Many people that know me, know the part of my life that has had a successful career working for some pretty cool companies, doing pretty rad stuff. I don't really share much about what I went through to get here.... the hard work, survival skills, taking care of myself, being lost, alone, the "why me" moments, etc, but I figured this was probably a good place to tell the story. My parents were pregnant at 19 years old and had me at 20. I don't really know how long my parents dated before getting pregnant or how well they even knew each other... I never really asked that question nor did they share those stories. They didn't get married until I was seven or eight years old and divorced by the time I was 13. In the early 80's both of my parents had great jobs, bought a house, had brand new cars and bought everything and anything they wanted. I remember my mom would go buy new clothes for me instead of doing laundry. Somewhere in the late 80's to early 90's, things started to go down hill. My dad moved out. I was living with my mom and her drug addiction slowing started to take over. We went from having a brand new house and car, to living in a duplex in a shitty dangerous neighborhood, push starting a small single cab Toyota truck. I'd walk to the grocery store to buy food with food stamps, was on welfare, received food boxes from the Tucson Food Bank and tried like hell to like the taste of powdered milk in my generic brand corn flakes. We often had no electricity and would run an extension cord from our neighbors house to ours, plugging in one lamp in the middle of the living room so we had light at night. I remember heating up water in a kettle on a gas stove and slowly (and I mean slowly) trying to fill a bathtub... by the time I got the bathtub full, it was maybe lukewarm at best but it was better than an ice cold shower. I remember picking mealworms out of the Quaker Oats oatmeal box, it was what we could afford (marked down to $.50 on clearance at the grocery store) and cooked it slowly over a candle.
In 4th grade, my friend Danielle had the best of the best. The popular clothes and shoes while I got hand me downs (from god knows who) and whatever we could afford from the thrift store. Occasionally we'd get a chance to pick out new clothes but could only afford it by putting it on layaway at K-Mart. As badly as I wanted to have whatever was trendy at the time, we just couldn't afford it. Keds were the "cool" shoes to have and I had the Payless version of them. When my friend would get new shoes she would give me her old dirty worn out pair and I would carefully peel off the blue Keds rubber logo from the back of hers and superglued them to the back of mine. I remember to this day how hard it was to get the superglue off my fingers and also how incredibly crooked I glued the Keds logo. I thought that was what I needed to do to be cool and for people to like me.
By time I got to high school the most important thing I had going on in my life was dance. That was all I cared about and all I wanted to do. I wasn't a bad student but I didn't apply myself as much as I could have. I did the minimum needed for a passing grade that allowed me to perform. My sophomore and junior year, Ms. Torrez kept encouraging me to join the pom line and I had no interest whatsoever. I was in a different dance class, had my dance crew and thought the pom line was too damn cliquey for me. The end of my junior year I finally tried out for the team and made it. The summer going into my senior year I started practicing with the team and the rest of my senior year was one of the best times of my life.
It changed my perception about the people who were on the pom line and I quickly became friends with people I thought I had nothing in common with. Ms. Torrez nominated me for a leadership retreat that year and that experience really was an amazing eye opener. I learned that no matter what I'd been through, I could be a leader and make something of myself even though everything I had experienced in my life made it seem so impossible to do.
My parents didn't really talk to me about going to college and I had no idea what to do when it came to applying for scholarships or applying to even get in to college. I. Was. Lost. I got the courage to finally ask the school counselor and he gave me a website to check out various scholarships I could apply for. I went to the school library, logged on to AOL dial-up internet and I applied for one scholarship. A few months later I got a letter in the mail that I was awarded the scholarship I applied for. It wasn't much but I was really really proud of myself. Around this time as I was creating opportunities for my future, my mother was on another level with her drug addiction. She spent all the money we had for the mortgage, utilities and groceries and blew it on meth. I couldn't even handle her when she was coming down from a major binge. On my 16th birthday, I had to be at school at 6am for dance practice and was getting ready around 5am. My mom was going on her 3rd or 4th day coming down from a meth binge, barges out of her room screaming at me from the top of her lungs right in my face. I left the house so angry and walked to school. It was super dark outside and I got to school almost 40 mins early and just sat outside and waited for the gym to open. I put everything I had into practice. My step sister reminded my mom that it was my 16th birthday and went off on her about how she should feel horrible for yelling at me for no reason at all. When I got home later that day, my mom threw a hostess cupcake at me with two candles poked through the top of the package and said "Happy Birthday" and locked herself back in her room. That kind of behavior from her became the norm for me. I knew not to expect anything on my birthday but I think every girl hopes for something special on her 16th birthday...... mine was the furthest from an ideal Sweet Sixteen.
The scholarship I received was for a class that started just a few weeks after I graduated high school. I enrolled at Pima Community College that summer and spent the next few years knocking out my general education courses while working full time, going to school full time and figuring out the process as I went. (I'm the first and only person in my family to graduate with a bachelors degree and honestly cannot name anyone else going back several generations on both sides of my family who have completed as much as I have in their education).
My first job was at a party supply store where I worked for one month as seasonal help. I had actually applied at Target several times and really really really wanted to work there but I never got a call back. My dad gave me some advice to write a cover letter and apply at Target again. I thought it was a stupid idea but I did it anyway. A week later, I got an interview and I landed the job. I was the happiest person ever wearing my red shirt and khaki pants, proudly displaying my Target name tag with my name engraved on it. (I still have that name tag!) While I was working at Target, I was asked by a Team Leader to help out a group of customers with a really big shopping order. Turned out this group ended up being employees from Jones Intercable (Jones was later purchased by Comcast) and they had 6 carts full of toys and clothes for several families they had adopted for Christmas. I kept them entertained and laughing while I rang up all the items from their shopping cart and one of the ladies says to me "You are amazing! Come apply for our call center position". As soon as I got off work, I drove straight over to their office, still in my khaki overalls, red shirt and Target name tag. A week later I interviewed and got the job.
That was the start of this incredible career journey where my work ethic, personality, and desire to deliver the best customer service began. Making memorable experiences with people I encountered on a daily basis had become the trend of being recruited to every job I've ever had since then.
Jones Intercable (Comcast) recruited me from Target. Arizona Lotus Radio recruited me from Comcast. Cox recruited me from Arizona Lotus. UFC recruited me from Cox.
Looking back, I wouldn't change any of it. It made me who I am; it made me the fighter that I am. It gave me the strength to get through tough days... and yes, I laugh when someone complains that they didn't get the extra pump of whatever in their Starbucks coffee or their burger had mayo on it when they asked for "no mayo". If that's the worst thing to fuck up your day... try putting yourself in my shoes not knowing if you'd have food to eat, a roof over your head and a warm bed to sleep in, then tell me how shitty your day was.
Next time someone says to me "you're so lucky" when referring to the jobs I've had or things I've been able to accomplish or experience throughout my career...keep in mind, I've worked really hard for it. There was nothing lucky about getting here.