The Road Ahead, Part 13
Published: October 26, 2018
Written By: Charles Jefferson
Sometimes life gives you grenades disguised as lemons. I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in Mecklenburg County and then raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. We left when Hurricane Katrina hit. A day before that, my family and I moved to Columbia, South Carolina and stayed there for the next 12 years. It wasn’t a lively city, so I moved back to Charlotte to find more job opportunities.
My aunt lived in Charlotte, and that was good enough for me. At the time, my mom had already been staying with my aunt for personal reasons. My brother, Marcus, moved to Charlotte about 3 months after me because he got a job at Red Ventures. He needed transportation because he didn’t have a car, and only my mom and my aunt had one. I stayed with my aunt for about 5 months until my brother and I had to move out of the house and into our own apartment. I was glad to sleep on the plush carpet at a much quieter apartment until we could afford furniture. There were no more comments about being “good enough” and no more awkward vibes. All we had to do was pay rent and utilities on time. My brother and I were taking on this responsibility together, and I was stoked. It was time to make some lemonade.
April 18, 2018 was the day when everything exploded. Just 11 days before my 25th birthday… boom. I was homeless. I had nowhere to go and would walk up and down the streets of Charlotte looking for a safe place to go to sleep. I was searching for what I called “prime real estate,” a place where no one would see me sleeping outside. Prior to that, I sat in a Jack in the Box across the street from my old apartment until they closed for the night. So how did this happen? One night after my shift at Chili’s, I walked up to my apartment with groceries in hand and couldn’t get in. I saw a thick, yellow piece of paper mounted on the door. It had red letters all over it telling me I couldn’t get back in and rent was overdue. Little did I know my brother moved back to my moms’ house. I hadn’t seen him in weeks, but I figured he was okay. And he was, but me? Not so much. I was determined to make it on my own.
Being homeless was hard. I slept on the train, on emergency room chairs disguised as a sleepy waiting room patient and on the hotel laundry room floor. It wasn’t a high point and was a clear sign to do better. Finally, I got into the Men’s Homeless Shelter in Charlotte. To my surprise, they were doing renovations on the shelter, so I didn’t have to stay in (what I have heard at the time) was a big, dirty, crime-filled room with a bunch of sick, old, deranged people on my birthday. Instead, I shared it with one older former inmate, who was actually pretty cool.
I was struggling, but I wasn’t dead yet. Sure, I had a server job at Chili’s, but I wasn’t appreciated or valued. One time I got there and they cut me 45 minutes into my 8-hour shift. I quit that job shortly after that incident, and it felt awesome. I had no parachute, so I just jumped and figured everything out on the way down. I landed in a nicer job soon after and felt better there. It still wasn’t enough. I needed more. I needed peace. I needed to find myself.
I found Road to Hire when I was staying at America’s Best Value Inn. I saw a flyer on the bulletin board, and I was sold already. I went to the open house event and nailed the interview. I got into the program and the rest is history.
I grew so much in the Road to Hire program. I learned how to be a better leader. I made lifelong friends and potential business partners. I even picked up simple skills like how to sign off an email and how to eat soup at a fancy restaurant (yes, that’s a real thing). I can attest to so many triumphs in Road to Hire. My self-progression was one of those. I grew and started to let new people into my life. I love that about myself now. It’s not hard to open up anymore and it’s okay to not have it all together 24/7. And having learned that, I'm more human than I ever was before going through his program. I’m more of a man. More of a winner. More of a thrill seeker. More of a positive thinker. And because of this program, I'm more of my best true self.
Now having acquired my own house and car all within the 14-week Road to Hire program, I expect to win in the future. I expect to be extremely successful and love harder than I have ever known possible. I expect greatness. I expect to show up every day on time and be ready to take on the day and all days after. I expect more out of life now. I’ll never stop expecting perfection from myself in all I do.