Lessons From 2,000 Hours on a Public Bus
I used to be ashamed about what it took for me to get to school every morning. Now I realize it was an education of its own.
During my high school career I spent more than 2,000 hours on public transportation. Two hours to and from the elite suburban prep school I attended for three years. Four hours total for each of the 180 days of the school year. And that was only if there was no traffic.
Here was the drill: I’d wake up at 4:50 a.m. in the dilapidated duplex in Ward 8 of Washington that I shared with my father, grandmother, uncle and younger sister.
It was too early for me to be hungry, and our kitchen rarely had much food anyway. So skipping breakfast became a habit. After willing myself out of bed, usually on three to four hours of sleep, I’d take a shower to wake myself up, get dressed and head out to catch the Metrobus at 5:15 a.m.
Finally, my commute taught me humility.
I don’t doubt that there were people in my neighborhood who could have done more to help themselves and set a better example for their children. But I also know that there were many young men and women whose attitudes toward life, family and education would have been vastly different if they’d benefited from a fraction of the opportunities I’d found thanks to an extremely hard-working father and the luck of an excellent education. My experience has taught me that pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a myth: Achieving social mobility requires far more than will and ability. It’s nearly impossible to rise without other people helping you pull yourself up.
Read the whole thing. Zach’s memoir, Uncensored, is at its best in his descriptions of the realities of poverty in America.