A fellow worker described the system to me in a shingle mill loading shed in 1968. As we loaded bundles of cedar shingles that were still hot from the drying kiln into a box car, he unlocked the secret of the world of work.

“A little sweat, … a little labour,” he said. “Sooner or later you’ll get what you want.” There was a drop of sweat clinging like a trapeze artist to the bulbous part of his nose.

I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted out of that mill.

I am not averse to sweat. I often sweat myself. I sweat so profusely at the slightest provocation that I’ve earned the nick name ‘slime.’ I can leave a slick that rivals the spill left by the Exxon Valdez by simply tying my shoe laces. I don’t even hold anything against labour. If someone wants to spend all of their adult life stuffing bundles of hot shingles into a box car, I certainly won’t hold it against them. It’s perfectly all right with me. After all, it’s a free country. I just don’t want that someone to be me.

I had aspirations that extended dangerously beyond the box car. I had no idea what these aspirations were. Maybe I wanted to be a world famous archaeologist and dig up something. Perhaps I wanted a senate appointment. I may have even wanted to write little essays such as this one. You can use it to blot that spilled morning coffee.

Two details held me back. First, I had an education that stopped at Grade 12. To escape the mill, I needed to upgrade myself. Second, I had to divorce myself from that damned pay cheque.

Berating pay cheques may seem silly. Pay cheques help pay the bills and the rent. They even help one to improve one’s social and economic standing.

There is, however, a serious shortcoming to having a regular pay cheque. It provides one with a sense of security. Security means a life sentence to a permanent perspiration pellet on the end of one’s nose. Security means an eternity of shingles and box cars.

Breaking away from the security of the pay cheque should not be simply quitting. It’s like battling an addiction to cigarettes. It takes determination. It takes will power and the support and encouragement of others to quit cold turkey.

It also takes planning. For people who see no future in their present endeavour in the mill, the warehouse, or over the deep frier, I present three ways to take that big risk.

The methods also hold for those experiencing long-term unemployment where the security is a welfare or Employment Insurance cheque.

1.) Do some planning.

Before making your move, check out all your options. If you are planning a return to school to become a whack-the-mole game repair person, check out the demand. Employment counsellors may be helpful for this. They may suggest lesser professions such as teaching or law.

2.) Remember your budget.

How can you afford to make your educational move? Have you been able to save money to support yourself while upgrading? Can you work on weekends or during the summer? These are questions you should ask yourself. Make up several budgets to see exactly how much money you will need for your education. Then don’t worry about it. Get a student loan and get a running start on the reality of life this century.

3.) Just do it.

Don’t let your budgeting stand in the way of your decision to upgrade your education. Opportunities often pop up at the right times. There are student loans. Sometimes there are scholarships, bursaries, and training allowances. There are also weekend jobs that you can get, such as cleaning out the holds of fish boats, etc. The smell that will get you the seat on the bus is the smell of money.

This way you can keep that drop of sweat clinging to the bulbous part of his nose.

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.


5 Responses to “TAKING THE BIG RISK”

  1. Joanie Says:

    Mike, good information on l”leaving the mill.” I’m still writing, and will be continuing my online education soon!

  2. Sharon Says:

    Mike, fantastic, as always. You are so funny, yet so on the mark. Does this info go out to your clients?

    I’d like to go back for my masters, yet budget is severly limited. SS and pension with a few dollars from summer job. I hate the thought of student loans at my age. I guess all I can do is call the school and see what they offer. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. JODY Says:

    Good info, but I think a lot of kids today don’t know there is a way out; they only know what is around them. Our high school counselors are too bogged down with college entrance exams, seeing that kids meet graduation requirements, or figuring out how to get them to pass our blasted stupid TAAKS test. Have you ever thought about writing a “Guide for Getting Out?” or “5 Steps for Escaping the Hood” or just a short leaflet. I’d pay to have them dropped from an airplane.

    • mikebroderick Says:

      Thanks Jody,

      “Getting out” means examining what the attractions are of “staying in.” “What is keeping them there?” might be a better question than “What is holding them back?” In my essay, my relationship with a pay cheque was a strong reason against my getting out. In the case of a kid in a gang, the ties may be even stronger: a substitute for family, opportunities for cash, opportunities for sex, and of coure, opportunities to build a “Bad Reputation.” With me, it was the thought that If I’d stayed, I would have inheritied that perennial drop of sweat. What doesn’t make sense now is that every time I teach a fitness class, that bead of sweat is there.

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