Can’t really say what hardship teaches.
We all go through our own versions of it. Some of us never see the end.
I remember the evening I had realized that my hardship was happening; I was about
16 years old. Me, my brother, and my momma had just unpacked our rented car
and placed our belongings into the room of a seedy motel in Chino. My momma was
relieved; temporarily it seemed—could see the wear on her face with a message
saying “Okay, we got through today.” But my young mind all too-curiously wondered
“Well, what about tomorrow?” Ambition.

I saw that she had given up on me. This woman, working tirelessly and trained regularly,
an army of one—looked as if she wanted no more of this battle, her eyes diverted to the
telephone as if she were waiting for it to ring. No, mom. No. I’d think. I knew she was waiting
for my step dad to call and say “Come stay with me”, he’d never. We’d never, because I knew
that would be an unstable thing, and though the motels were never supposed to be permanent, they became
a permanent thing, why burden ourselves with the responsibilities of a broken family, when for $47.95 a night
we could sleep without the full-time job of others expectations? At least that is what I was thinking.

I was awake that night. Long hours, long thoughts, short fuse. Family, what did that mean? I remember
feeling angry because I knew what would become of me, I was a hardened kid with a past no one knows of
but me, and who has time to whine about where I’m sleeping? I had just hoped that my mommy would carry
me…no…I’m too old for that now, time to take care of the family. It was clear. Ambition.

I woke up the next morning, time to get moving. OK. Who can I call? No one. Fine..let’s see what I can sell. Can never
sell drugs, not my M.O- how do I know? Because I thought about it. We can get through this, and we did. We do.
My most prominent memory? Getting the call.. “Hey, good news. My friend got locked up, said we can stay at her place for a few weeks until she gets out…come stay over here!” The caller? My cousin. By this time, I was 17 and this made me happy because I could focus on getting a job. I knew that we were squatting, but I didn’t know we were SQUATTING, in a tiny one bedroom apartment with about 6 or 7 methies, They’d say “All the kids, go in the room…its adult people time.” Then out comes a smokers laugh. I felt challenged, what has become of me? My life? I despised them all with every fiber of my being. Ambition.

The job search intensified. Applied at Kmart. Next day, no call. It’s okay, I’ll call them. “Hi, My name is Kym and I applied for an associate position yesterday?” “Sure, Kym..come on in” they say. I go in dressed as nicely as I could for a 17 year old homeless teenager, I turn on my charm. I am well-read. Made sure I was eloquent. Smarter than my age represents. I’m  hired. I walk back to the squatting apartment in tears. Amazing what both hardship and ambition can get me.

Months flew past, and I found that I had created a pattern. I woke up at 5:30 a.m to go to work. I was ambitious, yes. But I was running. I knew that I had to get away from where I was, I knew that I had to get my family away from where they were. Landlords were knocking on the door threatening us, and understandably so- the eviction process in motion. Me, my brother, my momma, and our little dog Gege- all in that little bedroom. Prisoners to crippling situations, but not crippled, not me. I was finally able to find a way out of the apartment. Told my momma, “I’ll be back for you guys, I’m going to go to San Diego and get us an apartment”, and it took me months. But I did it. Ambition.

12 years ago, 12. My life has gotten better, that problem went away. But thankfully so, the Ambition…it stayed, and it never goes away. I am solid because of my Ambition. I am weak because of my ambition. Life has shown me things I’d NEVER expect to see, but I did…you’d be surprised what it’s taught me. My biggest weakness is the expectation of my family. Ambition. I love them all..I want to see them cry the same tears of accomplishment that have blurred my eyes. In due time…


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