Sunday, November 19, 2006

Changes, Hope, and Gratitude

At the beginning of this year, I left my job of three years at Confetti in McAllen. I went back to school, which I had left when I started working at the store. I needed a change. I was starting to get a bit depressed because I was working at the same job after three years. Sure, I was manager of the store and co-managed three restaurants. I worked my tail off, but I was still struggling. Furthermore, I couldn't hope for advancement or a promotion because the top is not that high in small business. It finally got to me and I started the year with those changes.

I started to learn more about local politics and even got involved in the Laura Hinojosa campaign for Hidalgo County District Clerk. I met some interesting people. Things went more or less OK in the semester at the university. I had trouble finding work. My job options were limited during the semester due to my class schedule. My available options meant that I would work fewer hours at lower wages. I wasn't about to leave school to get more hours at low wages.

I had started the year from a low point and things did not get any better. My wife later told me that she no longer saw a spark in me. She saw that I had given up. And I did. I had instigated changes to try to get out of the grip of hopelesness. It worked for a moment, but as the summer approached, I fell right back into its grasp. I really was at the end of hope.

This is part of the reason why I needed to get out of the Rio Grande Valley. I decided that I might as well do something meaningful with my travels, so I sought to bring light to the struggles of migrants. Even at my lowest, I'm willing to help people out. Being broke, I had much in common with migrant families. What motivated me to try was a little bit of hope. I had hope that maybe there was something out there for me. You could say that it was my last hope. I was fortunate that I found work, well-compensated work. It was even more fortunate that I would work with and for the same people I would be writing about.

I wrote about changes in the preceding paragraphs. The more meaningful changes occurred during the season that I spent working up north. All I needed was to win a little bit. Like that one breath after being underwater longer than you care to be, it was such a relief to work at a job where I could earn more than just my family's basic needs. When we first moved into our apartment a couple years ago, I was scared about making enough money to pay the $500 rent. That was a little less than double our previous rent. It was a big change for my psyche to be able to pay that AND pay rent on a second apartment in Wisconsin simultaneously with money left over. On top of that, I had enough to pay the outrageous electric bill here in the RGV (my worst bill in Wisconsin was less than $60) Once again, I had hope for the future.

I was prepared to stay up north after finally being able to see the light at the end of months of darkness. The thing is, I really like living in the Rio Grande Valley. Although I had much better opportunities up north, this is home. Rep. Peña had mentioned, at one time, that he needed somebody with technical skills to join his team, so I decided to try my hand. There are trade-offs that I was willing to accept. I know for a fact that wages and salaries are lower in the Rio Grande Valley. There are other benefits, like family, that factor in as well. So, we came to an agreement and now I work for the State of Texas.

At the moment, I am willing to accept a salary that isn't as great as I could command up north, but is more than I could normally expect in the Rio Grande Valley. This brings me to the third item in this post, gratitude. I started out with all the changes I put in motion to try to have a better life when I had lost hope. As a result of the changes, I regained hope. This is significant; you have to have lost hope to know how meaningful it is to regain it. Now that I have hope and am back home, I can't help feeling gratitude.

I am thankful for findng my way back to the light. I am thankful for the people whom I have met on my journeys. I am thankful for having a wife who stuck with me throughout this dark period in my life. I am thankful that I have a decent job in the Rio Grande Valley. I am thankful for the friendships that blogging has brought me. I am thankful for all the experiences about to come my way. And, I am thankful that my family and friends have been there for me. I also want to thank readers of RGV Life for your interest in the life of an RGV peasant.

There have been many changes in my life this year. I have lost and regained all hope. And my gratitude for the relationships I have formed overwhelm me. As the Holiday season approaches, I wish you the best whether you've had a good year or a rough year. I think you know that we have a series of vacations and half work days ahead of us. Once Thanksgiving hits, the rest of the year flys by.

I'd like to hear what changes, hope, and gratitude you have in your life this year. Leave a long-ass comment if you have to. I would like to hear from you, please.

Shaine Mata
RGV LIfe
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