Darnell Trujeque: Welcome To 'Real Life 101'
Faces of L.A.ās Jobless: A Neon Tommy Special Report >>>
Itās been over two years since Darnell Trujeque has been able to sleep at night, feel confident in providing for his family, and proudly say that he was fully employed.
Since losing his job in August 2010, everything has changed.
Trujeque no longer goes out and enjoys himself. He doesnāt have time. When he isnāt taking on odd jobs to survive, he spends every waking minute of his day figuring out what he can do next to provide for his family. He is only 34 years old but he has the wisdom of someone much older.
Trujeque has no children of his own but he dutifully provides for his three younger brothers, who are foster children of his grandmother. A huge family man, it was providing for them that initially lost him his job in summer of 2010. His grandmother was sick at the time, so he took off a month, flew to New York to get her healthy, and then to take her back to Los Angeles. He was then informed that he wasnāt welcomed back to his job as a logistics manager/consultant for Organic Food Company.
Since then he has lost his grandmother, continued to provide for his grandfather and three young brothers, and applied for well over 40 to 50 jobs in multiple industries.
In the beginning Trujeque was hopeful.
Then it hit December, January, February and he still wasnāt able to find a job. He tried almost every industry you could imagine. A security company told him he wasnāt qualified to watch the door. Something to this day he finds baffling. His once high spirits quickly began to fade.
Darnell refused to give up.
āAlmost dipped into depression. Got fed up with feeling like that and I said I canāt give up. I canāt quite. Thereās too much riding on me.ā
āI gotta stay strong for them. How does it look for me to completely buckle?ā
He said he even stooped as far as considering drugs but he knew better.
āI canāt afford to regress because they look up to me and I donāt want to disappoint themā¦ I canāt afford to sit out. It makes it hard but Iām happier because I know Iām strong enough to go about this in the right way.
Darnell says he has friends selling dope for money. He has made it clear to them that itās not for him.
āThatās for you bro. I canāt afford to make that choice. Thereās too much riding on me. I believe itās going to benefit me and my family in the long run."
His morals are rooted in his family. Something he fights really hard for. Ever since he was young, he has felt the need to help provide. Darnell dropped out of his first year of Santa Monica College to get a job to help out his family. A move he regrets. He thinks it would have been more useful to finish.
Completion. Itās a word he now stresses to his brothers.
āOne of the biggest things I try to instill in them, even early on, itās all about completion. No matter what it is, you want to get into the habit of completing all that youāre doing. You want to get into that habit so it stays with you the rest of your life.ā
The oldest of his three brothers has recently started at Xavier. Darnell says itās a struggle but he refuses to allow his brother to drop out to help his family.
Hereās what he tells him:
ā I believe itās important for you to be selfish right now and do this for yourself. You owe it to yourself. We took you in and raised you to the best of our abilities. I did the best that I could with the tools I had available to me but this will go beyond. get that experience. Itās a lot more than about the academic experience. Follow through with what you want to do. Follow all the way through.ā
Darnell thinks the experience will only help him grow.
āHeās going through a struggle right now but I know itās making him stronger. I can hear it every time I talk to him.ā
Darnell tries to impose the same principles on the two younger brothers as well. They have a family forum type of thing, which they jokingly call āReal Life 101.ā They sit down and talk about whatever is on their minds. After the death of his grandmother, his brothers have looked up to him as more of a father figure.
āThe younger two have slipped up and called me dad a few times.ā
Which he responded with, āIām not yo daddy.ā
While Darnell may have laughed it off, you can tell just by talking to him how much that means to him.
While itās been tough, losing his job has put a lot of things into perspective.
āItās about buckling down and what really matters.ā
He has realized the importance of āsharpening your mind, spending time with your family and strengthening the bond with your family.ā
āAlthough youāre not able to financially provide, you should be able to nurture your family and create those solid bonds that matter. Itās a struggle. Itās hard but at the same time I see where it is strengthening us. Everybody ought to take time and look at the positive instead of the negative. Keep your eyes on that silver lining. As gloomy and dark as the clouds may seem, it is there. Take absolutely nothing for granted. Iām glad I wonāt regress. Itās a personal choice that Iām making.ā
While he has gotten a better grasp of understanding in many aspects of his life, other things in the world now make less sense.
āItās crazy because you look at things and you see the NBA lockout and how they are arguing over silly percentage points and they donāt want to play sports. They make crazy amounts of money to entertain. Itās crazy how much money society is willing to invest in entertainment but they arenāt willing to invest in education.ā
āThereās no way teachers and post office employees should be losing their jobs.ā
For now he is just concentrating on himself and his family.
āI may get two to three hours of sleep a night because Iām trying to figure out the next step. The most efficient way to utilize my time on the computer so I can elevate the living we have. Once Iām working then I wonāt be as worried and I can go back to school. I need something concrete that will allow me to breathe easier.ā
For now his schedule looks a little something like this:
āGet up 5:30-6ish, make breakfast, check on my grandfather: Make sure his meds are in order. Look over my schedule. If I can cram in some time for me to go to the work source center, run errands. Sometimes I am able to get in touch with people and do some odd jobs. Following up on other jobsā¦ call up a buddy and see if they have some work I can do. Sometimes they get in touch with me a day or so in advance and see what they can do.ā
He heads to the work source center about two to three times a week. He is worried that if he doesnāt find work here, heās going to have to head somewhere else displacing his family.
He was watching the news the other night when they began reporting on a little boom town in North Dakota where they found oil. There are over 18,000 positions currently available in the town. He was thinking about seeking employment with the oil company. If not heāll look in other areas. The workers will need homes, so theyāll need construction workers. Heās not picky.
One day he hopes to go back to school. He doesnāt have time to currently think about studying right now. What he wants most is to feed, clothe and shelter his family.
āThere is something all of us are going through. Some of these things are much bigger than me. Part of the struggle and what makes it so depressing is the things Iām struggling to work for should be things that are considered entitlementsā¦ shouldnāt be considered privileges or luxuriesā¦ I shouldnāt be stressing over how were paying energy bills. We need electricity in order to keep our food refrigerated. We need gas to cook."
Itās not a luxury. Itās a necessity.
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