By Chris Slater

When my mom was helping me move into an apartment in Luray, Virginia back in 2015, she pulled out a small picture frame and gave me a puzzled look. She held it up, looking for an explanation. In the frame was a dirty-looking $1 bill. I shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s nothing. Just something I felt like keeping.” I didn’t feel like explaining one of my deepest personal motivators to make something of myself and my life. She sat it down without any follow up questions, and then began going on about how I needed curtains and that my walls needed painting.

We need to go back. [Insert Sophia voice] “Picture it: Princeton, West Virginia, 2012.”

I was 25 years old and in the midst of my “woe is me” phase. Things weren’t going great. I was getting the occasional freelance writing gig here and there, but nothing consistent or fulfilling. I had just ended my glamorous life of being a manager at Pizza Hut and was now entering the glamorous world of waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse.

pizzaI eventually got pretty good at it. I could have been a great server, but I hated the job. So, I became lazy. I realized that I could operate at like 60 percent and still be a competent server and make enough money to pay my bills. I worked smart, not hard, so I didn’t exert myself any harder than I ever needed to.

When I was still new to the job, and not quite as jaded, I had a table of four people and two babies. Six, as some would call it. Two couples, and they both each had a small child. In my chit-chat with them, I found out that the two men were coal miners. I wasn’t experienced enough for a red flag to go off in my head.

What I later learned, when looking at what we call “good customers” and “bad customers,” there are two kinds of people who stick out as particularly bad: religious people coming to eat Sunday lunch after church, and coal miners. A lot of it is based on their attitude and how much money they leave as a tip.

These two coal miners were running me around, not really being pleasant to me, and pressured me to break a rule for them: you could only order one alcoholic beverage at a time, but they kept on me about letting them each get two beers at a time. Appetizers, main courses, desserts, drinks: they got a lot of stuff. Their bill was more than $150. They paid, they left, and I breathed a sigh of relief since that stressful situation was now over. I had worked hard, earned my money, and hoped they understood that.

If we’re going by the traditional rules of tipping, I should have expected somewhere between $15 and $30 as a bare minimum. If they really liked me, then I should get more. I was never a greedy server; I would have been happy with $15 or $20.

As I was cleaning the table, I saw a blackened, crumpled up bill to the side of a plate. Excited, I sat down in the booth and picked up the bill. The elation was gone as I realized it was $1. For all of that work, I received a coal-stained, one dollar bill.

I went home that night and thought about my place in life. I stared at the dollar bill and wondered what I was doing with myself. That dollar made me angry. It made me hate myself for what I did; waiting tables is really whoring yourself out in a non-sexual way for money. I was putting on this fake persona and pretending to be happier than I was, just so people would throw some money my way. I did that, and these people didn’t even hold up their end of the bargain after the services were rendered.

I like to use my anger to motivate me. That’s what I decided to do here. That dollar bill was going to stay with me forever. I literally framed it. Every single time I looked at that frame, I got angry and motivated to do something with my life. It took longer than I wanted, but it eventually happened. One of my personal goals in life was to one day be able to look at a server and say “I know what you’re going through,” and not “I’m going through the same thing.”

A lot of people stick around in jobs like that, and life situations that they’re not happy with because they lack motivation. I could have easily gotten stuck in my pattern of “feel mopey, wait tables, self medicate with a bottle at night, repeat the process.” Instead, I put the bottle down, kind of, and began feeling less mopey. I formulated my end goal and what I wanted, and then I went out and made it happen.

In college, Dr. Parker introduced me to the P’s — proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. That’s a fancy way to say figure out what you want to do and make a plan so it will happen.

Anybody can do it. You can do it.

• • •

And that’s where we leave it for this installment. How did you motivate yourself to achieve a goal? Does using your anger seem like a good technique or borderline unhealthy? Do you have any other suggestions for those needing help? Leave a comment, throw me a tweet, get at me on Facebook, or send an email (

By Chris Slater

I’m laying in bed one morning a couple summers ago as my phone rings. It’s my mom. I’d better answer, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

After we exchange pleasantries and get the basic information out of the way, there’s a pause. I fill it with information I learned a couple days earlier: “Did you hear Kelly is pregnant?”

kelly1My mom squeals with excitement. Kelly is my old high school and college girlfriend. The first girl I dated, first girl I held hands with, first girl I kissed, first… well, you get the idea. From the age of 15 until 23, we were together and inseparable. At that point, talking to my mom on the phone, Kelly and I were both 29 and friendly.

I knew what was coming from my mom, and luckily she can’t see me roll my eyes over the phone.
“Oooohhhh, that could have been your kid,” she blabbered on. “You know, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to be a grandmother. Why don’t you want kids?”

I would tell you the rest of the conversation, but it’s at that point I stopped listening.

• • •

I’ve been a bit of an anomaly with my friends and loved ones, in the sense that I’ve never wanted to get married or have children. I don’t know if that’s a selfish thing. I’m not one of those “career first” hyper-motivated types. I’m literally the laziest, least-driven person in the history of people. I’m honestly shocked every day that I get of of bed.

Maybe it is selfish? I don’t like living with other people, and I don’t like kids. Does that sound selfish? I guess if you look at the broad idea of marriage, it’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t I want to split all of my bills, get a tax break, have a warm body to cuddle with on a cold night, and so on? Then I actually look at what I’ve experienced in my life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever interacted with a married couple who was truly happy and enjoyed their lives together. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but I’ve only seen divorce, anger, and resentment.

With that said, I’m never one to assume. You know what they say about people who do that. In this space, we’ll look at the pros and cons of marriage and having kids. Maybe it’ll change my mind.


Pro: Tax Break. Depending on how the arrangement works, you could wind up either paying less to the government, or getting more back each spring. I’m a fan of money.

Con: Somebody is always there. When you’re married, you live with another person and share a bedroom with them. Their stuff will be in the bathroom next to yours. Just seems like a lot of clutter to me.

Pro: Wedding presents. There’s going to be a ceremony with all eyes on you. There might even be an open bar. And, people will buy you stuff. Probably not stuff you need, but it’s still better than nothing.

Con: You probably can’t have sex with other people. Most people in a traditional marriage believe in monogamy. ‘Til death do you part (or until you get a divorce). That means you are beholden to that one person for the rest of your life (or until you get a divorce). That doesn’t seem very fun.

Pro: Split the bills. It would be nice to only pay half of my rent each month. Somebody else contributing funds to the overall bottom line is a great idea in theory.


Pro: Continue your lineage. Ancestry dot com is pretty cool to look at, and you wouldn’t want to be the reason your family tree ends.

Con: They’re so loud. Like, really, have you heard loud kids? They’re the worst. Crying, happy, excited, scared, it’s always so loud.

Pro: Somebody to do chores. I’m sure my mom was so excited when I was old enough to start vacuuming the carpets and scooping the cat litter. And, I wouldn’t mind laying back and relaxing while somebody else took out the trash.

Con: Germs. Kids will touch anything, and then touch anything some more. They eventually get old enough to wash their hands regularly, but even that isn’t a given.

Pro: No more prying. People telling you to have kids finally leave you alone.

Con: Responsibility. Kids are a lot of work. And time. And money. And energy.

• • •

kelly2In February 2017, I was living in Luray, Virginia and working at the newspaper there. I had applied at the newspaper here in Charleston. So, I came in for the interview – spoiler: I got the job – and then spent the weekend with my mom in Princeton.

She was asking about Kelly and if I’ve seen the baby. I hadn’t seen Kelly since one night in 2014 when we randomly walked past each other on Mercer Street and caught up for a few minutes. We text often enough to know what’s going on in each others lives. She had previously sent me a few pictures of her baby and told me to forward them to my mom.

I send Kelly a text letting her know I’m in town and if she wants to bring the baby over so my mom can see it.

Kelly comes over with months-old Elizabeth. She and I tell old inside jokes from college while my mom holds the baby and talks about how amazing and beautiful it is, even though it’s just sitting there being a baby.

My mom again talks about how she’ll never be a grandmother. Kelly agrees with her. And so do I. I’m going to be a content old man living a solitary, childless life. And I couldn’t be happier.

• • •

Do you have kids and think I made some good points? Married and think my views are insane? Or just an undecided person who thought I made some good points for and against both? Let everybody know. Leave a comment on the blog, find me on Facebook, slide into my DM’s on Twitter, or send me an email (

And, hey… thanks for reading.