Can We Help But Be Defined And Sometimes Hardened By Our Work?

There comes a time in life when you know deep down, that you have become HARDENED and for me it is a fringe benefit of the working class. I feel it is earned and not just handed out. When I look at my Father and uncles, who are in the same career field as I am you can just tell that they are hardened and it is something that you can’t put a price tag on – to me it is one of those things that are passed down from generation to generation. Have you reached this sweetness, in your life yet? – Jeremy


I agree completely that there are benefits of manual labor that far exceed a paycheck. And I also agree that many of those benefits are forgotten or ignored by many. But I would not personally describe the “sweetness” of my ideal working sensibility as “hardened.” For me, it’s more about balance in other words, being hard when I need to be hard.

Here’s how I see it… Two generations ago, and I’m generalizing, the average working Joe was by and large, hardened. He had to be, as most jobs would chew up anyone who wasn’t. But maybe – and this is just a possibility – he became hardened to the point of imbalance.

Back then, many people were so completely defined by their work that their personal identities adapted to reflect the rigors of their jobs. Then, a funny thing happened. In the space of one generation, the microchip came along, and changed the face of what a “good job” looked like. Next thing you know, the work force evolved into something very different from the days of Rosie the Riveter, and almost overnight, many good jobs no longer required the “hardening” you refer to. Then, as in earlier days, this modern worker evolved to reflect the personality and attitude required from this kinder, gentler job site. In other words, he got soft. Maybe, and this is just a possibility, to the point of imbalance. My hope with Dirty Jobs is to point out this change, and remind the modern day work force that a certain “hardening” still makes the world go round.

However, I would add that a good work ethic does not require steel-toed boots and overalls. And not all office types are metro-sexual posers with a penchant for Cosmopolitans and scented candles. Our country depends upon many different skill sets and personalities to handle the diversity of jobs that need to get done. The problem right now is that traditional images of work have fallen out of vogue, along with some traditional ethics. And that has triggered in many, (myself included,) a certain nostalgia for times gone by. To that end, Dirty Jobs is a wake-up call for balance in the workplace – and a reminder that plumbers, electricians, construction workers, and garbage men are still hauling our freight.


“The reason a lot of people does not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work. — T. Edison”

3 thoughts on “Can We Help But Be Defined And Sometimes Hardened By Our Work?

  1. As a lifelong cowboy (really, I have spent nearly as much time sitting on a horse than a chair) I totally recognize what you are talking about. But there are more ways than one to being hardened or softened.

    My work has required me to be hardened at times from things such as being attached to a runaway mule by only my foot, or having to walk home after being hit by lightning.

    At the same time I have softened my attitude towards the animals I work with, I have become hardened towards people who criticize the livestock industry with no idea of what is involved (sort of like your castration experience)

    I also recognize that all aspects of life have changed for mainstream society. The last surviving brave who helped kick Custer’s butt at Little Big Horn died in 1957 when I was three years old. This means we have gone, in less than two lifetimes, from Indians following the Buffalo and mail being delivered via Pony Express to communicating on this format and the government taking pictures of us from outer space…just food for thought!

    Bob Kinford

  2. It is my belief that it is often other people who define us by our work. There are assumptions often made that anyone who does not sit behind a desk or a computer all day does not have a “good job”. I come from a family where my father is a doctor, and my two younger siblings are attending law school. I have a college degree in Communications worked as a Human Resources Advisor (a “good job”)for a State funded program and sat behind a desk all day. I wanted to rip my eyeballs out on a daily basis! So, much to the dismay of my family I quit my “good job” to pursue a career with animals. I took a severe pay cut, and spend a good portion of my day cleaning up, poop, pee, and sometimes blood (occasionally my own). That was seven years ago and i wouldn’t change a thing. In the eyes of my family I am the black sheep. They have defined me by my choice of work and do not approve. I on the other hand am extremely proud of the work I do, yes it physical and tiring and sometimes dangerous but the rewards far outweigh anything else. Has it hardened me, yes and no. It has shaped some of my attitudes towards people and the way they treat animals, I have also had to put up an emotional wall at times to deal with the sorrow that comes with loss. But I believe that it has also made me a stronger, more driven individual. Everyday I go to work I put every single fiber of my being into what I do. I can’t say that about my former job. So let other people think that because I wear scrubs and not a suit and heels to work every day that my job is not a good one. The passion and fulfillment I get from my work is what defines me.

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