Broken Dreams, Last Hopes
An Overworked, Underpaid Man's Ambitions
On my first day off in what seemed like forever, there was a merciless, torrential downpour. I hadn’t been sleeping much in between shifts at my three jobs, but that morning there could have been a zombie apocalypse and I still wouldn’t have woken from my overdue slumber.
When I finally woke up, the rain was still coming down at a heavy, merciless rate. The first thing I did was look at my phone – 2:43 p.m. No texts or missed calls. What else was new?
Despite how late in the day it was, I didn’t feel like leaving my bed. For one thing, I was still too drained from gathering dozens of carts from my last shift the night before. I was lucky that my shift ended just before the storm hit – I’ve been soaked from gathering carts in harsh weather conditions before, and it’s not fun. Neither is taking customers’ orders in a fast-food drive-thru where not only does the sound of the constantly beeping headset wear down on your eardrums, but customers could treat you however they want for any reason and there was nothing you could do about it.
At least tomorrow would be another easy day – my third job involved caring for my younger, severely autistic brother. At thirty years old, he was unable to speak and he was prone to throwing tantrums by screaming at the top of his lungs and biting his own arms. My mother had found a service where she could be paid to be his caretaker, and she signed me on when I was going through rougher times than I am now. Looking after my brother while my mother goes to her weekly support group was simple – he just needs to be watched and he’s compliant when it comes to giving him his daily supplements. While watching my brother, I could turn on Netflix, watch anything on Google Fiber, or even write my books. It’s not much, and I’m only able to watch him once or twice a week at the most, but every little bit helps.
I continued to lie in my bed and listen to the raindrops hit the ground outside. Days like this made me ponder what things would be like had I been dealt a better hand in my life. I was thirty-four now and I felt like I had barely accomplished anything worthwhile let alone the goals I was really passionate about, and I was running out of time to do them. The reason I’m living in an apartment and not my mother’s basement was not due to working hard at multiple jobs and saving up enough money to move out, despite the fact that I had been working multiple jobs. It was due to me having to take out loans and sign up for more credit cards because saving money wasn’t working. For nine years, I had an excellent track record when it came to making my payments on time and then some – one example being that I had paid off my last car in three years on a six-year loan. It had gotten totaled shortly after, but I had still paid it off in record time. I knew then that if I didn’t take drastic action, I would be stuck living with my parents for who knew how much longer.
So at the age of twenty-nine, eleven years after I graduated high school, six years after I graduated college, I finally moved into a studio apartment. I was doing fine at making my payments on time for a while but working two jobs that I loved was taking its toll on me. I didn’t want to stop working with pets nor did I want to leave the people I loved working with, but I eventually had to trade them in for one job that paid better. I had initially intended to use my time outside of work for the things I was passionate about, such as acting and singing – things I had to constantly put off because I needed to get my finances in order. Unfortunately, my dreams were about to take yet another indefinite backseat.
The job I had gotten hired for was at a warehouse. This should have been my first clue to find something else. Most warehouses required their employees to always work at a super-fast rate during their shift, and speed was definitely not one of my strengths. I let my new managers know that, and they acted as if they understood and were willing to work with me at my own pace as I got used to my new environment. During my orientation week, one of the speakers had even made it a point to mention that getting used to working this fast-paced environment took time, especially for new employees who were not used to it yet.
However, that didn’t stop my supervisors from rushing me during my first week on the floor, even though I told them I was still new and that being rushed only stressed me out more. Despite knowing that I was still a brand-new employee and that I had a learning disability, they refused to provide the reasonable accommodations and let me go. Telling me that it wasn’t because I had done anything wrong did not take out the sting I felt at that moment, and it also didn’t change the fact that I was unemployed for the first time in ten years, or that it would set the stage for another big setback and downward spiral for my overall circumstances.
From that moment forward, I went through several periods of unemployment, working thankless jobs that treated me horribly, and still falling further behind on bills anyway including my rent on several occasions, almost getting evicted once or twice. My new car had also been repossessed. My track record of paying off my previous car early meant nothing to the bank I was paying the loan to, and neither did the fact that I was struggling to find a good paying job. The fact that it was the best car I ever had rubbed salt into the wound, and it added immensely to my despair. My grandparents helped me find an old car that I paid $500 for, and it had issues but at least it ran. I still wanted my new car back – not only did I look good driving it, but I felt like that car and I were made for each other.
After a while, I had gotten two jobs that I managed to keep, despite that they were the last types of jobs that I wanted to do temporarily, let alone for the rest of my life. At least with pushing carts at my local Walmart, it was something that kept me busy, allowed me to think, and I could keep to myself most of the time without dealing with any customers. The opposite was true for McDonald’s. It had been my first job while I was attending college and still living in my parents’ basement, and it wasn’t long before I learned that I did not like dealing with rude customers in a work environment. I had wanted to find something else shortly after I got hired, but the job searching process was still a difficult one even when you had a job, and I still didn’t have the experience I needed to work with pets at the time. So, I had stayed there for almost five years before I finally got hired for the kennels at an animal hospital.
At the time, I promised myself I would never work for McDonald’s again, and for about six years I made good on that promise. But it seemed no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many hours I put into working in order to build my savings and credit, no matter how much effort I put into making my dreams happen, there is always something working against me, and this time I had to take desperate measures by working at a job I loathed but knew I could get. It’s no wonder that every morning that I wake up, I feel hopeless. I wonder why I keep trying. Maybe it’s because I can’t bear the thought of never making my dreams happen and being happy living the life I always wanted.
Still groggy, and feeling more despondent than usual, I reached for a small black book on my nightstand. It was a journal that I had been jotting down my thoughts and feelings in ever since I was let go from the warehouse job, which by this point was almost five years ago. Many of those thoughts went into detail about my goals and dreams, such as building my own house in the country from scratch. I had always wanted a horse. I would own several horses, as well as a German Shepherd, Rottweiler and Golden Retriever. I would also have five or six cats. I would camp outdoors in the nature and wilderness I always admired and bring my close friends and loved ones with me. I would need to learn those essential skills for being outdoors. I would get trained in martial arts – I would switch from wanting to learn kung fu, boxing, street fighting and MMA, but either way I would get at least my second-degree black belt. I would learn to dance, at least competently. I needed to be a good dancer to get through auditions and get call backs for shows I audition for. I would finally master my singing voice and acting skills and become the best performer I could be. I would make up for lost opportunities I had missed out on in high school and college, and play my dream roles such Anthony in Sweeney Todd, the Beast in Beauty & the Beast, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde in Jekyll & Hyde, Curly in Oklahoma, and many others. But my number one dream role was Tony in West Side Story.
I had also written ideas for an ongoing book series that I believed could be my foot in the door for a more successful lifestyle. So far, I had about eleven books written and saved on my computer but writing them was half the battle. I needed a beta reader and illustrator since they were children’s books. I also needed a way to market and publicize them once I got them self-published. I had big plans for this series, but in order to get anywhere I needed at least five figures in my bank account.
I always had trouble getting beyond three figures even in simpler times. During my third year in college, I had started entering Publisher’s Clearing House every day because I realized that my jobs by themselves were never going to provide the means I needed to live the life I wanted. All I needed was one win, one time, from either them or the lottery. But that win never came, despite that I was diligent and kept trying.
One of the Publisher’s Clearing House opportunities was a $20,000 prize in my phone’s app. It wasn’t the amount I envisioned for everything I needed for my dreams, but it could still do some big things for me. Today was the last day to enter it – after that, it would be awarded to somebody on Monday, three days from now. My entry was confirmed – nothing left to lose now.
Monday came. Just as I was about to leave for my evening shift at Walmart, the Prize Patrol showed up outside my door with the $20,000 big check. I had to be dreaming. I pinched myself as hard as I could – sure enough, I was still awake. It seemed that I was finally being given a break – a real break, for once. I had a strong feeling that things were only going to get better from here.