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My Dad Dropped Out & Earns Minimum Wage


My dad is, and will always be, the self-proclaimed king of Jeopardy.

This Venezuelan waterfall was named for an American bush pilot who discovered it in 1935 — “What is Angel Falls?”

He co-ruled the Franks with his brother Carloman but became sole king when his brother died in 771 — “Who is Charlemagne?”

He got 3 Oscar nominations in one year, winning for his supporting role in “Syriana”– “Who is George Clooney?”

I remember as I grew up, sitting on the couch with him as he named off facts, locations and names effortlessly to the beat of Alex Trebeck’s iconic voice. Once in a blue moon, I would find myself shouting a correct answer as well, hearing my excited voice collide with his and echo throughout our living room. My dad would smile, pat me on the back and tell me that he was impressed.

Those were the moments that I felt most proud. Those are the moments that will stick with me forever.

Although my father is undoubtedly one of the smartest men I have ever known, he is not formally educated based on typical standards. Halfway through college, he made the decision to drop out, claiming that it simply wasn’t for him. Eventually, he received a job working in a rock quarry. This job was not glamorous; he spent long days in the dark, coming home at night exhausted and sore. The position was dangerous, with burns, explosions and other injuries being fairly common; to this day, my father still suffers from industrial hearing loss. Unfortunately, eventually the quarry ran out of rock and was forced to close, leaving my father out of a job with a wife and two young children. With limited options, he began to take up positions in retail and handy work– a few years working the night shift at Home Depot, another year building cabinets, and finally ending up working as a sales associate at a farm goods store. He always said that the job is far from perfect, but he makes the best of it– he makes the best of it just like he makes the best of everything.

My dad still works long hours, dealing with unpleasant customers and listening to country music all day (which he hates). He is undoubtedly the oldest employee there, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the other sales associates who work part time to pay for their college tuition. But my father is unlike any man I have ever met. All the hours he worked, all the people he dealt with, all the country music blasting from the speakers… and he would still head to work with his head held high everyday. And through his sacrifices, he provided me with an outstanding life. Throughout my college career, he would place his entire paycheck into my account so I could focus on my studies in college rather then feel stressed out about money. Even 10 years before I was born, my father prepared for my future, placing money into a Merrill Lynch account for my college tuition. He and my mother sacrificed for a future they could not even picture yet, living in an impossibly small house with nothing but a lawn chair for living room furniture. That being said, I recently graduated last month without a penny of debt or student loans.

My father is selfless, and I want to be just like him.

However, my father taught me so much more than the discipline of working hard, sacrificing and saving your money. He taught me how to respect others; he taught me that success and intelligence are subjective.

I will never forget how a simple drive to the grocery store had a dramatic effect on who I am today. Coming from a small town, it was not very surprising to see my peers join the workforce immediately after completing high school. As my father and I drove to the store in his dusty, old pickup truck, he asked me about the peers I grew up with and what they anticipated doing after school. I joked around mentioning that I was one of the few to go to college, snarkily suggesting that everybody else would not be doing much more than working on cars or construction.

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