OK, that line about being a self-starter can be a little shop-worn and cliché. Post it on your resume, and be ready for the eye rolling all the way from Monster.com and back.
That is, until Sandra Ramirez came along.
After all, the 28-year-old single mother (Happily divorced,as she describes it) is doggedly motivated. The soon-to-be masters graduate of West Virginia Universitys College of Business and Economics already has a good job lined up in her field.
Itll go nicely with that graduate degree in industrial relations shell receive in Maybut more on that.
For now, she simply gets a lot done during the day, whether shes in the role of diligent student or doting mom to her 7-year-old son, Danial (sounds likeDaniel). Like most true self-starters, she doesnt make a big deal about what she does. She just grids it out from one objective to the next, like the U.S. Army engineer she once was.
Which might explain the reply she always proffers to Danial whenever he grouses about being bored.
With a lilting voice that still carries the rhythms and timbres of her girlhood in Colombia, shell say,Thats fantastic. Enjoy your time being bored. Youll have plenty to do later.
It was a rainy, spring afternoon, and even though Ramirez had wrapped up her classes for the day, she surely didnt have time to be bored. She and Danial live in a duplex 20 miles down Interstate 79 in Fairmont, and she was getting ready for commuting time, dinnertime and mom-time with her son. Danial always has something to doeven if he says he doesnt.
She was also tiredas intake off your eyeglasses and rub your temples tired.She was coming off a full day of mock interview and counseling sessions that are part of her curriculum at the College of Business and Economicsalthough that adjective,mock,might not be the best term to describe the exercise.
Ramirez spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon dispensing real advice on what it takes to succeed to 20-somethings still trying to figure it out; and the so-callednontraditionals(students 25 and older like her) who know what they want, but dont necessarily know how to get there.
Twenty years ago, her parents knew what they wanted. To get there took a painful decision, which is why Ramirezs earliest childhood memory is from when she was 3 years old and sobbing into the hem of her grandmothers dress at an airport gate in her native Pereira, Colombia.
The family was relatively comfortable in this sprawling city of 500,000 at the base of the Andes Mountains.
There wasnt a lot, but there was mostly enough. But while life there was OK, it could be so much better up north in the United States, her parents reasoned.
To get there, they had to board a plane while their tearful daughter, in the care of her mothers mother, watched.
It took them four years to get established enough to send for little Sandra, who was the same age her son is now when she joined her parents in their apartment in Jackson Heights, the heart of Queens, in New York City.
Her parents became U.S. citizens. Their daughter did, too. A second child, Jason, now 20 and serving his second U.S. Army tour in Iraq, was born in the Big Apple.
They were solidly middle class, but they werent always satisfied, Ramirez said. Things didnt quite work out as they hoped.
Her mother, Maria Rios, a talented seamstress back home, took grunt work in the Garment District. She started out stitching swatches of fabric for the buyers of Macys and Bloomingdales who made the weekly jaunts to the shops.
Luis Rios, her equally hardworking father, slipped behind the wheel as a taxi driver, taking fares from Broadway luminaries on the town and regular folks from The Bronx on their way back home.
It was kind of a Colombia in reverse, Ramirez said. Life was OK, but it could have been better. That hasnt changed. Maria and Luis, at 48 and 52, respectively, havent advanced much past the same jobs they took as newly minted American residents two decades ago.
Luis Rios is still driving a cab, and Maria Riosstill working in the Garment Districtis still not paid whats shes worth, her daughter says.
My mother is a master of her craft,Ramirez said.But somebody else can always do it cheaper. The city is overloaded with competition. Immigration is an issue even for the immigrants who become U.S. citizens.
Ramirez and her brother, though, never lacked anything growing up. Thanks to the stubborn work ethic of her parents, she was even able to have summers at her grandmothers farm in Colombia.
There, she daydreamed in the branches of lemon trees, picked coffee beans and tried out new personas on her cousins: proud Colombian one day, gum-chewing New Yorker the next.
Today, when she tells her son toenjoybeing bored, shes really talking about embracing the innocence and responsibility-free years of youth. Save for those summers in Colombia, she was never able to fully do that. It was the weight she carried as the eldest child in a family that let it all ride somewhere else.
When I graduated from high school,she said,I knew I could no longer ask my parents to provide for me, and I knew I couldnt really contribute to the household. I knew I couldnt afford college. The Colombian in me told me I had to do something, so I took my expense away from my parents by joining the military.
She became an engineer and served at posts in Washington state, Missouri and North Carolina.
Danial came along, but other things didnt work out matrimonially. She finished her four-year tour after Sept. 11 with an honorable discharge and no extended tours of duty in the new war zones of the Gulf.
An opportunity, though, presented itself in the Mountain State. She enrolled in Fairmont State University and sailed through undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and speech communication. Then came WVU and graduate school in the College of Business and Economics.
With the hard work and good grades came the good impression in the job interview. Cliché or not, the self-starter quickly nailed a good job that shell start in June, in the human resources department of a jet engine manufacturer in Wilmington, N.C.
Shell help counsel and support 800 workers in that role.
Its about making a difference and providing for the emotional well-being of your fellow employees,she said.
Its also about the obligation to her mom and dad. Ten years ago, she took away the financial burden on her parents by joining the Army. Today, she wants to invest in their quality of life. Shes quietly lobbying for Maria and Luis to make the move from Queens to Carolina.
Part of it is so Danial can have his grandparents close, she said. But shed also like to swap urban angst for sand-dune evenings for the two people who sacrificed and savedfor her.
She also wants to simply enjoy the moment as she does the right thing. She has abeautiful relationshipwith Joe Metzdorf, a U.S. Air Force captain currently serving in South Korea.
When the captain touches back down here, theyre going to grow old together, Ramirez said. And, like immigrants forging ahead to new lands and new hope, heres what else she plans to do:
When Im 70,she said,I dont want to look back at my life and wonder what I made of it, or if I did it right. I want to look back on it and say I lived it.