pauline mckinney

the gift of perseverance

I can’t begin to tell you how uncomfortable my memories of being a kid in San Antonio were. I remember feeling suffocated by the hot and thick summer air, and my mom being crazy about how we had to leave the thermostat at 85 because we couldn’t afford a big air conditioning bill. I’d sometimes try to push the limits and slide that puppy over to 83, only to wake up sweaty and see that damn thermostat back at 85. On super special occasions, like if people were coming over, we got to bask in a nice cool 80 degree house. Yes, we had to sit in the heat, and we had the worst toilet paper on the planet; but my mom always made sure we had what we needed, and sometimes even what we wanted. Before I go on, I want to paint a picture of my mom: She was a fiery, 5 foot woman from Mexico who wouldn’t take your shit. She was a survivor from a hard life, and wasn’t about to let anything or anyone bring her down. She was a single mom who had to provide for us on her $12 an hour pay as a prep cook. I have no idea how she did it, and to this day, I’m in total awe of her ability to raise us on her own back then.

I remember some nights where I got to stay up until 9 helping her fold laundry. We’d watch Laurel and Hardy and laugh together. She’d finally relax enough to tell me about her dreams of a better life. She wanted to get her GED. She wanted to be qualified for better jobs and get the hell out of her current job, which she hated. My kid self would always assure her she could do it, and she’d usually counter with excuses about no time, no babysitter, etc. One day though, she finally pulled the trigger and committed to night classes to help her prepare for her GED exam. I can remember on Wednesday nights, the three of us would head over to the library together and spend hours (which felt like a damn eternity to a kid) there. My mom would be huddled with the other students doing GED prep things. Sometimes I’d do homework, but mostly, I roamed around reading mythology books.

My mom studied on and off for this test for two years. No matter how crazy life with two kids and a full-time job got, she never gave up. She continued to show up for her dreams, and her doorway to a better life. My mom finally achieved her dream and passed that GED test, and man did we celebrate! I remember feeling so proud of her, and her perseverance to achieve her dreams. It was incredibly inspirational to me.

My mom insisted that I go to college, and make a better life for myself. It certainly wasn’t an easy path. I worked full-time and went to school full time. I didn’t have a traditional college experience of going off, finding myself, partying, and enjoying my life. I worked and I studied. I never gave up, and I made a better life for myself. When times got hard and I’d think about quitting, I’d always return to my memories of sitting in that library, and watching my mom push through, and not give up. She taught me to persevere and never give up.

When times got hard and I’d think about quitting, I’d always return to my memories of sitting in that library, and watching my mom push through, and not give up.

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