One Gutsy Summer
“My Gutsy Story®” by Suzanne Chun
I’ve made several gutsy moves in my life. Twice, I moved to different parts of the country, not knowing a soul, and I moved to California, where I only knew three family members. But, my first gutsy move taught me the most. I learned that sometimes you have to take a leap, and another, and another, until you get it right.
During the summer of 1983, I didn’t feel gutsy. I just did what my instincts told me to do. Now, when I look back at my 19-year-old self, I am impressed with the things I did and the lesson that I learned.
I was miserable at the women’s college that I had been attending for the past two years. Heated discussions about the Equal Rights Amendment and an angry attitude towards men were prevalent on campus. In general, I found the atmosphere more spiteful than sisterly.
As my spirits plummeted, I sought comfort in candy bars and crème-filled doughnuts between hearty cafeteria meals. My waistline expanded and my once clear complexion was covered with acne. I returned to my mom’s apartment for summer vacation and languished around, too depressed to make any plans.
“Why don’t you get a job at the beach and live there for the summer?” my mom asked me.
I didn’t have any friends who were doing that, so I would be on my own. Reluctantly, I agreed to give it a try. The next day, she and I made the four hour drive to Ocean City, Maryland to look for a room that I could rent. Most college students had gotten there in May, and now it was early June. Every ad we answered for a room or an apartment had already been filled.
To cheer me up, my mom took me out to lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the bay. Our waiter was tall and tan with dark hair, dark eyes and a broad smile. My mom asked him about himself. He said he was a college student, and he worked at the beach every summer.
“You should spend a summer working here,” he said to me. “It’s really fun.”
Suddenly, I was re-energized and eager to find a place to live. After searching all afternoon, I finally found a room for rent. It was a 30-minute drive from Ocean City, but I took it anyhow.
My mom and I went home, and I drove back the next day in my pale yellow 1968 Volkswagen bug convertible. My belongings filled the back seat. After getting settled in my new room, I got a newspaper to look for a job. I needed income immediately, so I decided to take the first job I could get, and continue to look for something better.
My first job was a part-time position at a souvenir shop. I wore a Ms. Pacman costume and stood on the boardwalk with a sign, directing customers to the store. People laughed at my costume, but I didn’t care. I was content to hide inside that giant yellow disc.
About a week later, I found a full-time job at a fine jewelry store. I told the owner of the souvenir shop that I really needed the full-time work. He said he understood, so I started working at the jewelry store the next day.
The girls at the jewelry store all dressed fashionably, so I spruced up my wardrobe. I bought jersey knit dresses that made me look slimmer, and wore strappy feminine sandals. Being near the ocean and making new friends made me feel happier, so I no longer felt the need to overeat. I started to shed the extra pounds.
In July, two good things happened. I found a room to rent that was 15 minutes closer to the beach, and a new girl, Dana, started working at the jewelry store. Dana and I became good friends. When she wasn’t working at the jewelry store, she was a lifeguard. I hung out at her pool every chance I got.
One day, I told Dana that I was bored at the jewelry store. I wanted to be a waitress, so I could make more money and have fun doing it.
Dana called me that night. She said she talked to her brother, Dennis, who was a chef at a restaurant on the boardwalk. The restaurant where Dennis worked needed waitresses. No experience necessary. Also, Dennis and his wife needed a roommate, and they lived only a few blocks from the boardwalk.
I couldn’t believe it. I would finally be living in Ocean City. Dana told me to stop by the restaurant the next afternoon to talk to the owner. I got the job.
I loved waitressing. It was really fast-paced and the tips were great. My co-workers, all students, were fun, energetic, and they talked excitedly about their colleges. They were all having a positive college experience. That’s what I wanted.
That summer, I persevered until I was happy. I had three different jobs and lived in three different places, each one better than the last. I was trim and tan, with a glowing complexion. My self-esteem had been restored, and I came home with a generous amount of savings.
At the end of the summer, I didn’t return to my mother’s apartment. I drove to the first house she had ever bought by herself. It was a gutsy summer for her, too. Her house, built in the 1920’s, was on a tree-lined street and it had a porch swing. It felt like home.
As I soaked in my mom’s old-fashioned, clawfoot bathtub, I realized that my perspective on life had changed. I couldn’t be complacent. I had to take action to make things better, so I transferred to a large university that felt right to me. I was happy there, and three years later, I graduated.
SONIA MARSH SAYS: What a transformation during your summer, and how you became “gutsy” and transformed yourself.
Please follow Suzanne on Twiiter: @SuzanneChun
Do you have a story to share about changing one person? Making them go for their dreams, encouraging them?