The very first time I got a speeding ticket happened to be in a school zone near my neighborhood after dropping my little sister off at school across town.
I missed the blinking lights that were placed just at a corner, and went thirty instead of the posted twenty miles an hour, thinking I was doing well.
Then saw the lights go on in my rear view mirror. It was one of the first times I drove alone, and of course I was startled to find out that the officer was following me; so I pulled over into the first street I could find, turned off the music, rolled down the windows, and put my shaking hands on the wheel.
I just knew I looked like a hoodlum with a black beanie, t-shirt and sweatpants on, driving my brother’s red convertible Eclipse. I didn’t think it would end well.
I explained to him that I’d missed the sign on the corner and didn’t realize I was in a school zone (I’ve learned since then that school zones are near every school, from a while before school opens to a little while after it starts and kids should technically be off the streets).
He said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
He gave me my $300 ticket about five minutes later.
I was a student. I had no job. I’d gotten in trouble with the law for the first time in my life, driving my brother’s car, under my mom’s insurance. I didn’t know how it would affect my family. Him telling me that it was okay and not to worry about it still bothers me to this day, but I digress.
I drove my brother’s car home, made it upstairs to his room to tell him the bad news, and went into my room before I dissolved into tears.
I kept staring at that ticket, wondering how I was going to fix this. Could I dispute it in court? Well, I’d done wrong, hadn’t I? What was there to dispute? I made a mistake.
So, how was I going to pay the fine?
A couple of years before, I’d started a band with two of my best friends. With a crummy part-time minimum wage job and some help from my uncle, I invested in a beautiful if not low-quality, beginner’s wine-red 5-piece drum kit.
I put it on Craigslist within an hour.
When my mother got home from work, I told her what happened.
She wasn’t angry with me. Instead she said, “You know what I can really admire about you? That when something happens, you might cry, you might be upset. But you get that out of the way and you go on to figure out what you can do to fix it. You don’t let it beat you.”
Life’s gonna throw a ton of shit at you. It’s gonna be hard and scary and feel impossible to get past (and yes, I’m aware that in the grand scheme of things, $300 isn’t that bad). But others have faced it before. They’ve gotten through it. And I’m telling you this as a girl who works retail making less than $15,000 a year, looking for a place to live for herself, her boyfriend, two cats and a 90 lb Rottweiler mutt: we’re gonna make it, too.
We’re gonna be okay.
We’re gonna find a way to make it work. Things are gonna get better.
And we’re gonna be happy.