Dishes, money, and hard work


I believe in hard work. I think most of the Menlo community does as well; I’ve seen my classmates study for tests, practice pieces of music, and work out in the gym, so I can attest to their work ethic. The amount of time and energy we all spend on things we care about is enormous. However, the labor we do for school or sports or art is always more dignified; it benefits our minds and enhances our talents. It’s the kind of work that will look amazing on our resumes and college applications. It’s the kind of work that your parents will take pride in bragging about. It’s the kind of work that will make you feel like you have a future. It’s dignified work. The Menlo community always seems dignified in that way.

But I believe in back-breaking, manual labor, too, and in a lot of ways, it’s a lot more real. After an hour of homework, at least you can say you’re doing something to help yourself learn and grow. After an hour of washing dishes, all you have is $8 in your pocket, aching arms, and a t-shirt drenched in dirty dishwater.

That was my reality all summer: 40 hours of hard, manual labor a week. When I returned home, I began sympathizing with the waiters and dishwashers in restaurants and the people refilling the milk in the cafeteria (those 5 gallon boxes of milk are heavy!). I measured everything in the amount of dishes I would have had to do to earn that money: a $20 t-shirt? Dishes for at least 200 people. A lunchtime outing to Posh? 10 trays covered in bacon grease. Your money seems a lot more valuable when you have the sore shoulders and calloused hands to accompany it. Needless to say, coming back to the Menlo community, where the reality is $500 iPads for every student, was a bit of a shock. That is the amount of money I would have earned in two full weeks of working at my job.

This summer I think I learned something that Menlo could never have taught me: the worth of money. It’s something that only hard, unfulfilling work or the lack of money can teach you, and it’s something entirely worth learning if you want to be a functional member of a community in which the majority of people do not own True Religion jeans and 3 different colors of Sperrys.

Not just that, but after spending a summer waking up at 5:20 in the morning and working until 3 P.M., being told that I needed to work faster, try harder, and be better at a job that inherently sucked, all to earn 8 measly dollars an hour, I will never again complain about homework or waking up for school or being in class for 6 hours a day. It could be worse: it could be dishes.