Benefits of my Blue Collar Beginnings

I grew up in a working class family and my beginnings were humble.  Both of my parents roots are Boston Irish Catholic, modest & humble beginnings.  My Dad grew up in the projects in Southie, which was a tough Irish neighborhood outside of Boston.  His life was hard and he said his life began the day he met my Mom.  While my Mom was a petite princess and all that is grace, she also had grit and such strength as they built a beautiful yet hard life together.  

The challenges were in every area of life that you can imagine but they took it on and put family and home first.   While I spread my wings and created my future of education, a successful career and have settled in what you might call an affluent community, I am always grateful of where I came from and incredibly proud of my family.   My people are some of the best people I know. It is all about the heart, the attitude, and how you treat others (we were raised by the best). 

Growing up in a working class environment has shaped who I am and here are some unique benefits:

1. Grit

You’ve gotta have grit when it comes to life, work and play.  No matter what, I know how to dig my heels in and just do it.  

2. Love

Love is one of the top values or priorities—if you have love, you have everything.  Success is loving and being loved—putting your heart into everything that you do.  This is probably the most important right here.

3. Respect

Respect for others—there is a sense of respect that you are expected to have and you express and when you don’t, you are called on it.  This is huge when it comes to valuing people.   

4. Loyalty

There is no other loyalty like that of a working class family that has experienced hardship financially, with health, and other matters.  We stick up for each other like our life depends on it and we are fiercely loyal to all those we love.  Don’t mess with them because we will mess with you.  Mafia Worthy—we take care of our own.  

5. Hard Work

In my home growing up, Education was not as important as Hard Work.  My Dad would cringe if we said no to work and also if we were lazy in any way.  This was not easy, but as young adults we all worked our way to the top in our professions or hobbies because we were taught at a young age that hard work can trump anything.  Dad was right.  All 5 kids rose to the top of their game: be it sport, career or hobby.  

6. Family & Fun

Having been exposed to many more families and various types, there is nothing like a family that is down to earth, real, enjoys laughter and connection, joking, and fun.  Family comes first, it is such a strong value and most important, and while we are at it, we must have fun! 

7. No Pretenses

There are NO aires about us.  It is not about where you went to college, what kind of car you drive, what your address is, what the label on your shirt is—we (they) laugh at the shallowness of that.  We want to know about what you learned that day (in life, an interesting or lame fact), we want to know if you were driving in your car and saw a stranded vehicle, would you help that person on the side of the road.  We want to know how you get the stain out of that shirt (stain removal, an age old topic).  We want to know you, not all the stuff that surrounds you.   But if you are full of yourself, we want to get away from you.

8. Kindness

This is not a socio-economic thing, everyone can and should be kind.  In my home it was demanded of us from our parents.  Empathy was a big part of those lessons and this, along with kindness is a universal language and behavior we all need.  I talk a lot about this in my home with my kids.

9. Strength

You learn beyond grit how to be strong.  You are independent in so many ways and you learn to fight for what ever it is you need or want in your life.  You are a fighter, be it scrappy at times, you fight for others, for yourself, your family and also for justice and what is right.  You are brave enough to be in the arena, and strong enough to stand back up.  

10. Responsibility

There is no entitlement mentality in this kind of upbringing.  You know what it is like not to have many things and you tend to take responsibility for your actions and the outcome in situations (at least your role in it).  You are also responsible, you have to grow up quickly so you need to be responsible and the work ethic plays a role in this.  Ain’t no free ride here, you’ve gotta take responsibility, work, and create what it is you desire.  

While I built my own life and my family today does not have these humble beginnings, I teach my language. I share these lessons and I never forget where I came from.  My kids are far more privileged than I ever was and while I want them to have that, I also make sure they have the privilege of values that are so incredibly important.  Simple & humble beginnings are what shaped me and so many others, we must always value this and live these lessons out each day.   This is not just my story, it is so many others.  If not their generation than the one before them. 

The best lessons are not in the classroom, the best lessons are taught through life. 


Pam Guyer