Tuesday, January 25, 2011

They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To

Good morning.  It's Tuesday here on the farm which is my Monday as it's the beginning of my week.  The herd of Christians gets back on schedule this week.  I think I'm glad, but I am reminded that they don't build 'em like they used to.  Let me explain...

Rose and Ruthie took one week intensive classes last week.  They were in different courses, but it was available to the graduate students at the Bible College.  It was four days of class all day and reading at night. Rose told me she had to read 200 pages a night.  Ok, well, that's college isn't it? My undergrad Journalism program was a strenuous education to put it politely, but that's a top 10 program for you. During undergrad, I worked at the State House doing more than making coffee and I was such a glutton for punishment I'd take 18-21 class hours every semester.  And, then, apparently, I didn't get enough so I went to graduate school after I'd been working full time for five years.  So, it's not like I can't appreciate what college classes are like. What I don't get is they both told me how tired they were from their classes.  Huh?  You're tired?

"But there was a lot of reading..." came a whine.  Ok, I don't do whining. I just don't tolerate it very well. It rubs me the wrong way for some reason.  It's a family trait. In response, I burdened Ruthie with the tale of the fiction class I took in summer school in undergrad.

Fiction, ok that sounded like fun to me. Haha!  It was reading things like Chekhov, the really dark Russian writer.  It was The Grapes of Wrath.  It was a bunch of "really fun" reading--at a break neck pace.  I had gotten myself into some sort of preview of Hell class.

I worked at the State House in the mornings for a very demanding boss (Come on Elaine, you know it's true--she's one of my followers.) and then I'd go to class Monday through Thursday afternoons from 1:00-5:00. Fridays when there were no classes, I worked all day.  We had to read one of those "uplifting" novels A DAY. That made four of them a week with a test every Thursday. This went on for four weeks. Holy cow!  Did I mention I also have dyslexia? Seriously, I do.  I've learned to cope with it, obviously, but reading is an arduous process. I made it through the class and made a decent grade, a B probably.

I don't recall being tired.  I don't recall whining about it. I signed up for it. I needed the credit.  What's to whine about? Just do it.  As my father told me when I was rudely awakened by the arrogance of doctoral teaching assistants in undergrad, "You can do anything and tolerate anyone for 16 weeks."  I come from a family of people with a "just do it" attitude. No whining was ever allowed.  Heck, sleeping late on Saturday wasn't allowed either.

Then I worked for Elaine, who is still a good friend of mine.  Elaine has a heart of gold and a brass knuckles attitude.  She's now a very successful lobbyist.  Back then she was a compassionate boss, but she wasn't coddling.  She graduated from that same Journalism program and their graduate school program.  She knew what I was going through academically, but she also knew I could do it.  I feel the same way about the herd of little Christians--although I would not have made it through the first week of the Bible College for extracurricular reasons.  I know what college is like, but I also know they can do it.

Ruthie was kind'a mock whining this morning about it.  My little Christian Rose was not mock whining about it on Saturday.  Life and that class had gotten the better of the poor girl.  Saturday was a very long day for me because of it.  It made me start thinking, these ladies are in their early 20s...around 23.  What was my life like around 23?

I began talking to Bart about this last night and regaling him with my loads of responsibility at that age.  And, it was a good bit of responsibility.  I was the youngest research director by far on the legislative staff.  I had a staff. I had purchased my grandparents' house from my mother complete with a real live mortgage.  I bought my first new car. I was married.  It was a lot of responsibility, but I was pretty darn happy with it.  Yes, I had moments of being tired, but during the legislative session we worked crazy hours. Like 70 hours a week kind'a crazy hours. But, we all did it. It was part of the privileged of being on staff. I don't remember anyone whining about it.  We all felt lucky to have our jobs and we were.  I am still lucky to have had that experience.

And, just as I am about to do something really stupid and ask Bart, "What was your life like at 23?" I caught myself in time to make it come out, "At 23 you were in Viet Nam, right?"  Yeah, let's talk about something that'll really make a 23 year old "tired"--a war zone.  "No, I was in the military, but I wasn't in Viet Nam until I was 24."  Let me add he was a lieutenant with 40 18 and 19 year old guys under his command. They were combat engineers.  Their job was to build roads and bridges for the troops to come across without getting killed while they did it.  They also swept for land mines every day which he recalls as the worst part of the job.  Ok, yeah, you could call that a downside of one's job and it would be an understatement.

It made me think of people around me and what their lives were like at 23.  I don't think any of them were in grad school full time.  I think they were all working in jobs a lot harder than the ones I have to offer here and maybe also going to grad school at night.  My friend, Ranger, the one who Coffee embraced, remember him?  At 20 or so, he was in the first wave of troops in the invasion of Panama.  Rangers jump out of planes at night with guns and hope they don't break every bone in their body when they land.  They jump at night so they aren't picked off one by one doing it in the daylight.  So, night jumps into enemy territory are the more desirable option.  Those are tough guys.  Yes, guys, women are not allowed to be Rangers. It's not my policy, it's the Army's. Write to them, not me.

You see where I'm going with this, right? I don't get it. Has the next generation gone soft? Do I lack compassion for people who've read too much? Or, do I just know too many really tough people? I mean, I know folks like Bart and the Ranger and non-military folks, too, whose jobs make my multi-faceted careers look like a walk through Disney World.  What is it?  Do they just not build 'em like they used to?

This is my morning rant.  I hope it at least has a funny spin.  I'm now going to make Ruthie hot chocolate because that's just the kind of boss I am.  Why? She's mucking paddocks in 40 degrees in the rain in the winter--Dod trained her right!  I have high hopes for Ruthie to make it here at the farm.  Dear Rose...only time will tell. I'm afraid if reading makes her tired, the farm may be too much for her.

Talk to you later. Have a good day.

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