** When I was sixteen, I began my six-year span as a hostess / waitress for a nearby restaurant. I was young. Naive. Convinced that I could win anyone over with an earnest smile and a cheery greeting. And for the most part, I could. But some people tried to take advantage of that. I would come home in tears, freaked out that a man — old enough to be my father — had stood a little too close and whispered flirtatious words into my ear. I didn’t know how to respond. I was scared.
I begged my parents to let me quit. Told them that I couldn’t handle this. But they told me that the world would prove to be a scary place and that this would make me stronger. So I kept on.
** When I was eighteen, I moved thousands of miles away to attend college. For the first time in my life, I knew no one and no one knew me. Two weeks into my move, September 11th happened. I sat in a chapel alone, crying because I wasn’t sure if a war was about to happen. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see my family again. I didn’t even know if my Uncle Mike — who lived in New York City — had survived the terrorist attack. I called home and begged my parents to let me come home. But my dad told me that I couldn’t quit. He told me that if things got bad, he’d make the drive to pick me up. But that I couldn’t let go of my dreams because things were hard. This would make me stronger. So I stayed.
** When I was twenty, I transferred to a college closer to home so that I could focus on journalism. I wrote a controversial piece for the school newspaper. I wrote that sometimes, we girls ask guys to treat us like pieces of meat, because we dress as though we’re good for only one thing. By our clothing choices, we are not requesting respect but are requesting the advances and the remarks. We are, in a sense, lowering our self-worth to the level of a guy’s eye candy.
Girls hated it. I received nothing short of hate mail… and the editor received the same for allowing it to be printed. I wanted to hide in a corner and to never walk the campus again. The humiliation. The hurt. The feeling that I could no longer show my face on campus. But the editor — a college student himself — took me aside and reminded me that I will not always write what people will want to hear. But I must always write what I believe. This would make me stronger. So I continued to write and held my head high.
** Time after time, I have gone through difficult experiences that make me want to quit. And I know they’re not over. But I can honestly look back and say that, time after time, I have been made stronger. More confident. More sure of who I am and of what I believe.
** The job I have now is one of those jobs that most people stay at for about a year. I collect money for a fire security company. I call the big companies and remind them that they’re late on payments. I get sworn at and called every name in the book. And had you thrown me — as a sixteen year old — into this job, I would have lasted one day. But I have a thicker skin now. I’m able to stay calm and confident throughout the entire phone conversation, even if the person on the other side of the line is screaming at me. (It sometimes makes me wonder what this job is preparing me for). 😉
Sometimes bad things happen because we live in an imperfect world. So there will be heartache, pain, and hurt. But sometimes we are being prepared for something bigger and more important. Sometimes — like gold — we must go through the fire in order to be made strong.