Photo by Holland Rainwater
Handling the heat
Senior find purpose in providing for family and actively working
September 29, 2018
He watches the steam rise from the crisply charred ribeye steak as he stirs the pot of bright orange rice next to it. He’s physically there, quickly moving to make their meals perfection, but his mind is somewhere else. Images of his hometown fog his concentration — images of his sister, still in Mexico. Images of his father’s struggles. The flashbacks remind him of his difficult childhood full of labor. That’s all he’s ever known and the only thing that’s gotten him and his family through the hardships.
Senior Eduardo Garcia moved to the United States at the age of 13, immediately working, whether it was mowing lawns or carpentry. He currently works at On The Border in order to support his family.
“I’m a cook at On the Border because four years ago my dad had an incident where half his body became paralyzed, and so he isn’t able to work like he used to,” Garcia said. “The primary reason for my job is to help my parents out.”
When Garcia first received the news, it wasn’t an instant shock because he didn’t comprehend the severity of his dad’s condition. Over time, Garcia began to realize the changing roles in his family and has been working to provide an adequate life for not only himself, but for his father as well.
“Around the time it happened, I didn’t really understand the condition my dad had. I only understood that my mother told me he was sick, but she didn’t specifically give me a motive, a reason as to why he was sick. I really started to understand his condition about two years ago,” Garcia said. “My dad is important to me. Sometimes I may not show it, but he’s very important to me. No matter how mad he gets at me, I will continue loving him.”
Yet, Garcia’s determination is a quality that he developed when he was young. Unlike most teenagers, he has spent most of his life working, which has affected his feelings toward school.
“If it was up to me, I would only work, because honestly, school has never been for me,” Garcia said. “For as long as I can remember, I have always worked. In Mexico, they had me working in the cornfield, and to be completely sincere, I wake up happier going to work than going to school.”
Despite the fact that he doesn’t have a passion for school, Garcia still places equal emphasis on his job and the completion of his schoolwork. Though at times, it can be challenging due to the restrictions that his schedule places on him.
“Balancing school and work is difficult because I have pressure from work, and then I have homework. I sometimes close the restaurant, and we usually don’t leave until 12 a.m.,” Garcia said. “I leave work tired and don’t have time to do my homework. I get to school late at times, or to work late because I try to do the both.”
Even with Garcia’s busy schedule and his dad’s condition, they still manage to find time to spend together even if that only means a few hours. Garcia also spends his time trying to fix the situation involving his sister.
“If I get home early from work, I’ll cook food, so my dad can eat when he comes home from working. Right now, I can adjust my schedule how I would like, so I have three days off,” Garcia said. “I use these days to do personal things for my dad or to work on helping my sister, since she wants to come to the United States. My sister is still in Mexico because when we all got our papers fixed, she was overage and didn’t have the same benefits we did.”
Garcia’s decision about his postsecondary education is unclear at the moment. Garcia would rather work and earn money than spend his time doing something he doesn’t feel as passionate about after he graduates.
“I don’t think I want to go to college. I’m hoping that I can work two jobs like I did over the summer, which was construction and at the restaurant,” Garcia said. “I would go to my construction job at 5:30 a.m., and I would go to work at the restaurant until 12 a.m.”
Although Garcia is paid more than the average minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, he still has to work around 165 hours a month to make a sufficient amount of money to take care of the house and to fend for himself and his siblings when his parents are away.
“The amount I get paid really depends on the days I work, but I get paid $12 an hour. I help my family take care of the bills. At the moment, my mom and dad are in Mexico, so all of the bills that are coming in, I pay for. I pay for my phone, car and everything else,” Garcia said. “I’m not gonna lie, every month I have to earn at least $2,000 to pay for all my utilities and such, and it becomes difficult.”
Even though Garcia has chosen a different path, he’s doing it because it feels fitting for him. He doesn’t want to encourage anyone to leave school solely because of a desire for money. His plans do include finishing high school and working hard for the things he needs in life while also providing a better life for his family.
“It seems easier for teens nowadays to say that they don’t want to go to school anymore and that they would rather work because they like money. But that’s not a motive to leave school,” Garcia said. “What I would suggest, is to graduate from high school because once you have that diploma, you have more open doors. My mom and dad always tell me to finish high school because I’ll regret it later in life if I don’t.”