This I Believe

Last semester I wrote the following essay for a class assignment. It wasn’t an easy assignment for me. I want to share it with the people who inspired it but I can’t. Too shy. Fear of offending. Fear of disinterest. Sharing it here is as close as I can get for now. 

If you’ve never heard of the This I Believe essay series, do yourself a favor and google it. Get inspired.

This I Believe

The signs were everywhere. I started working part-time at Mitsubishi in the fall of 2013. I kept my full-time job for insurance, which meant I was working 70ish hours a week, six days a week. From the first week I was burnt out, exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to give in/give up.

The signs were all over the plant. NEVER GIVE UP. Some were printed in bold on banners that hung from the walls and ceilings. Some were photocopied on paper, included with a crude rendering of a long beaked bird attempting to swallow an unwilling frog; the frog attempting to choke the bird while simultaneously being swallowed.

I saw those signs every Monday, Friday, and Saturday. I was tired and overworked. The job was hard. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. It was the hardest job I’d ever attempted and I only worked part-time. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could do the job five days a week when I could barely do it for three. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could do the job for decades when I hadn’t even been there a year.

The message on the signs repeated like a broken record in my brain. Never give up. NEVER GIVE UP. Never give up. People quit. Some stopped showing up. Some got other easier jobs for less work and less pay. Everyone knew how hard the job was. No one was ever surprised when a part-time worker quit.

After a year with the signs, I was hired on full-time; sixish days a week and 58ish hours a week. Some days after work I’d go straight to bed, too tired to take a shower, eat dinner, or move. Sometimes I’d cry on the line at work. Sometimes I’d cry as soon as I got in my car; crying all the way home and until I fell asleep.

At no point was giving up an option. Not in the hot summer with no air conditioning when I fantasized about walking out and quitting to distract myself from the unbearable heat. “You can’t quit now, Ward. If you were going to quit, you’d of already quit.” Not when my fifty year old co-worker, while training me on a complicated job he’d convinced me I might not be able to learn, strongly advised me to always wear a bra because gravity is kind to no one if I knew what he meant with his hands cupped and swinging low in a crude re-enactment. Not during all the countless times I got injured, keeping it to myself to avoid interactions with the company doctor everyone and my personal experience told me not to trust.

Those signs taught me that individual strength is an unknown, untested inner well with no visible bottom. All of my co-workers were strange and crazy to me. They were also strong in a quiet, inspiring, and unforgettable way. Years and years of seeing the same signs while working the same jobs over and over again had made the signs invisible to them. They had become living, breathing, walking signs. Never give up. NEVER GIVE UP.

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