Monday, February 12, 2007

It could have been me -- it might still be -- jcarolek

I graduated college at 20, armed with a degree in Political Science and minors in German, French and Math. I had taken 2 ½ years to complete my college education and I was SURE the world was mine for the taking. Then came that pesky little thing called applying for jobs.

Well, I’m sure most of you have experienced the “hmmmm, educated but unskilled, don’t call us, we’ll call you,” reception as did I during that first round of job hunting. It wasn’t that I didn’t have experience working, for I had been working since I was 14, and with an official paycheck since 15 ½. But those jobs were retail, restaurants, and the like. Nothing “professional.”

Finally, after what seemed an eternity (three weeks) I landed a job in Washington, DC, using precisely 0% of my education, but earning a paycheck, nonetheless. I remember my first day, getting off the Metro at Farragut West and walking the two blocks to 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. I was excited!

Well, excitement quickly turned to boredom, but I was earning my paycheck and finding ways to keep myself interested in an incredibly boring job. I soon switched to second shift supervisor and my hours were 3:00 to 11:30PM. I liked the shift and the people. All was good.

Each night as I left to catch the Metro back to the ‘burbs, I had to walk around a “bag lady.” She always appeared to be sleeping in her street-made bed/tent of newspapers and old sheets. I always “felt sorry” for her, but thanked my lucky stars I was NOT her.

One night, I imagine I passed too close to her staked out camp and suddenly, she assaulted me. Not physically, mind you, but with words. She let me know, in no uncertain terms that I was in her space. I realized that night that I was also a bit afraid of this lady with her matted hair and broken teeth and crazed look.

But what she saw on my face must have been something more like pity. She started into quite a long history of her life and how she had ended up where she was. The words that struck me hardest were, “I was just like you once. You will end up just like me.” Crazy? Maybe. But her words have stuck with me since that night nearly 28 years ago. I know she spoke the truth insomuch as I could very easily end up just like her. I know a great deal of life is unpredictable. I know that my only chance at avoiding her dire prediction is to never forget the possibility exists. I know I will always work very hard to provide for myself and others. And I know I will never take anything for granted.

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