The summer of 2015 is a summer I am never going to forget. It was towards the end of June when my sister and I decided to ask my neighbor if she could get us a job where she worked.
I live in a very small town where it's really common to work in the fields during the summer if you are a high school student because if you want a job, you can definitely get one. At this point, I was 17 years old and I had no idea what I was signing up for.
My sister and I both woke up at about five a.m. on Monday morning. We put on a long sleeve shirt, a pair of old jeans, a large straw hat, and each gathered two bandanas, which we would use to protect our face from the sun. My mom packed a jug with ice and water bottles and Gatorade for us to drink throughout the day. I actually thought we were exaggerating by packing all that, you know, did we really need an ice chest? Well actually, we sure did.
We arrived just before six a.m. The first thing we had to do was sign in so we could get paid for the day. I was "Yaneth" that week. After that, we went on to grab a hoe (a gardening tool) and began. At this point, I wanted to leave immediately but I knew I had to suck it up and get through the day because I was far from home.
Our actual "job" was to pull all the weeds that were not a part of the tomato plants with our hands. We had a small knife-like object that we could use to cut them off if we were not able to pull them.
There was about 20 of us and I was the youngest. Clearly, everyone was experienced because within two minutes of us starting I was way behind. I was terrified and embarrassed. That day reached 100+ degrees and our crew stopped early because of the heat. I got through the day and I could not believe it.
The second day was just as mortifying and it didn't get any easier, it actually was worse because the field we were on was full of tomato leaves and we couldn't even walk through it! During our breaks, we got as much shade as we could and we drank water. I remember a conversation my sister and I had, and I remember asking her why we were there, why we came back, and why we were doing that to ourselves. Until this day I ask myself that question because I would not do it again, ever.
It was around three p.m. and above 105 degrees, and I felt weak, thirsty, I had a headache, my blood felt like it was boiling, and I was dripping sweat. The person in charge that day was wrong for not stopping us, but we were even more in the wrong for still going. I tell myself that if I would have kept going, I would have probably got heat stroke. This was probably the worst experience of my life. I realized that I did not want to do that ever again and I did not want that to be my future. I was glad that I was there by choice because almost everyone else there was working because they had to.
I had a few conversations with the older workers those few days that opened my eyes. They probably don't know what they did but they inspired me to aim for success and keep on getting an education. I realized that life was not meant to be stuck doing something you aren't passionate about. Those people were there because they had no choice and they had to support their family.
This experience gave me every ounce of motivation I needed to graduate from high school and enter a university right away. My education is my number one priority because it is going to define my future. I look back and think about that 17-year-old girl that almost got a heat stroke and I remember that I have to keep going so I can have a job I'll enjoy. Today, I'm a sophomore in college and I know that I won't ever have to show up to a job I hate because I didn't go to school. It will definitely take some time, but I know that every assignment, every long study session, and every endless day at school is going to count one day. That is how working in the fields shaped me.