From The Grio — I remember my last shift as cashier at a local 7-11 store. I was 19, no older than my own children, when I got into my car and pulled out of the parking lot. It wasn’t my only job.

I was a full-time college student and running pizzas for Domino’s. It was just after 7 a.m. and I had just enough time for a quick nap in my beat up old Honda before the first class of the day.

“Is this all there is?” I remember saying out loud to nobody.

When I wasn’t ringing up lottery tickets on the graveyard shift, speeding through residential neighborhoods to deliver food to waiting customers or sitting in the back of a crowded lecture hall, I was snatching bits of sleep in various parking lots. Every so often, I stopped by my older sister’s house to wash my clothes and shower.

Hours later, I found myself driving aimless around north St. Louis. My life, I knew, was falling a part. There was a tattered journal in the backseat. Somewhere in those pages lay the dream of becoming a journalist. I wanted to be a local news anchor. I was too afraid to tell anyone; too afraid they would laugh.

Tired, I pulled into a shopping center, reclined the seat and opened the notebook. I hadn’t written a word in months. As I flipped through the pages, someone knocked on my window.

“What are you doing out here, young lady?” he said, smiling.

I shrugged.

“You look hungry.”

I shrugged again.

He said his name was sergeant somebody. “Come on inside.”

We talked for hours. About my life, about his. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps, he explained, and like me he’d had a hard time finding his way. “I cannot promise you’ll get to be a reporter,” he said. “There are very few job openings and it’s very competitive.”

It was likely, he explained, that I would be assigned to be an admin. “But at least you won’t be sleeping in your car.”

That was enough for me.

A few days later, after more marathon talks and taking the ASVAB test, I signed the enlistment forms and joined. It was Mother’s Day 1987. When I called my mother to say I was shipping out, she screamed “Hallelujah”! For years, she’d dealt equal doses of support and tough love. Maybe, she said, the Marines can help you figure it out.

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter