I grew up in a poor neighborhood thinking that having money is the most important thing in the world. Things were tough. Most of my friends didn’t have both their parents around, and the one who was around wasn’t really around. It was the same for me: My father moved out when my mother was young and had four of us. I worked really hard to get what I wanted. Now I realize that there is much more to life that having money, and money alone cannot make you happy.
I grew up fast in San Francisco. My dad left when I was nine years old, and my mother did her best to raise four of us. My mom worked random part-time jobs, but we never really had money. We received food stamps, and most of my clothes were handed down from my older sisters. When I got older, I needed cool things like shoes and clothes. I learned how to earn money. We worshipped money, because we never really had much of it.
When I started high school, I went to live with my dad. I liked him, so I did well in school to make him happy. Doing well in school made me start to like school. It makes a difference when you have a reason to do well. Mine was to make my dad happy. My dad passed away when I was in high school, so after I graduated from high school, my sister got me a good job. Again I made money. I learned to love money, because I never learned at home how to respect it. I thought that the more money you could get, the happier you would be.
I started earning good money. I learned the harder I worked, the more money I made. So I worked harder. I did this for years, thinking that working harder leads to more money and that would make me happier. I worked all the time, and I was able to get nice things. I started getting promotions and making more money, but I had to work more too. I thought I was happy, but I wasn’t. I was always tired, because I saved all my energy for work.
I lost my job during the big recession in 2008, and went on unemployment. I had a hard time finding a new job, and started to realize that I liked not working all the time. I was always worried about money, but I had time to do what I wanted to do. People smiled at me and liked me, because I wasn’t always working or tired. I began to like people again. In my free time, I started to volunteer and work with AIDS patients. They really appreciated me being around, and I liked making them happy by spending time with them.
Unfortunately my unemployment ran out and so did my savings. I couldn’t get a job where I left off. I could find one an entry-level job, but had to start all over again. I realized it would take me years to get the same salary that I had before the recession, and the thought of doing that again did not make me happy. I thought I’d take a chance, and decided I would try to be happier instead of working all the time to just make more and more money.
I live in a small apartment now instead of a big house and that’s OK. When I do anything, I remember that happiness is the goal. I eat food that’s good for me, I exercise and I have continued to volunteer. I want to work with people. Not only that, but I want to work with teens and young adults who grew up like I did; not having money and a family structure. I’m in school now studying to be a counselor. I enjoy learning. Sometimes I have to learn how to learn, like how to study and read faster. I have to work a little harder than some other people. Sometimes I have to read things twice. I also study with other people who want to learn too, and that helps me.
My life is a lot different than when I was younger. But now I want to be here. I’ve seen what it’s like to have very little, and I know what it’s like to spend all my time working. I have a goal. I’m learning what it’s like to do what makes me happy. Every day I remember my goal and I do my best. Now I’m in Spain on a scholarship. I never used to think that I could do this. I believe in myself now, and I know that if I do my best every day, I will be very happy with my life.
Cool rainbow in Grenada