The decade is almost half over. My brothers and I have all undergone major transformations in our lives as adults and so it is my pleasure to have Daryll, my brother, write the 99th post for my blog. A lot of what he says here perfectly fits the theme of Confessions of a Cart Jockey, which is to never underestimate someone based on your own estimate of their life choices. His story is as inspiring to me as I hope it will be to all of my readers.
I’m almost 30 years old and after 28 years I’ve had time to reflect. I always hear the Thirty-Year-Mark horror stories as we all do, and I figure I’ll just get it out of the way now before my hair decides to recede or change colors. Getting older isn’t all that bad and in fact I’ve enjoyed the ride so far.
The inevitable question we all encounter at some point or another is “What have I done with my life?”, which is an easy question to ask but almost impossible to answer since doing so would make you a zombie. But we can ask and answer the question: “What am I proud of in my life?”
I started my life of labor like a lot of people do, with a fast food job. I got my first job at a McDonald’s in a small town in the south, Alabama to be exact. Friday nights were full of football games, tailgating and parking. Lots of drunken people living vicariously through their children… It was Hell. I worked in a few of the other major fast food chains after my first job until I was almost out of high school.
Failing my last year by a half credit and being told I would have to stay another year in this “wonderland”, I decided to remove myself from school and work through the summer to move to another state and finish school there.
“Statistically,” the principal said. “you’ll probably just become a drop out and do nothing with your life.”
I signed my papers and left.
Stretching my legs almost a year later in the beautiful state of Vermont I was in a new school, with new people, new possibilities, and a new perspective on life. I had hopes of finishing high school and getting my diploma, mainly to prove others wrong. It would be years before I started doing things for myself. I did get my diploma and after having to pack up again and leave, I had to return to Wonderland.
I met up with some old friends, showed off my diploma at the High School I had fled, and settled into another crappy fast food job. Soon after I left Alabama again and headed to North Carolina where I worked at a Golden Corral as the meat cutter.
I made good money and lived with my now wife (Long before we had our son). My manager was Costa Rican. By now, I knew enough Spanish from my jobs in the south that I could hold a small conversation and both give and follow directions.
After North Carolina, we moved back to Vermont where I worked at a few retail stores, a factory, and a nice business cafe in the city. Then back to Alabama, back to Vermont, over to New York, back to Vermont, and finally (I say that now) back to Alabama. In between there were all the moves, many minimum wage jobs, the birth of my son, the rise of my own education and my endeavors as an entrepreneur in the local music scene, along with a few other schemes my wife and I explored, all legal of course.
Through this I recognized a stereotype. A lot of people I met and talked with were apologetic. “That sucks”, “Sorry you’ve had such bad luck”, “I hope you get somewhere stable”, “Can you get on welfare?”
I had to pause for a minute and take it in.
According to the standard I was doing something wrong. I was “floating” from job to job. “Running” from state to state. “Scraping Pennies” to make ends meat. I never thought about it like that. I never realized how I lived, and others living similarly, fell into the category of failure.
I have seen more of the USA than many people in the small towns and cities I’ve lived in. I learned a second language by sharing the kitchen of many restaurants with cultured individuals. I learned how to repair computers, sell to businesses and keep smiling under stress from the best friends and managers anyone could hope for. I have been able to spend so much more time with my son than my father was able to because of the part time schedule. I have amassed many skills including machine operation, management, marketing, people skills, computer and technical knowledge, general kitchen skills, and a list of life enriching information not the least of which is what cut of meat will go best on my grill, (thank you Golden Corral).
Added to the benefits of my “poor” lifestyle, I have had time to start my own small record label, helping local musicians get CDs and shows. Then I started college for a degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Space Technologies which I am currently 2 years into. I even have hopes of following this pattern in the next few years to apply for a Work Visa in London, allowing me to see even more of the world. And yes I intend to work a minimum wage job there.
So… “What have I done with my life?”. Well I know what I’m proud of, and I know who I am. I know that the value and success of a person can’t be measured by their peers. I know that it doesn’t matter what you do to make money, only what you do to make you.