imagePicture: me, posing in the mirror my first day at that clothing store freshman year.  I remember seeing someone else on campus wear khakis with a denim shirt so that’s what I wore.

I know, I know, many of us got our first job when we turned 16. At 16, not only was I working and an elite athlete, I was also a mother…..a mother!

20 years later, this is the first time I have complete control over my pay checks and earned income.

My first job was at the local Dairy Queen. I remember the interview, I remember serving customers. I remember my first paycheck. I remember it so well because I immediately had to turn it over in order to help provide for my son. I didn’t open a checking account. I had no opportunity to save anything. No knowledge about investing anything. Not even a chance to buy me a pair of shoes. My son needed pampers, milk, daycare and it was my duty to contribute to his care at home. I signed the back of it and handed it over.

I remember getting dropped off at work by my track coach after practice. I remember watching others go hang out while I served them burgers and ice cream. Every check I received, I remember handing it over.

I was blessed with the opportunity to use my athletic abilities in college. Not my first, second, or third choice BUT, it was an opportunity. Two hours away, I left my son behind to be cared for by my loving, supportive family. I cried that first week. As a matter of fact, I caught a ride back home four days after being dropped off. When I returned, I went for a walk. I walked downtown and found a job at a clothing store. In between classes I would work for an hour or two and I’d often return to close the store so others could go home. I remember my first check. I remember it because I signed the back of it and sent it home. You see, my son was MY responsibility and I never wanted to hear anyone remind me of everything they were doing for me. I wanted to do as much as I could.

You see, my dad dropped me off at school with $100 in rolls of quarters. That was supposed to last me the whole semester. I sacrificed and pretended like I didn’t want to go to this party or that party. I used my meal money for track meets as “extra” spending money. I sometimes used my discount to send my little cousins home random things, hoping it would help family forgive me or at least love me.

I remember how proud I was when I walked downtown and opened my first checking account. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t understand anything. I walked out of there with a credit card and thought I had free money. (Yep, it eventually rolled off) 😂😂

The Summer after my freshman year I went home and worked at the local steakhouse. I can’t understand why that wasn’t enough but at 19 years old, I was working two jobs. I eventually worked the worst job of my life, at a local factory. I itched and scratched myself until that bell rang and I always promised myself I would never return home for fear of having to work in a place like that. Within weeks, I had another job. I became a softball umpire. I only remember turning over money I made to help care for my son. I still don’t remember buying myself any shoes, a shirt, a dress, nothing.

At some point in college, I was working at the store in between classes then attending track practice. After track practice, I headed to a local gym for my second job. When the gym closed, I headed to my 3rd shift position at Denny’s. You see, I have NEVER been afraid of work and taking care of my responsibilities. When my son finally moved with me to Raleigh, he went with me to work at Denny’s, sleeping in booths during my shifts. In the morning, we would go home, shower and head to school and work. Again, I have NEVER been afraid of work.

I waited tables until I was 30! No matter what I did full time, it was never enough to handle all of my responsibilities and occasionally take my son to a Kids Eat Free restaurant for the night. I tried to make him fit in as much as possible.

Two and three jobs became the norm for me because I never could seem to catch up , chase dreams, and put food in my son’s mouth. We never qualified for any assistance. After so many years of this, it seemed like I did a few things right. My son left for college and I was finally down to one job. That’s hilarious because I still couldn’t buy those shoes at an actual store.

While my move to Maryland was about love and a wonderful position, it was also about being able to breathe. I was always going to work but for once, I had someone that was going to take care of me for a change. To allow me to breathe. No matter how many times I asked to come home to breathe, I never had the opportunity. For once, I thought I would get that. After all, that’s what was presented that was possible.

In the last year, I have been a substitute teacher, an Art tutor, a Lego instructor, a medical records filer, a coach, and a packer in a damn book factory, all while trying to build my business. You see, I have NEVER been afraid of work. No matter what some may say, Cherron will do what she needs to do to make sure whatever house she is in is first priority. No matter how many times I was told “you need a real job” I knew that if I kept working hard, I’d never have to get another job period.

Guess what happened today? UPS brought me some shoes and a few outfits I ordered….Why? …because for once and finally, I can take care of myself and not have to save my money for anyone else’s rainy day……and I quickly removed the tags so I’ll never feel bad or have the urge to return a thing.