It was shortly after 3pm and the first day of my Junior year in highschool- at a brand new high school- had just ended. I was 16, I was really obsessed with what people thought of me, and I was trying to make a good name for myself in a brand new high school.
As I waited in line in the parking lot- driving my parents car with a huge dent in the front- a couple of girls held up a sign in the car in front of me “We think you are hot!”, and as they pulled out of the parking lot, another car came behind them and blocked my path.
When I finally got a chance to turn out onto the road, I had to speed up in order to catch up with them; I put the pedal to the medal, and when I glanced at my speedometer it read 43 miles per hour, and right about that same time I put my foot on the brake to slow down, I noticed a speed limit sign reading 20 (School Zone), and then I saw the blue lights in my rearview mirror.
As my heart raced, I pulled over and watched the police officer through my rearview as he get out of his car and walked up to mine.
“This is the part of the job I hate, but just let this be a lesson to you.” he said.
There was no casual exchange about why I was going so fast, no warning, no chance to explain that I was a good kid who drove responsibly 99.99% of the time, that I was just trying to impress a couple of cute girls, and that I was just trying to fit in at a new high school.
I looked up and saw the girls laughing as they were sitting at the red light in front of me, and my heart sank as the officer handed me a ticket that said 270 dollars.
When I got home I told my parents, and of course, since we were by no means financially well off, I had to get a job in order to pay off my ticket.
Working at a local restaurant- for minimum wage after school hours- meant it took me a month to save up enough money to pay off my ticket, and then after that, everything I made I got to keep- but trust me, that money never went much farther than paying for my martial arts training and gym membership.
If I wanted extra lunch at school, I had to pay for it. If I wanted to workout at the gym by my house, I had to pay the membership. For the first time in my life, I felt the same pain that my parents had felt: the pain of knowing that you must work doing something you dislike just to pay for a few small things that you enjoy in life. Let me just say, by no means am I complaining, and in some ways up until this point I was just a bratty kid, I understand now that many people all over the world had things much harder than I did, this is just my personal experience.
I worked 2-3 evening per week and every saturday morning for pretty much the whole school year, and yet I never had money saved, and I never seemed to have enough money to do what I truly wanted to do.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t end up living like that, and even though I didn’t want to go to college- I had different goals in mind- I knew that I didn’t ever want to live paycheck to paycheck selling away my life for a meager paycheck.
Since that time in high school I have learned so much, changed so much, and became a man, but I will always remember that moment where I was forced to work for something that I didn’t even want because of a stupid mistake I made, and guess what? That speeding ticket came back to bite my ass 2 years later when I bought my first car- thanks to a co-sign from my aunt.
Despite driving a $6500 chevy cavalier (paid for by a loan), my insurance rate was $270 dollars per month, almost twice my car payment, and exactly the cost of the speeding ticket, but now I had to pay it every single month!
When I was 16 I realized that I was responsible for my life, for my future, and for my finances. I realized that my parents couldn’t pay for my way in life, and that everything I wanted I would have to find a way to create myself. I knew that if I ever wanted to avoid the trap of becoming another one of the people stuck in the humdrum of the 9-5 just getting by, I was going to have to be different.
That same lesson echoes in my mind every single day: that I am responsible for my life, my future, my stability, and ultimately my happiness, and more than anything else, I am responsible to create the life that will provide me with the freedom to unlock my fullest potential.
The values that thrive deep within me, the ideals that govern my way of thinking and living are exactly the reason why I am the way I am.
That job taught me a lot about life. It taught me about money, it taught me that work doesn’t have to be fun, rewarding, or exciting. It showed me how it felt to do something you didn’t want to do because you have to.
I have had many similar jobs since that day, but I am making my way out of the grind, and I hope my story will inspire you to do the same.
Life doesn’t have to be spent sacrificing your time and passion for a paycheck that allows you to survive, it can be much bigger than that, all you have to do is make a plan, find what is calling you, and go for it as if failure isn’t an option.
I want to hear the story of your first job, and what lessons you learned from it! Leave a comment below and share your story with me!