The second week, the painting gang, Carlos, Jack, John, Juan Carlos, Juan, and Jesse and I walked into a Chipotle Mexican restaurant to get a quick bite to eat. On my white pants, now were two weeks worth of paint, and caulk, and a half days worth of sweat from the hot sun, along with the overspray of some stain. By this point, I was getting down a bit of the lingo. Relating better. Feeling like one of the crew, like a painter.
We rolled up to a restaurant in the business tech district of Colorado Springs, laughing, and relieved of our 30 minute break. After grabbing our burritos we sat down next to a group of guys my age. They looked like my from college. We were surrounded with men dressed in ties, and suits. The clean cut, and well spoken, and good looking people. People I had grown up around. Been friends with. Admired to become.
I looked and really noticed my crew. How different we were. Slouched over, dirty, cussing a bit, from different countries south of the border, joking on each other, and ragged. I kinda felt ashamed. And embarrassed.
I starred at this table of the guys next to me, reminding me too much of myself. Thinking about what I had left leaving Nashville, and the business world, and starting this job. I felt the loss. As if I was starring at what I could have been.
I wanted to take off these clothes, and grab them, and say, “Hey, I am one of you. It’s not what it looks like. I am really white collar, not like these guys.” It was a weird reaction. I wasn’t expecting it. I felt so cruel thinking it. But they never looked over anyways, never noticing us.
It kept happening. Walking into a mall, or even at a homeowners house. Normally I was given respect, looked at in my eyes when talked to, seen as a bright young man. I felt noticed. But not in this job. Something about putting on the painter pants, and shirts, and grabbing my tools, that took away all that from me. Stripped me of my previous life, and view of myself.
I was rarely respected, or noticed. I was one of the workers. A laborer. People were kinda afraid I might steal something, or ruin stuff. I didn’t seem trusted in these painter clothes.
I never knew how much I needed it. How I put off an image, that I needed people to see me as, and relate to me as this golden boy. I wanted to be seen as spoiled, and well-off, wealthy, good looking, and college educated. I used that, to get people to like me. It wasn’t until I put these pants on that I felt such a lack of it, a deep desperation to somehow get that back.
It was hard to take. I kept wanting to explain myself. I wanted to pull aside and tell the homeowners, you can trust me. There were even times I didn’t want to associate with the painters. I wanted to sit at a table all my own. I wanted to tell the homeowners talking to us about their house, about my college career. I remember constantly checking email on my phone during the day, to see if I had any good news. Something to tell me I was more than this lifestyle, and this paint on my clothes.
God was doing something in this place. Breaking something in me, that I didn’t even know was there. This place of entitlement was being stripped away, day, by slow day.