On Origin Stories

August 29, 2015



I wrote this after a few gin and tonics, but upon review in the morning it still looks reasonable. As a preface, though, I'd like to say that I don't begrudge your questions at all (I encourage them!), but I do hope that you might explore just what you're asking with this added perspective in mind. One note: much of what I'm getting at has been covered elsewhere, and I'm sure Dillan Wolfe subconsciously inspired me with her post The Way You Remember Me.


I get asked all the time about how it is that I came into providership. It always seems to me a bit of a strange question. Maybe I'm just less interested in people's careers than I am their passions; I'd far rather talk about what you love than what you do to enable that love. Then again, I'm fortunate in that one of my passions happens to pay the bills so well. Believe me, I have others, and if I thought it wouldn't be ten times the hustle for half the wage, I'd probably find a living in photography. Goodness knows that's the reason I exited fine dining.


I can't speak to everyone obviously, but it seems that inquiring about the origin story of my providership always comes with an insinuation that I embody an unusual set of characteristics for a provider: I come from a very solidly middle-class family; my father and his father before him were men of the cloth; I'm college educated; I'm about as far from an addict as one can be. Implied in all of these things is something not implied when I ask, "Why are you a civil engineer?" or "Why are you a network administrator?" No, implied therein is the assumption that, if I had other options, I would not be a provider, that there is no way that someone would choose this line of work. To do this strips providers of a thing called "agency," or our ability of self-determination as humans.

In so doing, providership is reduced to unchosen labor - which we may well call slavery. Categorizing all people in this industry as such is foundational in legal battles against this profession and the people in it. To be certain, there are women and men and children that are coerced into work by more than social systems in a way that can be inextricably tied to trafficking, but that is a different story all-together than I'm addressing herein which is that even the people with addictions or without financial stability or the same moral background or the mobility afforded by a college degree can still choose to or to not engage in this work.

Now, I know that probably no one who is asking for the birthings of my current employ is thinking that it's strange that I don't seem to be a slave - either of someone else or of circumstance, but I do know that many people are coming from the assumption that it is, in some way an undesireable line of work - if not strictly an undesireable form of labor. So let me make something aubundantly clear: I love my job, and I hope I am never forced by circumstance to do anything else.

Because of this job, I can travel more than I ever have before. Because of this job, I can see artists and musicians and cultures and landscapes and friends and family in a freer way than I ever could before. Because of this job, I can take the mental health days that America, and in particular the restaurant industry, is so loathe to allow. Because of this job, I get to take every opportunity to love on my father before cancer claims him. Because of this job, I have found a sisterhood I have barely glimpsed elsewhere. Because of this job, my labor is not exploited for maximum profit of some unreproachable corporation. Because of this job, I know that every minute of labor I perform is benefitting causes I believe in rather than funding the denial of queer rights or destroying the environment or participating in child labor. Because of this job, I am alive in ways I never knew before.


So, rather than wonder why I am a provider as though it should be a last resort, I have to wonder why I would be anything else. I have to wonder, "Why aren't you?"


All my love,

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