Everything to me, is roller derby related. But this is mostly just story time, I guess. It's the story of me flipping the fuck out over a teenaged girl holding a sign outside of Rite Aid, yesterday.
I must warn you in advance: this is an emo blog post!
So I'm riding my beach cruiser to Rite Aid and there's a sweet faced girl, curly red hair, bright blue eyes, freckles, and dressed like a nor-cal-bro huddled on the ground, holding a sign that says "Bet you $1 you'll read this sign."
You've seen those before, right?
Well, I didn't even know what was happening before I was asking this girl a thousand questions.
How old are you? Why are you here? You're young and healthy, why don't you have a job?
And before I could let her think I was another concerned adult trying to make her feel bad:
I'm not judging you, I'm really just trying to understand.
She just looked like a Junior Doll to me. Someone's daughter. Full of youth and promise, what the fuck was she doing here, begging for money??? It fucked me up, and while she told me her story (15, kicked out, sleeping under a bush), I just started crying, which seemed to confuse both of us.
For the record: I don't believe anything a desperate person says. I've been in survival mode before, when I was her age. You'll say anything and do anything to get your needs met. So it wasn't her story I was upset by, because I was pretty sure she was making it all up.
It was that fucking sign. Who's been influencing this girl, or not, to believe that she can get more from other people than she can make happen for herself??? I just felt so awful that no one ever empowered her to want more for herself than that.
By the time our interaction was done, she had 20 of my dollars, 3 of my hugs, a copy of Living the Law Of Attraction, and 30 minutes of my undivided attention. I asked if I could sit with her and chat for a bit?
I had a question for her that she seemed to be answering for the first time: What are your dreams?
She has a beautiful dream: to be an artist. To ride around in an RV with a dog and paint supplies, traveling and painting. I cried again when she shared this with me. She's probably never met such a big, tattooed cry baby.
Why was this so emotional for me?
It's real the reason I quit playing sports when I was her age: because I'd left home, was already working a job and paying rent, and bending over backwards to please my friend's family so they wouldn't kick me out. And then, when I moved to California, it's because my Aunt Susan was taking me in. What would have happened to me if she didn't?
Where would I be without the power of my own self-reliance and self-convictions, in addition to this outside help? Where would I be if my destiny relied entirely on the generosity of others?? Or completely without the benefit of it??
These are the kinds of things we talked about. I get being a purist, I get loving what you love so much that you don't want to do anything that isn't love. I believe that's how people are supposed to live! You're supposed to do what you love! But here was a young idealist: willing to do nothing else.
And I found myself saying something I probably needed to hear as much as she did:
If you work full time at a job, part time on your passion, eventually you'll get to work full time on your passion, part time on your job. (Jim Rohn quote, and then I heard myself adding) And when you've reached the point of mastery, you'll be a full time artist. But you have to master it first, before you get to live the lifestyle of a master. And for that, you've gotta work!
I bargained with her, I've given you 20 times what that sign was asking. What am I asking for in return? Not for me, I may never see you again. What am I asking you to do for yourself?
She knew I wanted her to tear that sign up, get a fucking job and take care of herself like she deserved.
I have never, and will never tell a homeless person to "Get a job." That's abhorrent behavior. I don't tell adults what to do. But this wasn't an adult, this was the future. I felt like how I handled this situation was very important. When I left, I hugged her again, got on my bike, as I rode off, called back:
I'm not trying to save you, because I don't believe you're lost. I just really hope I've been able to inspire you. Have an amazing day, and an amazing life!
And when she called to me, "Thank you, Merry Christmas!" I cried again. Because I think I really reached her. And if everything I ever went through in my life was just leading up to that one moment of inspiring that one girl, then I'd say all the pain of my past was more than worth it.
It made me realize that I have totally become the kind of person my teenaged self would be inspired by. It made me realize that by hustling, working, AND pursuing my passion doggedly, I am my own hero.
So, I'm not sure if she did more for me, by gifting me that realization, or if I did more for her, by being someone an idealistic, rebel teenager can look up to and relate to. (something I never had.) Either way it's a gift. A gift that I am honored, and humbled and yes, crying at the thought of, receiving. So I share that gift with you, along with the wish that you're doing the work to live your dreams, too. Whatever they may be.