I had a really interesting session with a client last night talking about class issues. It was so good and refreshing to be able to incorporate such a silent issue into the session. But it got me thinking quite a bit about my family.
My father, I believe, has a very working class view of himself. He was born on a farm in Iowa, and when his family moved to Minnesota, they owned a motel. He and his sisters were the free labor that kept that rooms cleaned and the laundry fresh. He went to college, but dropped out to join the army where he was employed as a clerk. He had various jobs after his discharge, but ended up working for Northwest Bank in Minneapolis as a teller.
Through the years that he was there, my father had the experience of many young men in his generation of being promoted up through the company. He was there for over a decade, and at one point held a title of assistant vice president. But none of this ever changed a persistent class image of himself. Sometimes, he gets self-conscious about the idea that he enjoys his "simple" pleasures of comedy shows and sweet movies. He also had a hard time, after being "downsized" in the '80s, recovering his sense of what he was capable of doing in the work-place.
For many years, he took jobs at Kinko's or 7-11 because he didn't feel like he had any marketable skills. He was very unhappy in these positions and it was painful to watch and not be able to do much about his situation.
My father had, at one time, wanted to be a writer. He loves history and sharing the stories that he reads, but somehow being a writer never fit his image of himself, and he never did what I think he could have been quite good at.
It's frustrating to me because I think that this issue of class is one that is quite real (and linked to financial resources, obviously), but also does something to us. It kind of binds us into a prison of acceptable choices and doesn't let us think "outside the box," in terms of our own lives.