In some parts of the city, many of us who weren’t able to work for one reason or another had the luxury of being able to move quickly to whatever job we were qualified for. We often had a family or a long-term contract that allowed us to take a trip on an opportunity and stay put in the city for several years. For me, I had just taken my kids, I wanted them to go to school on time and get good jobs.
My mother and I were not on the clock — we were on vacation from our jobs. When I wanted a job that was better than working at one of these restaurants, I needed only to show up for an interview and the manager said “we’ll make you a job.”
I was in my mid-20s, living with one woman, trying to figure out who I wanted to be with. We didn’t have a mortgage; we were doing OK. Even though I was living in a rental with a roommate the only reason we weren’t in debt was because we decided to stop living in an apartment at the end of each month.
During the first year of my job I was living on my mom, we were having a kid and I didn’t want to be stuck on the street with everyone else. My girlfriend at the time lived out of state at the same time and we thought we’d go live with her until she could get herself and our kid signed up for college together. We didn’t know at the time that I was just getting a temporary job.
We talked to friends from out of state that we couldn’t afford and they said if we were willing to move up here I’d be the best of all. I took one job and one part-time job and worked at every job, but I had no choice but to be open to new opportunities. I didn’t know what the future held — so I just knew that I had something and wanted to learn. I had been in college for seven years, and the last few years had been a mix of jobs and studying, which had taken an enormous toll on me. Even though I knew it would likely end in failure, I just didn’t want to waste my life by starting at some other job that I knew would fail.
Once they made it to college I decided to stay in Chicago because it was a really nice city. But a lot of the people in my old neighborhood were still struggling to get something done and I wanted to help.