against the odds, hope wins!

yesterday’s weepy messiness continued through the afternoon, culminating with me accidentally slicing my fingertip on a knife while washing dishes.  the ensuing blood and loud swearing made me feel a bit better, as did the event that immediate followed:  i got a call from the local college, saying that they’d had a student drop out of the electrical foundation program, and asking if i’d like the spot.


it starts the first week of august:  less than a month from now.  holy fuck.

to be clear, i’m elated:  while the program doesn’t guarantee me a career as an electrician, it’s a great introduction and also an opportunity to find out if i’d like to pursue the whole apprenticeship-to-journey-ticket adventure.  when my spot on the waitlist was confirmed back in may, i was told that it would likely be 8 to 12 months before there’d be room for me.  still i was hopeful, because when oats and i attended the college info session back in february, they’d mentioned that there’s often a burst of intakes at the start of august and december, simply because fewer students are ready at those  times of year.  against the odds, hope wins!

i’m also feeling a mixed sort of sadness.  this time last year, on my birthday, i’d made it to the top of the waitlist of canada’s most prestigious urban planning masters program and was awaiting a phone call similar to the one i got yesterday, telling me that i had to get myself packed up and moved to vancouver so that i could begin my new life as a graduate student.  that phone call never came.  now, i’m very glad that it didn’t because if i’d left i’d never have gotten together with oats, and i wouldn’t have gone to australia, and i wouldn’t have done a lot of other rad stuff that made my 27th year absolutely excellent.  aside from that, my professor and mentor at the local university told me that i’d have been eaten alive in that masters program, because they have little room for politics such as mine.

so, really, it all worked out for the best.

and yet it’s a goodbye of sorts, or at least a see-ya-later:  to my academic life, to the vision of myself as a future university professor, to the classist notions that have surrounded me as a kid growing up among the intelligentsia.  even this morning, when my mom called to say happy birthday and i told her the good news, she made a joke about how this’ll be great because someday i’ll be able to wire my own office at the university where i’ll be a professor.  that hurt a bit, because she’s usually the most supportive of any of my parents.

still, i get it:  for my parents, going to university was the way out of the working class, and they have worked hard to surround themselves with the accoutrements of a cultured life.  they raised me to value books, travel, gardens, art and liberal social justice, and they taught me that it’s more important to work with my brain instead of my body.  they have their own baggage around this, as three of them are the first (and only) people in their families to ever have education beyond high school.  also, being educational professionals themselves (3 teachers, 1 librarian) and of older generation(s), they have a different idea about what my bachelor’s degree in geography (and indigenous studies!) means:  shouldn’t i be able to make a career from that???  i think they honestly don’t understand my reality.

and it probably offends them a little, even though they may never admit it outright.

what i need to work on now is admitting to my own internalized classism.  what’s wrong with being an electrician?  nothing at all, except that capitalism says it’s not as socially valuable as being a university professor.  or a corporate CEO.  or a politician.  which is stupid.  right?

the crazy thing that i’m only just starting to dismantle is that due to my class privilege, i could feasibly be any or all of these things. i have the social cues down pat, can assimilate the vocabulary easily, and can move into these spheres simply based on my physical/cultural resemblance to the status quo.  i would be granted permission by the gatekeepers, because i am white and educated and confident.

in a way, me choosing trade school is not a rejection of the privilege my parents provide for me, but a continued acceptance and manipulation of it.  i can make this choice easily, because i have so many other options.  even as i write this, i’m wary of denying agency and autonomy to working class tradespeople, which isn’t my intention (though… there it is!).  i need to understand how my privilege affects my choice to enter the trades, because it can seem almost offensive:  i took a graduate level course last fall, and it was incredibly challenging and exhilarating but the critical analysis and deleuzian theory were overwhelming, so i’m going to become an electrician right now, then will likely go to graduate school in another 10 or 20 years.  just like that :: snaps fingers ::.

anyway.  these are the thoughts that fill my head, and even as they are complicated, i’m happy that they are percolating because it’s giving me a chance to see where i fit in the world.

now, i’ve got to get a million and one things ready for tonight’s birthday party.  we had a bad scare last night as oats’ cat plummeted from a 10 foot high ledge and seemed quite injured – an emergency trip to the vet proved otherwise, but i’m glad we made sure even though it shot our evening plans for bbq preparations…  that really would have made yesterday more messy than i can handle.


17 responses to “against the odds, hope wins!

  1. i feel like classism is not discussed as often as it could be in general, so i appreciate reading your grapplings with it. i often find it very difficult to talk about in my own life, since it is not readily visible. we always had food on the table and were able to pinch together enough when/if it was needed. i still learned the value of books, education and travel… as in it was expensive. art was a hobby. you used your mind, your body, your whatever you had to in order to support your family. i don’t even know how i ever got over the feeling of being an impostor at university or how i came to the decision that it was even possible for me to go. other than my brother going to college briefly for radio, only two members of my family ever finished high school. the rest did factory work. well, i guess i did too.

  2. feralgeographer

    thanks for responding! aside from the conversations that you and i have had in the past, i recently read an excellent blog post about class and relationships that has been making me think about these things.

    so i’m wondering… do you think that your job at the university made you feel more like you belonged there? (mine made me feel that way… and not just cuz it gave me opportunities to hit on cuties like you!)

    and following the idea that a parent expects their kid to do “better” than they did (whatever that means), do you think that you’ll be disappointed if your kid chooses a trade instead of a white collar profession?

  3. heh. bike girl.

    my job probably did have a lot to do with making me feel more like i belonged there. i don’t think it was strictly because it was the sort of job i was used to – ie. maintenance work, but more because i got to see a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. it was like i discovered that uni wasn’t full of highly intelligent, ‘better classed’, wealthy people.

    in terms of children, i think the only thing that would disappoint me is if they were doing nothing, that there wasn’t anything that they were excited about. i would be equally happy if they chose a trade or a white collar profession. (i actually find it easier to understand going into trades, but i wouldn’t hold it against them if they went white collar. heh.)

  4. Just dropping by to say ‘Happy Birthday’!

  5. I’m about the same age as you and I feel the same right now about school, university and career!

    Earlier this year, I was trying to decide between two quite different paths. I was brainwashed that university was the way out… yet, I started to investigate colleges and more practical teaching. It’s definitely something I’m considering… I love university but there are other way out.

    I hope you like the training!

    • feralgeographer

      you know, i love university too… only i’ve worked at my local university for so long that it’s altered my view of the world. sometimes i seem to forget that there are other ways i could make a living. brainwashing indeed!

      your comment reminds me of something i’d absolutely *love* to do with a qualification in the trades: teach.

  6. Hey, feral geographer!

    I apologize for the late response, but I’m glad to have checked out your blog on a positive day for you. :) Congrats on your spot in the electrical foundation program!

    And I wanted to thank you again for adding me to the Queer Canadian Blogs listings. I have to say, the day I found out I’d been added, I was incredibly excited about it. I scrolled through the list and checked out some excellent blogs, so I commend both you and Mae Callen for your efforts. :) Actually, one of the main reasons I started my own blog was the fact I’d had such a difficult time even FINDING online sources that combined Canadian life with a queer perspective. And now, there’s an entire listing of online content! :D

    I look forward to checking out more of your posts, feral geographer. Hope you have an excellent evening!

    — Miz Moffatt

    • feralgeographer

      thanks, miz moffatt! i’ve been enjoying your blog very much, and i’m glad you’re writing. i too am thrilled to have QCB as a resource: working on it has been a real labour of love!

  7. I think it’s rad that you chose trade school, even though I’m a geography-obsessed freak and geography major myself!

    • feralgeographer

      hey, wow! i didn’t know that! i mean, from your blog i realize that you’re a student, but didn’t know you have a geography background. queer geographers ftw!!! maybe you understand then: for me, geography was more of a calling than a discipline, and i feel like i’ll always think of issues from a socio-spatial perspective, regardless of what (or if) i’m studying.

      fuck, i know a lot of queer geographers… we should have a rendezvous…

  8. happy belated birthday – and in the meantime before your new electrical program starts, take a gander at reading matthew crawford’s shop class as soulcraft: an inquiry into the value of work – lots of interesting philosophical consideration of the work of doing and the work of thinking.

    • feralgeographer

      thanks! i just checked the local library catalogue for the book, and received that dreaded message: “31 holds on first copy returned of 3 copies”… arg!
      oh well… at least i’ll get to read it at *some point*…

  9. reading this reminds me of my transition from academia to trades. i’m happy and wouldn’t change my decision for anything. i miss you! ps. i’m in croatia!

    • feralgeographer

      yeah, i’ve been thinking of you lots during this past weeks… can’t wait to talk with you once you’re back in canada! glad you made it safe and sound through magyarország… please say hi to m for me.

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