Dream Job Probation
In June of 1993, I showed up for my first day of school at Capitol School of Hairstyling. Since high school I had been cutting my own hair and practicing on my friends. It was something I really enjoyed and had a passion for. After multiple failed attempts to try and get into the barbering program inside the USDB, I decided to enroll in a program when I got out.
I had already started working at ShopKo and eventually got hired at Pizza Hut so that I could save up some money before starting at Capitol. Nine months after being released on parole, I walked through the doors of the Cosmetology school, where I would learn to do my dream job.
The Cosmetology program was 2100 hours long which would take me about a year to complete. Everything I needed to know about being a stylist, I would learn here. First, I’d spending two months in a classroom environment and then the last nine or ten I’d be on the clinic floor servicing clients. I remained working at my other two job while attending school full time. My drive for maintaining this type of schedule, was to not be a financial burden to anyone.
Even though I was adjusting to being on my own and making my own choices, the effects of Army prison were still present. At the USDB, I had small freedoms at times, however most aspects of my life were routine and decided for me. There were places I needed to be and times that I needed to be there, as well as many other expectations. Major consequences were attached to every move if I failed to adhere.
Because of the structured nature of the school and the setting of a controlled classroom, I thrived. When they told me what to do, I did it. It helped that I loved what I was learning and being able to apply it. The school setting fulfilled a similar need for rules & structure that prison gave me, but it was different. The only thing that would happen to me if I didn’t complete tasks and requirements at school, would be that I would fail. With enough failure under my belt to last a lifetime, I made the choice to succeed.
At times I found myself helping others when they were struggling at certain things. Students teaching other students wasn’t something they condoned, and I was quickly told to let the instructors do the teaching. However, this did not go unnoticed. Half way through my training, I was approached by the owner of Capitol, the late Lyal McCaig, who said, “I want to see you take the Instructor program.” Since I respected him and his judgment, I decided to follow his lead. After completing the Cosmetology program, in April 1994, I got a job in a salon and enrolled in the Instructor program. This would take me another year to complete. During this time, I was finally able to quit the other two jobs.
Before I could actually start my instructor training, I had to have my Cosmetology license. It was normal to work on a temporary one that was good for a couple months. Everyone else in my class had received their permanent license within two weeks of passing the state examination. Mine had been held up at the State Capitol because of my felony conviction. The board had up to two months in which they had to notify me with a decision. That deadline was approaching quickly and I was getting nervous, because I had heard nothing.
Why was it taking so long?
What were they going to tell me?
Did I just go through a year of school for no reason?
The anticipation was nerve-racking. It was illegal to practice without a license and I was beginning to feel like my temporary one was going to expire. This would force me back into working at ShopKo and Pizza Hut. Jobs that I didn’t want to return to.
When the envelope finally arrived, I tore it open. Inside was a blue square piece of paper that had my name on it. At the top there was a heading stating that the State of Nebraska was giving me permission to practice Cosmetology professionally. However, stamped diagonally across the paper in big, bold black letters was the word, PROBATION.
Inside the envelope was an additional document. This paper outlined some stipulations that I had to adhere to in order for my probationary license to remain active. I would have to refrain from using drugs, and once a quarter I would have to provide a urine sample for the State and I was responsible for the cost. After a year without incident, the probation would be lifted.
I was still on parole, was heavily monitored by the Federal Government, and I had to provide three urine samples a month. Over the past year, I had been reporting to my parole officer and providing six urine samples a month with no incident. So now, I was not only on parole for the Federal Government, I was on probation for the State as well. This didn’t make sense to me.
Calling the licensing division to explain what seemed to be some overlapping requirements, turned out to be a waste of time. They assured me that this was what I had to do. The board had actually approved my license with no conditions, however the Department of Health did not. It was their decsion to put me on probation. There was no getting around it.
The hardest part about having this probationary license was that by law, all licenses had to be prominently displayed in the salon I worked at, as well as at the school. So anyone walking by it would clearly see that I had some kind of issue. It would be visible to all the students, staff and clients.
Even though I had been deemed worthy enough to be released on parole, it seemed as if the consequences of my actions would be following me for quite some time. The path that I was on was a good one, but I couldn’t escape the fact that what I had done in 1989 was serious. I would still have to prove myself to those who didn’t trust my choices and decisions.
There is a saying:
“Two steps forward and one step back, is still one step forward.”
Since this is something that I really wanted and the State wasn’t budging on their decision, I would just have to do what was asked of me. So for the year that it took for me to complete the instructor program, I followed all of my parole and probation requirements.
It would have to be my actions that would prove to those in control of my destiny, that I was a changed man.
The hope was that this would not be forever.