“Everything I do is to make sure you can have the opportunities that I never had,” my mother said to me during a late-night drive home from work, her cerulean SUV gliding across the starlit streets.
It was during moments like this that I was amazed by my mother’s strength and drive — in tranquil car rides across the Allentown suburbs. Without hesitation, she dropped everything to pick me up from work. She had left her bed and drove for miles, her languished voice yawning an enthusiastic “Hello” as I’d open the car door, the frigid midnight wind crashing against the leather seats.
Most of the time, she had to work the next morning, but she never thought twice about coming to pick me up, even if it cut into her sleep.
My mother would pick me up — often late at night — multiple days a week every week for months when I first started working, and looking back on it, I don’t know if I ever said “Thank you” to her.
At 15 years old, I never appreciated the sacrifices that my mother made for me because I never quite understood them, but as I got older, she’d tell me what she had to go through to make our life possible.
She worked long, exhausting hours to provide for our family, even if we were too young to understand that at the time.
She began working in warehouses as a forklift driver because the pay was sufficient, and although it was physically draining, she never lost her smile and vitality. She worked night shifts at Aldi and Target to put food on the table, and she still woke up at a decent time every morning to be with my siblings and me.
The opportunities I have today weren’t the same as my mother had. At 17, she had my older brother, and three years later, at 20 years old, she gave birth to me. She put her life on hold for us, never once looking back, even when my biological father left only weeks after I was born.
When my mom met my stepfather, she never lost her drive. In fact, she blossomed into the most hard-working woman I’ve had the blessing to know, and in the past few years, my mother has grown professionally in ways none of us could’ve imagined.
She worked her way up from a forklift driver to a floor supervisor, and eventually the safety manager of a logistics company. Today, my mother oversees the safety protocols and training of every employee at that company, and she regularly travels to other branches in the region to evaluate their safety standards.
She did all of that without a college degree. My mother knows no limitations to her power — she creates her own opportunities.
The older I get, the more I realize how much she was sacrificing to be there for me. When she tells me everything she does is to make sure I have the opportunities that she wasn’t afforded, I understand what she means, and I appreciate her endlessly for it.
Every day that she went to work, often for 10 to 12 hours a day, she was showing me the persistence and drive I’d need to survive college. Today, I’m a double major in the honors program with a 4.0 GPA and the editor of a college newspaper, and I attribute every ounce of that success to my mother and her determination and ambition.
The values that I have as a man today — being hardworking, driven and persistent — are qualities I get from my mother.
My mom is the strongest, most hardworking woman I’ve ever met, and she doesn’t let a roadblock inhibit her from getting what she wants. Two teenage pregnancies and a divorce could’ve been enough to derail her, but my mom never let that — or anything else, for that matter — stop from her providing for her family and being the best positive role model her kids could have asked for.
As I sit at my desk in the newsroom, I think about my mom sitting at her own desk, nearly two hours away. I think about her struggles and success, but above all else, I think about those late nights where she’d sacrifice everything to help me save money for college, and it’s in those midnight car rides that I saw my mother’s drive more than ever.