The first decade can be found here. Then it's eleven & twelve, here's thirteen, this is fourteen, and here's fifteen.
Sixteen was the year of my first job, finally being an upperclassmen, the year of getting my drivers license.
I applied for jobs in restaurants all over town. No one wanted me, at sixteen and with no experience I was too young and immature. You'll never get a job at Mamacita's, I thought. They mainly hired college students. The only high schooler who worked there was a hopelessly suave and attractive senior named Jessie that all of my friends had a crush on. I applied anyway, mainly because I was running out of places to get turned down at. By some stroke of incredible luck, I walked in and was able to speak directly to the regional manager. He glanced over my paltry resume and it turned out he had a daughter with cerebral palsy. She'd done therapeutic horseback riding lessons at the center I'd volunteered with for the past three summers. I'd probably met her and not known it, we joked. He offered me a handshake and the job on the spot. Walking old workhorses around a dusty paddock in the hot summer sun for zero dollars an hour four mornings a week paid off in a way I could not have foreseen.
A close friend and the leader of the We Love Jessie fan club was irate that I managed to get a job at Mamacita's. We'd all had trouble finding employment that year. I told her that it wasn't my fault, it was a fluke, I'd applied a million places and this was my only option. I needed that $5.35 an hour now that my parents were making me pay for my own clothes, makeup, and gas. We made up, but not before I swore up and down that I would not date him, given the chance. I doubt I would have ever been given the chance. One afternoon when I was working the slow midday shift she dropped by on her way to another job interview. She looked fantastic, and definitely older than her 16 years. The same manager came by the front door as I stood and talked to her. I introduced them and explained that she was on her way to an interview at a nearby competitor's restaurant. He smiled and said "You want a job? I'll give you a job! Let's go talk." She looked at me, bewildered, and I shrugged and shot her a "I have no idea what's going on" look. He spoke to her for a few minutes and then told her to be there when the restaurant opened the next morning.
We had a great time working with each other. We'd talk and laugh the whole shift, sometimes too distracted with all the fun we were having. Too much fun, in fact, and they learned to separate us, put us in different parts of the restaurant or schedule us for opposite shifts. I'd pull away from the restaurant at the close of my shift, tired from standing for hours on end and covered with spilled salsa or leftover guacamole, and see her pulling into the parking lot to start hers. I'd pick her up at the end of the night when she was too worn out to drive, and we'd head to a party where we'd inevitably be the only two people sitting down, tired and sore but happy from the freedom and autonomy we felt. We'd talk below the crowd, cross-legged on the ground while everyone else stood, our faces shining out at each other across the dark.