| This is the 558th story of Our Life Logs® |
My name is Felicia, but people call me Foxy because my high cheekbones and dark chocolate skin reminds people of the legendary rapper Foxy Brown. Felicia, Foxy, I’ll answer to whatever. After what I’ve been through, I might even answer to The Queen of Hard Knocks.
I could talk about my upbringing, but my journey doesn’t truly begin until about 27 years ago when I gave birth to my daughter. I was only 20! I wasn’t ready for that teeny infant to become the love of my life! For the first 7 years of her life, we lived in the heart of Chicago which, admittedly, is not a great place to raise a baby. Too much foolery. A couple of years before we moved, I decided I would do whatever it took to give her a good life. It took years to save and get everything together, but in 2001, we traded the crime-infested streets of Chicago for the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas.
I was hopeful for a fresh beginning where the grass was always greener. But I soon found out that if you want your grass green, you have got to water it because, honey, weeds grow in all fifty states.
I thought that moving my daughter would mean smooth sailing for me, but I was wrong. Although I managed to escape the crime lords of Chicago, I could not escape poverty. Now, I have skills. I’ve worked very hard for years as a single mom and I’ve been through it, but those words don’t mean much to an employer when he sees that you just have your high school degree. It was so draining at first, and the only thing that really kept getting on my feet were my talks with my God. Besides my daughter, he was my rock. He must have been listening too because when I prayed for food, he sent me relief in the form of government assistance. My choices in jobs were limited, but God always made a way out of no way. I was able to find a job making minimum wage all while my faith kept me from falling into depression when things got to be too much.
I stayed at that minimum wage job for 12 years. I lived in a low-income area where I could afford rent without any help. I carried my little family on my back and looked good doing it! But during those years at my job, I did meet a man and give birth to a little boy. The relationship didn’t last long, but it didn’t ruin me. Where I come from, it is not uncommon for a mother to raise her children alone. Some men and women even expect and prefer it this way. I was already used to being a single parent and I knew I could make it work for the three of us—even on minimum wage. I could pinch and scrape if it meant sharing my home with another beautiful child.
I was already getting by but when the minimum wage was raised from $5.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour...woo! I was so happy! I went from making $840 a month with two kids to support to making almost $1,300 a month! For the first time, I could afford to do things for my children that I never could before. But…oh it was a big but…I learned that my raise meant that I wouldn’t be eligible for food stamps anymore. And wouldn’t you know it; I was right back where I started.
For years, I struggled. I never got into drugs or alcohol, but I did date men who were involved. I tried to encourage them to seek treatment, but many couldn’t afford long-term care. So, most of my relationships failed because of substance abuse. Despite this, I kept working hard to provide for myself and my kids on my own. By the time my children were grown, I was in my late 40s, and I had two grandchildren.
I was tired of working for crumbs. I had been working myself to death all my life for next to nothing. For the first time, I longed for more. I dared to dream bigger. I dared to crawl out from under the fear of unexpected bills and the next rent payment. Could I get into a place of employment that would pay me more than minimum wage?
I began my daily ritual. Get home from work, scour the internet for any dang job I qualified for, and knocking on the doors of who was hiring. But that’s just it, huh? I was a woman in her late 40s with nothing but a high school education. No certificates. Not for more than $8 an hour. Being Las Vegas, I also ran into the issue of many jobs requiring employees to be bilingual because of the large number of Spanish-speaking residents and tourists. I did not have this ability, so what did I do? Again, I talked to God. It was time for us to be on the same page and have an understanding.
I think God must have heard my frustration because I got a call back from a job that I had applied for months ago. Finally, I had a chance for my whole life to change! Foxy was going to be working at one of the best casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, The Venetian. This was my dream come true! This is what I imagined my life would look like when I was 27 years, young and fresh from Chicago. Finally, I was moving up!
The Venetian, my new place of work!
I was hired for the kitchen as a prep cook, making $14 an hour. That was more money than I’d ever made! I was beyond ecstatic step into that beautiful building and begin! This would increase my monthly income by $940!
Then 2020 came, and with it came the COVID-19 pandemic. Just four months after being hired at my dream job, I was laid off as the business suffered from the shutdowns and restrictions. Since I was initially hired from a temp agency and had only been there for four months, I was in the first batch of people to get canned. You know, I’ve been through so much in my life. But when I got the news, I cried my eyes out like never before. The entire casino was put on lockdown in March to reduce the spread of the virus.
The Venetian was quick about processing everybody’s unemployment. Seriously. In the blink of an eye, every bit of 283 people received their very own “discontinued employment” letter.
I filed for unemployment insurance, but it took two months to receive one check. I felt like I was left out to dry by my country. Although my kids were grown, my son still lived at home with me, so we struggled. If not for the church’s food bank, my son and I wouldn’t have had anything to eat. When I finally received the money, it all had to go toward bills since I had fallen behind.
Still, I only received $200 per week. It was all I was approved for. I went from making $2300 per month to making $800 per month. I had not worked at The Venetian long enough to qualify for more money, so it was based on my previous minimum wage.
I was so depressed that I could not find a reason to smile. All those “little things” that people tell you to look for when you’re down…yeah, they didn’t work. I saw the sunrise. I heard the noise of the morning birds. I hugged my son, and I talked to my sweet daughter, but what did that do besides fill me with more grief? I was sad when I woke up and sad when I went to sleep. Well, half the time, I couldn’t sleep. I would sit awake and cry and worry that I would be poverty-stricken forever.
The little moments, the “little things,” never woke me up from my depressive episode. It was time and a little space that gently nudged me enough to withstand another day. And another. Two simple things. The shock of it all wore off more and more each day. The loss of my dream was hell, but after 30 days had passed, I could finally sleep again. I wasn’t doing cartwheels around the house, but I wasn’t devastated anymore. My life seemed less daunting. The little things started filling me with some warmth. The next 30 days were a little easier and the 30 days after that were better than the last.
I tried to return to the Venetian when the casinos reopened, but they denied my application. Despite reopening, they still needed to lay people off to even partly stay open. I told myself that that wouldn’t be the end of it for me. No sir. Still, I kept reapplying, and still, each time the phone rang, it was The Venetian telling me they could not give me my job back. I’d cry a tear and try again. Eventually, they told me that I could be “on call,” but it’s been nearly three months, and I haven’t received any on-call assignments.
So, how do I manage and what do I do now? It has been nearly a year since the carpet was pulled from under my feet, but I still do the same thing I have been doing my whole life when I feel depressed or scared. I stay kind to myself and remember the good book. Like all the other times that life smacked me down, I talk to God about it. I read and remind myself that I am not called to worry, but rather, to trust. That alone gives me hope.
I may not have my job back, but I still look to when I will. And this hard time really helped make me stronger. I spend my days focusing on the good. I don’t brush off the sunsets anymore. I talk to friends on the phone, and my son keeps me laughing and in good spirits. I’m healthy. I’m alive. And I’m going to live like I am. I trust that the pandemic did not steal my dream. It just put it on the horizon. I keep hope that brighter days are ahead.
This is the story of Felicia Brown
Felicia, 46, spends her days reading her Bible so her faith can remain strong. She enjoys playing cards with her son and taking walks around her neighborhood. She is still consistently trying to get back into the Venetian and has been placed on call for now. She is hopeful that this pandemic will ease up by the summer. She is excited for life to return to back the way it was. She still loves to cook, and her dream of being a chef is still very much alive.
This story first touched our hearts on December 4, 2020
Writer: Melodie Harris | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker