Chains, Cone Bras, and Coveralls

In my struggle for sovereignty, autonomy, and uncompromised agency, I have discovered that there are two fronts. There is the internal struggle I wage against my personal demons. I wage it each and every day. There is no armistice. There is no peace treaty. There is no official end to hostilities. I always and forever will have to maintain a beachhead in enemy territory. But, I have a beachhead. And, that little bit of beach was enough to wake me up to my reality.

I am still in chains.

In many ways I am still that little kid waiting outside someone else’s gate waiting to be picked. There are still those who can make me race through a maze whenever they place a bit of cheese at the other end. And, there are still those who can send me a jolt of punishment through the shock collar I voluntarily wear around my neck. There are too many people in positions of power who can nudge and bend me to their will. I have no one else to blame for this situation but myself. It is only now that I can feel the grip, notice the weight, and hear the rattling of their chains that bind me.

I am not my own.

So, I need to wage a struggle against the expectations of others. This is the second front. How do I loosen their grip, erode their power, and undermine their authority?

Madonna Louise Ciccone can show me the way.

In the “War of Art,” Steven Pressfield asks his readers “Does Madonna walk around the house in cone bras? She’s too busy planning D-Day. Madonna employs Madonna.”

Madonna Louise Ciccone wanted to be taken seriously. So, she took “Madonna” seriously. “Madonna” was free. She had sovereignty. She was autonomous. She had agency. She charted her own course. She made her own way. Not all of us loved it. But, those who loved it loved it. And, she left a mark on our culture.  Madonna Louise Ciccone used Madonna to realize these things. And, I would go so far as to say that Madonna gave Madonna Louise Ciccone the space to become free.

I took a step in Madonna’s direction when I chose the twitter handle @blucollarprof. And, I am taking another step in that direction by launching a “Blue Collar Professor” facebook page.

I am separating my personal and professional lives. On my personal page, I am a son, a father, a grandson, a friend. On my Blue Collar Professor page, I am wearing my coveralls, in the garage, and building a future free of a kiss-ass list.

Do I walk around the house in coveralls? No. My students and I are too busy planning the next global grassroots movement. I employ the Blue Collar Professor.

It’s an identity. It’s a mindset. I may be in a button-downed shirt, sitting behind a desk and tapping at my laptop. But, in my mind I am in my coveralls. My sleeves are rolled up. I got my lunch pail. I got my coffee in a thermos. I am here to work. I am here to put my hours in. I am earning my calluses. I don’t care if it hurts. I push through the pain. I am getting shit done.

It’s an anchor. It reminds me of my roots. It reminds me of my history. I reminds of my place.

It’s a compass. It’s a guide.  It’s an approach. If I don’t have enough resources, then look around the garage and do a MacGyver. If I run into an obstacle, then find a work around. If everything else fails, I just get the hammer. Whatever happens, I stay in the garage until the job is done.

It’s an ethic. It’s an ethos. It’s an attitude. It’s a worldview. Nothing is handed to you. You earn your keep. You make your own way. You take pride in your work. You do it for the work. You do not do it for the applause. You do it because you have no choice.

Through the Blue Collar Professor I will earn back my freedom.


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Thanks. – shawn