In his early 20s, Chris Atoki just bought his first home. While this may be a common milestone for so many, it’s especially special for Chris. That’s because only 4 years ago, when he was 18-19 years old, Chris was homeless, with less than a dollar to his name.
He almost gave up on life but then, he decided not to.
Chris hit rock bottom
When he was 18, Chris had a rough schedule for someone so young. He had to wake up at 7 AM every day and go to class until 3 PM. Then he would take a 2-hour nap before going to complete a 12-hour shift from 5 PM to 5 AM the next day.
He would take another nap, and then go to school again. He needed the money to pay for his mother’s rent.
One day my manager at my job says he has to cut a few people’s hours and since I’m in school, he picked me to be on of those. I figured it was fine. I could still pay mom rent and I would be able to sleep in so yay right?
Chris Atoki on Thread Reader
But Chris was wrong. Only two weeks later, his employer let him go because he wasn’t working enough hours. “Here I am 18 years old. Only job I had was filling trucks and I’m still going to school because that’s what I was taught you have to do to make it,” Chris revealed. “The problem is with no income and no parental help I lost even more.”
Eventually, he could not afford to go to school anymore. “Yes I applied for literally hundreds of scholarships and got 1, but still couldn’t afford it,” he said.
After a falling out with his mother, he got kicked out of his house. For a while, he tried finding refuge left and right, but no one could welcome him.
I got kicked out in November in the cold. Tried to crash on my grandmas couch. Didn’t last. Tried to stay and my girlfriends dorm. Nope her dad didn’t like that. Understandable.
Eventually, his car became his only shelter. That’s when he realized he had hit rock bottom.
I parked in front of Walmart. Freezing cold. Less than a dollar in my account. I think it was like $0.83 or something. No family. No friends. No money. Hungry. Felt like giving up. Cried. Tried to sleep.
Chris almost gave up everything
“I didn’t sleep. I was thinking about how much I hated everything. My mom, my dad, my father. My family. My job. College. My rusty car. People. But most of all myself. I told myself that my situation was an accumulation of why my life didn’t matter,” Chris revealed.
Chris was contemplating ending his life but he had a fateful realization. As he looked into the rearview mirror, he realized he was “the only person I could truly count on was myself.” He found something to fight for: himself.
I felt like I was born again. Like a different person. I was going to grab life by the horns.
So then, he went to the library and applied to every job he could think of. “I mean anything. Warehouse, factory, meat packer, wedding DJ assistant, solar panel canvaser (twice), insurance agent, etc,and finally mattress sales man for a company where I had to go meet clients,” he said.
He started little by little
“I saved enough doing these odd jobs that I was able to put a payment down and get another car. I did this job for a while until driving 400 miles a day started to wear on me. Eventually I applied to Mattress Firm and got the job,” Chris continued.
Even though he was doing better, earning a 30k annual salary, it was still a slow climb for Chris. After all, he was still homeless. “I couldn’t afford an apartment yet so I would shower at the gym next to the store and show up to work,” he said.
Once, he almost got caught by a coworker, after he overslept before his shift. That’s when he decided to look for a place. He found a room for $550 a month. It was good enough to start with.
And eventually went back to school
I was doing this for a while but I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life, but I also couldn’t go back to school. I looked up some online schools and after a while I saw @LambdaSchool come up. It checked all the boxes
The Lambda school was perfect for Chris and his situation. The courses were offered online, there was no downpayment needed and you are given the option to pay back when you are making a decent salary–otherwise you pay nothing. The only issue was that Lambda only offered full-time programs and Chris was already working a full-time schedule.
Rather than giving up, he contacted Lambda’s CEO, Austen Allred by email. He never thought he would get a response. “I didn’t think he would respond but he did. I never had the CEO [of a company] talk to me about anything. I didn’t even know who the CEO of Mattress Firm was (still don’t).”
His conversation with Austen pushed him to pursue his education, even if it wasn’t very easy.
So I didn’t have internet at my apartment or work so I used my hotspot on my phone to attend the classes while I was working. It sucked but once again I’m doing this for me.
His son came into the world–one more reason to fight
“I kept at it through a few challenges but things were pretty smooth, plus my son came into this world,” Chris said. “Another reason to fight and push myself. I wasn’t the best father when he was first born but I’ve correcte my mistakes and pushed on.”
After completing his schooling with Lambda, Chris became a teaching assistant and wanted to give back. “I wanted to help students achieve the same goals I did and get the same guidance that I wanted. I gave my all to each one of them and they know. All 100s of them.”
But he had even higher ambitions
Chris then applied to a tech job in Philly. His salary doubled but still, he did not lose momentum.
I kept grinding and kept learning and I moved on to another job where I was making more on top of that. And didn’t stop there.
And finally, today he officially became a homeowner.
What he wants the world to know
Chris wants his story to inspire others who are going through a rough patch and give them hope.
I’m in a financial position greater than I ever thought possible.I’ll end and say no matter where you are. Find that motivation to push you to do better. It doesn’t happen overnight. I’m nobody special. I just took control of my life.