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Start from scratch? 从头开始

中国日报网 2019-09-24 11:38

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “I’m afraid if I give up this job, I’ll have to start from scratch all over again.” Does the speaker want to leave his job? What does “start from scratch” mean exactly?

My comments:

Does the speaker want to leave his job?

I think he or she does, but not without reluctance.

A lot of reluctance, actually.

You see, a lot of people prefer not to change jobs for one reason – they’ll have to start from scratch all over again.

Say, you’ve been at a company for ten years and during that period of time, you’ve been steadily moving up the ladder, so to speak. Not only that, you’ve made many friends and established good working relationships with colleagues.

Will you want to leave for another company, say, in another city, even though you may get paid more?

Well, depending on how much more, I hear you say.

Okay, I understand that. If money is all you care, that kind of make things easy.

But what I’m really getting at is that even if you’re paid much more, will you just roll up your sleeves and leave?

I mean, without any reluctance at all?

A lot of people won’t leave without reluctance. And some of the things that contribute to their reluctance may be as follows, naming just two examples:

*they’ll lose their friends and good working relationships;

*their kids and family, too will have to reacclimatize themselves in a new environment;

In short, they’ll worry that they’d have to start from scratch all over again.

Oh, now we’re back to the point, the point of our discussion: “start from scratch”.

Presumably, “start from scratch” is a term from boxing, scratch being the line scratched with a chalk or stick in the middle of the boxing area in the early days. At the beginning of a match, the two boxers are called to stand on each side of the scratched line, toe to toe, face to face.

Hence, “start from scratch” becomes synonymous with starting from the very beginning.

Now, a boxing match can have many rounds, 15 at the most. At the end of each round, the boxers return to their corner and take a brief rest. Then at the beginning of each new round, they’re brought to the scratched line once again, hence the expression “start from scratch all over again”.

All right, here are media examples of people who “start from scratch”, that is, starting afresh, all anew, from the very beginning:

1. Where the Clinton administration tried to “reinvent government,” the Trump administration plans to rebuild government “starting from scratch.”

In a memo to all department and agency heads to be issued Wednesday morning, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney officially ended the hiring freeze President Trump declared on Jan. 23 and ordered agencies to draft plans for overhauling their operations to improve efficiency and cut costs.

In a Tuesday White House preview for reporters, Mulvaney said the administration was flexible on the eventual outcome but said “it’s no secret that the president thinks we can run the government more efficiently with fewer people.”

The memo, titled “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Workforce,” instructs agencies to immediately began steps toward “near-term workforce reductions” aligned with Trump’s March 13 reorganization order and March 16 fiscal 2018 budget blueprint, and to develop a plan by June 30 to “maximize employee performance.”

- Trump Team Plans to Rebuild Government ‘Starting from Scratch’, GovExec.com, April 11, 2019.

2. Once more, Mike Krzyzewski will try to conjure a team out of nowhere in the space of a few months, starting basically from scratch, and maybe not even he knows how many chances he really has left.

There’s always pressure at Duke, pressure not only to win but to dominate, on the court and in recruiting, even on social media, and in these days and times that means bringing in extraordinary talent and trying to find a way to get it all to mesh by March.

It worked wonderfully once four years ago and has failed to come together several other times and now, in the unavoidable twilight of Krzyzewski’s career, there’s a building pressure to get it to work again before Krzyzewski steps away, however far off that may be.

He’s now even willing to openly entertain the idea that his time at Duke will someday come to an end, even as he is finally pain-free, months and years removed from the series of surgeries that left him in untold agony the past few seasons, threatening to demonstrate how spry he is at 71.

“You want me to do a cartwheel?” Krzyzewski said, before adding: “I have no plans for leaving. I will leave at some time, but I’m not ready to do that yet.”

- In the unavoidable twilight of Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke career, the Blue Devils start from scratch, again, NewsObserver.com, October 15, 2018.

3. Aisha Adkins would rather have her own place, instead of living with her parents. She would also like a job, a car, a master’s degree and savings. But at 35, a decade after graduating from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro with a specialty in social services, she has had to put off those goals.

Her mother, Rose, received a diagnosis of dementia six years ago, at 57, and cannot be left alone. Since then, Ms. Adkins has been consumed with her care. “I’ve gone on three dates in the last three or so years,” she said.

She ensures that the family’s home in an Atlanta suburb is stocked with her mother’s medications. She prepares her mother’s breakfast — peanut butter and jelly, with a glass of milk. She bathes her and dresses her and sits her in front of reruns of “The Young and the Restless.” She cooks her dinner: mainly chicken (with a vegetable and a starch), spaghetti or chili. She retires to her room around 10 — entrusting her mother to the television set and Ron, her father, by then home from work.

The burden of care for aging relatives is reshaping the lives of millions of others. About 15 percent of women and 13 percent of men 25 to 54 years old spend time caring for an older relative, according to the Labor Department. Among those 55 to 64, the share rises to one in five Americans. And 20 percent of these caregivers also have children at home.

What’s more, demand for care is growing. “The boomer generation is turning 70 at a rate of 10,000 per day and living years longer than when the safety net was originally built,” said Ai-jen Poo, a co-director of Caring Across Generations, a coalition of advocacy groups. Her organization is pushing to add a benefit to cover care — for older adults, children and sick family members — to the nation’s safety net, alongside Social Security and Medicare.

While men, too, are being forced to step up, Ms. Poo noted that “women in particular are bearing the brunt.” By knocking many women in their prime earning years from the work force, the growing strain from care is weighing down the American economy.

Among the 36 industrialized countries currently in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 17th in 2000 in the participation of prime-age women in the work force. By 2017, it had slid to 30th. While the lack of family-friendly policies like parental leave and child care subsidies played a role — making it tougher for American women to juggle motherhood and work — economists say the virtual absence of support for eldercare is a prime suspect in explaining why the share of women taking part in the labor force stalled in the late 1990s after rising relentlessly for 50 years.


Heather Boldon dropped her demanding job as a paralegal in Minneapolis nine years ago to take care of her mother and has moved in and out of lesser-paying jobs since then, unable to build financial security.

I’m almost 52, and I’m starting from scratch,” said Ms. Boldon, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease. “I lost 10 years of my life. What’s going to happen to me?”

- Why Aren’t More Women Working? They’re Caring for Parents, DistingcMoney.net, August 29, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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