I grew up in a small town in Indiana and spent my summers putting hay in farmer’s barns at ninety cents and hour. But it wasn’t until my college years that I started learning real lessons in responsibility. Dad had tried to teach me about responsibility but like most teenagers then and now I didn’t really want to know that much about it. I started my first year in college with almost enough money to get me through the first semester. Where the second semester and beyond money would come from I had no idea.
Dad was a milkman at the time and simply didn’t have any extra to give me. I had tried the scholarship and student loan route but since my mother’s then husband made so much money I officially did not qualify for a loan. It didn’t matter that Mom had abandoned us years before and just didn’t seem to be in the mood to help me out with any of my college expenses. So, for the first month or so of college I was looking around as to where I might be able to get a job to pay my college bills. A guy down the hall in my dorm worked in the dormitory cafeteria and suggested I try there. I was a very shy kid back then so it took me another week to get up the courage to go in and apply for a job as a waiter. To my surprise they actually thought I could do the job and they were willing to pay me $1.10 per hour to do it!
This was probably the first time in my life that I felt responsible for myself. Before that Dad always took care of things. It is true that I had to earn my spending money from a young age but I always knew that Dad was in control of the safety net that provided me with a home and food. At the time I really didn’t understand just how tenuous that safety net was and how many time it was almost broken. But that is another story.
By taking this job I was indirectly acknowledging that I was now responsible for my own circumstances. In order to make enough for my expenses I ended up working about forty hours per week in the kitchen and then various full time jobs in the summer. Forty hours proved to make it almost impossible to carry a full academic load so I ended up taking five instead of four years to graduate. But I did make it to that fateful day of being the first one in our family to graduate from college. Those years at college were some of the toughest times but they were also some of the most enjoyable. I didn’t have much time or money for socializing and I missed out on all the political unrest of the 60’s college campus but I did learn my lesson of responsibility that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
And the journey goes on…