I remember sitting in the kitchen in this dirty, could-be-nice-if-my-roommate-wasn’t-such-a-mess townhouse while I was making something cheap for dinner, like Ramen of spaghetti, on the phone with my mom. I had just started grad school and felt way in over my head (I was) and was working a coffee shop job just a few days a week to make some money in between class and schoolwork. I was in a car that broke down so often that, I had a very familiar relationship with the local auto shop owner. “What is it this time?” he’d ask as soon as he saw me hop out of the tow truck that brought me to his shop.
I remember sitting on an ottoman in the kitchen (why was there an ottoman in the kitchen?) nearly in tears on the phone with my mom. “I’m just tired of being poor all the time. I’m tired of the shitty car and the cheap food. I’m just so ready to be past this stage in my life.” I know it broke her heart to hear me talk that way, and I know that, if they wanted to, my parents could have completely financially supported me in a much more comfortable lifestyle than I was living. But now, with years between now and then, I’m so grateful that they didn’t.
I’m glad I worked through the low-paying coffee house job. It taught me to take chances on new opportunities, and how to gracefully quit with out pissing off your employer. I’m glad I slugged out years at that high volume bar, because I gained so much confidence just by dealing with people every night and how to assert myself when people tried to walk all over me. I’m glad I worked for my dad for that near year because I (sorta) learned how to use office phones and how to dress professionally, and how to go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of going to the after-hours bar (okay maybe I didn’t learn that one…).
Yeah, it freakin sucked back then. It did. Being poor and tired all the time isn’t fun. But it got me to this comfortable job today, which allows me to afford the car that doesn’t break down and the kitchen that stays clean and contains no ottomans. It taught me work ethic in a way that I never would have known if I didn’t have to sweat and cry and loose sleep to get by. I’m glad my parents recognized that and let me struggle, even when they could’ve swooped in to save me. And I’m glad I have the perspective to be able to recognize that now.