When I was twelve-years old my neighbor from across the street asked me to watch her dog, Pinkerton, for her while she was out of town for the weekend. Wow, I thought. This is so cool! I didn’t expect anything from watching Pinkerton other than the pleasure of playing with him and taking care of him while she was gone. When my neighbor returned home she came over to my house and gave me a check for twenty-five dollars. This was my first paycheck – the first of many paychecks to come. It was also my first experience of what it felt like to earn something for your-self.
I believe in earning your what you have.
You see, my parents didn’t come from a background of wealth or luxury. My dad’s parents were second generation immigrants from Europe. My Zade, which means grandpa in Hebrew, fought in World War II with his German Sheppard Tippy. To this day reminds me of the hardships he and my Bubbe, my grandma, endured trying to earn a living and to earn their way here in the United States.
When I was in middle school, my Bubbe use to tell me stories of her experiences of being a woman, fighting and working hard, trying to prove her-self in a man’s world. She started as a journalist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s newspaper and worked her way up the ladder to become the editor of the UNO newspaper. She told me about perseverance and determination. I always thought these stories were just more pointless stories that grandparents rambled about to their grandchildren, kind of like the old story I use to have to walk twenty miles to school uphill in the blizzard and twenty miles back home uphill with holes in my shoes, that type of story.
My freshman year of high school I decided to try out for one of the nationally ranked competitive cheerleading squads. I made the squad but after a year of my parents paying four thousand plus dollars I was presented an ultimatum: either pay for half the fees of cheering or quit the squad. I chose the first of the two and began working twenty hours a week at a local grocery store bagging groceries, as well as teaching classes at our cheer gym to little girls who aspired to be like me and my teammates.
That was it. Working to pay for what I wanted, earning what I had, choosing to pay two thousand dollars a year to cheer, at that moment I realized what the stories my Bubbe and Zade had been telling me meant. I finally understood what they meant when they talked about fighting for what you want and earning what you have.
Up to now everything I had in life I earned with the paychecks I earned from working. Now what I have, what I earn, I’ve earned by working hard to give myself better opportunities in the future.
Every day I work to earn even the little things I have, like the time spent with my dogs. When you earn something for yourself it’s yours, no one can ever take that away.
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