Earlier this year, I gave a small talk and then Get UNstuck workshop down in Denver. After the workshop, a bubbly young woman waited patiently in the wings to speak with me. Turns out, she loved funny things — and this was long before my decision to pick up and move to Chicago to study at Second City. Not long after, she sent me a beautiful thank you note for my talk that evening.
So I invited her to be my guest at the upcoming Kathy Griffin show coming through town. We went. We had a grand time.
We’ve stayed in touch — and today, I’m delighted to introduce you to the sheer fucking splendor that is Amber L. Hott.
Have a guest post of your own to submit? I’m getting through them. Gradually. Submit yours here.
I was 27 years old and working at Burger King. In walked a regular. I smiled and with a joy that could only come from anywhere but there and said, “Good Afternoon! Welcome to Burger King!” He smiled back and replied, “So when you were a little girl did you think you would grow up to work at Burger King?”
I desperately needed that shitty job that I commuted by bus to and from, totaling 4 hours on a bus a day. I smiled again and gave him some bullshit about how I liked my job. Oh yeah, I liked dealing with assholes like him. I liked how customers on a regular basis treated me like the scum of the earth because of my occupation. I liked being judged as unskilled because of where I worked. I liked serving up big helpings of diabetes to little kids. I liked cleaning shit, in its literal form, out of the play area. I especially liked being paid $8.25 an hour.
I felt like a failure.
What this asshat didn’t know was that I got pregnant at 15, my mother abandoned me at 16 and I married an abuser that was seven years my senior at 17. I had three kids by the time I was 21. I had every reason to fail.
At 22 I was fighting depression. A doctor who I had never met before, after asking a few questions but still not really knowing anything about my life, misdiagnosed me with a mental illness that I didn’t have. I believed him with devastating consequences. After placing me on five medications I became someone else. Someone who loathed herself because she wasn’t herself anymore and she didn’t know how to be the girl she used to be. I had no short term memory. I was tired all the time. I had massive weight gain, ADD, anxiety so bad that I had constant tremors and was too terrified to take a shower unless someone else was in the room. By 26 I was divorced, hungry and homeless. I had every reason to fail.
Fast forward to today. I have been off all psychiatric medications for over two years. I’ve had multiple doctors tell me that I was misdiagnosed and never had anything beyond severe depression. I’m halfway to my college degree. I don’t work a shitty job because I’m my own boss. I’ve become a comedian, a theatre actress, a writer and a producer. Yeah, I get paid to do all that fun shit, and I have more doors opening from the last 3 years of hard grueling work. I love myself. I love who I have become and I love who I am growing into. I have a tremendous support system and I have a voice in my community. I take my strong female presence everywhere. I didn’t fail.
So when that 65 year old, wrinkly, shriveled man with 4 teeth and stringy greasy gray hair judged me for working at a fast food chain that he ate at almost daily, he didn’t realize that it was a major fucking accomplishment because two years before that I couldn’t take a fucking shower, let alone hold down a job.
While he goes home alone to his TV knowing he’s nearing the end of his life and has nothing but a shitty attitude and a social security check to show for it, I have my youth and my entire life ahead of me still. I’m only 30. I’ve moved on and am making a difference in my community. He’s choking down another cheeseburger.
So what’s the point of all this anyway? There are a couple points.
I’m sure that nobody reading this would ever act like that asshat above, but just in case I’m wrong, knock it the fuck off. You don’t know the story behind the woman taking your order, or the man that’s digging through the trash. They are still human beings with worth and value, and most importantly, feelings. Even if your shit smells like dew covered lilies on a crisp spring morning, it’s not okay to walk around with the goal of making people feel bad about themselves. You might see someone struggling today but that doesn’t mean they will always be struggling and it certainly doesn’t make them unimportant or unworthy of kindness.
And to those struggling, you’re not always going to have situations conducive to living your potential. It might not be your fault. Maybe it was something you were born into. You have to fight. When you can’t see making it, fight. If I can go from “mentally ill” to hungry to homeless to running my own life and helping put food on the table by turning ideas into actions and investing in my community, surely where ever you are, you are not destined to stay there. You have importance. You have worth. The world needs you.
I had every reason to fail. But I didn’t because I’m special. But here’s the best part; I’m no more special than you. So when everything’s dark and you don’t know how you’re going to make it, take another step forward. You can do it because you’re special and important.
Amber Hott considers herself a Colorado native. She is currently studying psychology and holistic health and should graduate with her first degree in 2014. She is also a stand-up comedian, actress and PTSA mom. Amber is a liberal/feminist/hippie and isn’t afraid to be controversial. Check her out on Facebook at The Hott Comedy Experience.