I’ve always worked.

As soon as I graduated high school at 17, I got a car and then my first job. I was a waitress for two months. I was absolutely horrible at it.

Fast food for 10 months after that.

Office assistant and temp work for a bit.

At 19 I got my first job in computer work, and landed my second-to-longest lasting position with an organization. It started with data entry. I learned A LOT of things with this employer. Accounts receivable, order fulfillment and shipping, database management, retail sales. Anything that needed to be done, all employees were encouraged to learn so they could fill in for others.

A few years into this placement, I was able to begin proofreading and editing a publication, and through my numerous “suggestions” for the graphic designer, the concept that I might be a good candidate for learning what was then called desktop publishing began to grow.

I became the editor and art director of an internationally distributed magazine with just a few hours of training. We don’t keep those issues in the portfolio. The print shop helped me immensely in the first years. I had Photoshop 3 that came bundled with my scanner, and no training except to stumble through the palettes and menus.

I loved the work.

It wasn’t enough for supporting a family of four, though, when my first husband lost his job. We started buying collectibles from garage sales and selling them on eBay. It was called Auction Web then.

In 2000, life was changing fast. My situation caused me to leave this employer and move.

I was employed in temporary work again for a little while. I set up computers for what seemed like an astonishing $10/hr. after years of working for $5/hr. I landed a placement in data entry that once again became a graphic design position. Loved the work.

Then an opportunity came along to go to college and get a piece of paper that said I knew graphic design. But my employer wasn’t able to keep me on part-time as I took a full load of classes, so I left another job. Not long after, I was able to fill a graphic design paid intern position at the college.

I cannot believe my fortune from this point.

I finished my studies with a 4.0 GPA and was informed of an opening at a local organization. I applied for the position and was accepted. I’ve been there now since 2004 and I’ll retire from this organization one day.

I’ve been blessed. I worked hard, for certain, but I also would never have doubled my income and earned the great benefits I have now if it weren’t for the generosity of others.

I did not pay for my college education. I was eligible for a Federal Pell Grant that did not need to be repaid. I was only able to leave full time employment to attend college because of housing and food assistance from a private organization that helped single parents start over.

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