“We have no other option. We are going to have to amputate your father’s foot or else your father will probably die in the next week”. This is what the doctors told me in December 2016. I had just arrived from Chico State to spend some quality time with my family and now the doctors are telling me that my dad could die at 50. On Christmas Eve the doctors amputated my father’s foot. My Christmas gift that year was having my father around. There was only one issue.
My father is the only one who brings income into the household. My mom is a stay at home mom that doesn’t speak English and I have two younger siblings. I had to figure out how I am going to help my family pay for rent, pay the bills, and put food on the table. We lived in a low-income community living paycheck to paycheck. Thankfully, I had saved around $2,500 and that could help my mom and siblings live for another month and a half while I figured it out.
For the first time in our life, we had to go on food stamps and look for government help. The only issue was that it wasn’t enough to pay the bills. Right away I took out my computer and made a spreadsheet of all my parent’s expenses. Credit cards, storage, and utilities. I made calls and tried to make my parents’ credit card payments lowered. I went to the storage unit and had to clear it out and donate everything we had in there. For utilities, I had to cut the cable and internet to make it work. Cutting the internet was the hardest part since my siblings needed the internet to finish their homework.
It was also a tough time for my siblings. My little brother was in middle school and my sister in high school. They needed the internet and had to go to the library or an after-school program called Barrio Logan College Institute to finish their homework. I’m proud of them as well for being strong during this time at such a young age. I wanted to stay in San Diego to help my parents. However, I would have taken a semester off, all of my scholarships and financial aid would go on a pause and I would still have to pay for my apartment in Chico. I did the math and financially it would be better for me to go back to school.
I made sure my family was financially secure for the first month before I left. Once I arrived in Chico, I took as many hours as I could at Information Technology Systems and Services (ITSS) at Chico State. My supervisor asked me if everything was okay and I immediately told her no and I had to explain my situation. She gave me all the hours I needed at ITSS and offered me to work in her almond orchards. I took the job right away. With my financial aid and scholarship money, I could pay for my education and living expenses. With the money I made at ITSS and the extra money I made at the orchards, I could pay for my parent’s bills and everything else that they needed.
During the week I would help students and professors with their technology and during the weekend I would be in orchards. I had never worked outdoors in my life but; it was very relaxing being with nature. My supervisor at ITSS was also my boss at the orchard. One day she asked me if I knew how to build websites. I automatically said yes. I had built websites in the past, but they were not professional at all. She was thinking of starting her own almond butter company and needed help to build a website. So I started doing some research.
We talked and went with WordPress. The first version of the website sucked but, over time, it sucked less. I just watched YouTube videos and went on lynda.com to learn more about WordPress. Everything started very slow. I wasn’t very impress with my first website but, hey; it was my first website. You are only going to get better over time and with practice Elementor was just a new plugin that made building sites so easy. I started using the Elementor plugin and fell in love.
Later, down the road, I heard this quote from Garrett J White. “Understand that anything you try at the beginning it’s going to suck because you suck. But you will get better and you will suck less as you keep doing this. And eventually you will suck less so little that you will actually be GOOD. Just surrender to the FACT that you are going to suck”. It was so true! I just kept practicing and eventually I was good.
I also spoke with my professors and told them about what had happened to my dad and that I’m learning how to build websites. Some professors had friends that needed websites, and they connected me with them. My next website was for a small apartment complex. I met with the client at a restaurant. We had lunch and by the end of the meeting; he had agreed on me building him a website. I was more proud of my work on my second website. He loved it!
A few of my friends were looking for apartments for next semester and ended up on the site. My name was at the bottom of the site and I would get messages from my friends asking me, “Hey Zimrri! Did you build this site for the apartment complex? It looks very nice!”. Bit by bit, I started gaining more confidence in my skills. Many of my friends started noticing the quality of my work.
One of my good friends told me that one of our professors was looking for someone to build a website for an extensive project she was working on for the city of Chico. I went to her office, and she needed the website the next day. It was a stressful day, but it was fun and for a good cause. Chico wanted to go strawless, and I had to educate businesses on how to go strawless. They invited me to a meeting the next day to show off the site. I met with multiple business owners from Chico, and this was another outlet for more work. By this time I knew that whatever I was doing was working. This was just the beginning of my journey!
My father was recovering well and was getting ready to get his prosthetic. In the last week of my spring 2016 semester of college, I got a call that my father was back in the hospital. He just had a heart attack. I broke down again and took a bus down to San Diego. My father ended up getting a bypass surgery and thankfully he made it.
Many people helped me during this time and I want to thank all of them for being there for me and my family. Sometimes we take action when we are under stress. My biggest advice is to always prepare for the worst and pray for the best. I’m grateful to have my father with us today and my family is doing well. I learned a ton about web development during that 1 year, and now I’m going into 4 years of working on websites. We just need to remain humble and be thankful every day for what we have. Let me know your story in the comments below.