blockbuster to Lowe’s and Staples to GameStop before I got a phone call. After a ten minute interview, I was a newly hired employee at Grand Rental Station. Grand Rental rented out everything needed for a party. Tents, chairs, tables, dance floor, coolers, and fine china were available for rent. Our job was to deliver and set up these items all over southwest Ohio. It may sound like an easy job, but trust me it is not. The typical day consisted of waking up around 6 a.m., heading out to the first job with my crew of about five guys, and working until 7 p.m. When I arrived on the first day I immediately felt out of place. I was surrounded by guys that did not go to college; Guys that dropped out of high school and had regular brushes with the law. I did not feel welcome. I came into the job thinking I would be setting up chairs and tables or running errands in the company truck. I soon found out that we set up tents for company picnics, weddings, and graduations. Now it may sound like a job for a carnie, but it’s much different than that. All day we set up tents ranging from ten foot by ten foot to sixty foot by two hundred foot. Each tent bag weighed about three hundred pounds or more depending on the size not to mention we used thirty pound stakes to secure the tent. Of course we did not get to use a jackhammer very often to drive those things (it broke down early in the summer), we used a good ole’ fashioned sledge hammer. And who do you think was assigned the most grueling job coming straight out of college? That’s right, me. Roughly from sun up to sun down I sledged stakes into the dirt and even through asphalt parking lots if need be. Talk about exhaustion. After the tent was up and everyone was completely wiped out, it was either time to haul the chairs and tables under the tent or move on to the next job site to set up another. Day in day out I felt exhausted. I would come home covered in dirt and smelling horribly. For the first time in my life I learned about hard work. I learned that nothing is free. By realizing what those men did every day to put food on the table and give their families everything they never had I grasped a greater understanding of how the world works.
Although I complained from time to time while my friends were hanging out and swimming all day, I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I started that job last May at eight dollars an hour. Two months later I got a dollar raise and was offered thirteen an hour if I came back next summer. I learned quickly that hard work pays off. The worst part about it in my opinion revolved around the full time employees. I knew how much the job demanded day in, day out, but knowing that I’d be back at school in three months was the light at the end of my tunnel. Those guys didn’t have that light. They were going to work for those bum paychecks fifty-two weeks a year. Many people would argue that it’s their fault for choosing that life and not getting an education. Others will argue that anyone can do manual labor, but not everyone can be a stock broker or business executive. I am here to tell you that not everyone could perform this particular job day after day. The physical toll it takes on your body could not be handled by just anyone. Now I see the bigger picture after experiencing hard work first-hand. If it wasn’t for the people working grueling jobs in the hot sun all day, the highly educated upper class would not have the luxury to do as they pleased. Maybe setting up tents does not make the world go around, but it’s the people like them that make it possible for others to drive their cars and have heating.
At the end of the summer, I had made new friends from a different background than me. Friends that were not blessed with all the luxuries I have. As I walked out of there on my last day of work I felt like I left a piece of myself in that warehouse. I learned from them that I had a lot in common with men I shared no experiences with and they learned that not every college frat boy is afraid to get his hands dirty. Before I left to come back I heard what every son wants to hear from his parents. They told me how proud they were of me for sticking with my job. They saw the job take the energy out of me every day. They saw me go to bed at 9 p.m. which hasn’t happened for about eight years. They saw me learn the value of the almighty dollar. I gained more than just a couple grand this summer. I gained respect, learned responsibility, and matured far beyond what I expected. I cannot say enough about my co-workers from this past summer. They are one of my contributing factors in regards to school, because it made me realize that working jobs like that is the alternative option to a college education. It is because of those special people that I believe in hard work.