A letter to my 18-year-old self (2)

(...) You are 20 years old now, and you will soon meet one of your best friends who years later will become the love of your life, keep it tight, but focus on your life for the moment. Summer of your twenties and you are all alone in a five storey dormitory building. The staff of the building will often forget that you are still there, and you will be without water or electricity several times, but keep on searching for a job. You have a decision to make; you’ll either return home and probably never come back for the second year or stay in Tirana to work during the summer to make the money needed for the next year.
     It is not going to be that simple because you are left with just 4 euros in your pocket, just enough for you to buy a one-way ticket to go back home. If you buy that ticket, you know quite well that you will NOT come back to University to pursue your studies. You have yet to keep the promise you made to your father, and the deadline is here. 

You will have no job yet, a year passed, and you still can’t support yourself. You will pack your bags thinking what to do during your long hungry walks. The last day you will take the last walk, at least that is what you are going to think in that moment, and decide to buy a newspaper with announcements for job vacancies. Damn it, it will cost you almost 70 cents, but you will have enough for that one-way ticket and just a few cents to buy yourself the last coffee in Tirana.
     Taking the newspaper with you, you will walk into the nearest bar you’ll find. While you are on the way to swallow that bitter coffee, your father will call you and tell you to come back home. You are going to ask him, what will happen with your second year of University, and he will say “I don’t know, I will lose my job soon because of the coming elections, so until then just come home.” You will feel like you are stuck in a corner. With your knees going weak, either because you are tired and hungry or because of what your father said; you will sit in the bar, order the coffee and furiously look at the newspaper. You can’t blame him after all, he did what he could the whole year, and it was not his fault. You don’t know what to do, this is too much for you and that damn coffee never came with a glass of water, you are on the verge of crying. As you get ready to pay, you’ll see the bill and it will hit you hard. It is going to cost you half of your money, but you can’t call your father for more. Still, composed, you will pay, biting your tongue, asking yourself why you entered such an expensive place.
     But as you are ready to go out, the waiter will ask you “Are you looking for a job?” Your heart will drop to your stomach and you will feel yourself almost fainting, but you’ll answer nonetheless: “Yes, I am.” After the conversation with the manager, you will agree to start working that day. You will thank them and you will run to your dormitory room to pack the last things remaining. 

It is not over, you finally have a chance, but you have to find a place to sleep, the dormitory will close that same day, so you have to run to the summer dormitory and ask for a room. They’ll ask you money, around 40 euros per month to be exact. Oh but in that moment your mind is going to work tremendously fast, you see opportunities everywhere. You are left with just 1 euro and 30 cents in your pocket, with those 30 cents you will buy a toast to gain some strength, you will call a friend of yours and ask her for some money. She will help you, and you will pay the first rent. Run girl, quick take everything you have because within an hour you have to start your first day of work.
     You will collapse after taking all your things to the room you’ll stay at during summer, and so that no one can see you, you will go to nearest bathroom and cry. You will feel alone, and powerless, hungry and frustrated. No friend was there to help you. But thinking that you did it is going to give you power. You will stand, call your father and tell him happily that you started a job in a call-center; you will not tell him that you are going to work as a dishwasher in a bar, he will never accept that. He, not knowing of your struggles, will tell you to work hard and hopefully to save the money for the second year. You will go flying to your new job; you will learn the things needed to be done within a day. Although you are tired, with no money left and hungry, you will not give up. Thankfully, it is a bar, and when a client is going to return a toast because it was burned, you are going to secretly eat it. At least you have plenty of water and some fruits that needed to be tossed in the garbage; you will not toss them, but will clean and eat them. You did it. You survived the hardest day of your life.

Dear 18-year-old self! The fight with life isn’t over yet. You will work for 10 hours a day at the bar, come home late, and start searching for a second job. You will find a call center, since you can speak Italian, and you will start there. In total, you will work 14 hours a day and you will get no more than 300 euros, but you’ll manage. Take care of your health girl; you’re going to lose so much weight that even your work uniform won’t fit you properly. You can’t give up now. During your work days the staff will look at you strangely. There are 8 boys in total, working in different shifts, and although they’ll notice you being tired and skinny, they will always say to you “Why are you always smiling?”. Oh but what do they know. They can’t understand you or how you are feeling inside. You found a job at the last moment, found a place to sleep and you provided your meals. What can anyone want more than that? You will always smile because you are grateful that you made it once again. To this day, they will remain a fond memory of yours, because they were the best colleagues you could’ve had and they treated you like their younger sister. You’ll remember how you felt when you got your first wage too, how independent and fulfilled; but still, you have a long way to go.

Summer will pass, and the roommate staying with you in the summer dormitory will accept to share the rent with you. None of you can afford the yearly payment of the school dormitory, so renting will be the best choice. The room is going to be small, but you won’t care. School is starting soon, and you are still working, so you will quit the call center but not the bar. And from October till January of the next year, you’ll barely manage to pay your rent, eat, and buy your next books. You are now 21, my dear.

(Painting by Malcolm T. Liepke.)

(to be continued in couple of days)

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