By d’Arquoia Connor – I never thought my life would turn out like this. When I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at twenty, and graduate school at twenty three, I would have never imagined I would be twenty-seven living paycheck to paycheck, broke, barely able to pay my bills, with a stack of student loans, working a job that I hate. My parents, family, and society told me to go to school, get good grades, work hard, believe in myself, and I would achieve my dreams and become successful. Yes, I knew the road towards my dreams would not be easy but thinking and talking about the struggle and sacrifice is completely different than living it.
After graduate school I worked a string of administrative temp jobs and waitressing gigs to pay my rent only to be let go from my temp job and fired from my waitressing job for serving a customer mussel soup instead of the mussel platter. I was living in NYC, paying a thousand dollars a month in rent along with my other bills and didn’t have any room for error. I remained positive. I knew things weren’t going to be easy so I held my head high and submitted applications online day and night. I even pounded the pavement to find another job and no one would hire me. Employers kept telling me I was overqualified based on my past work experience and my Master’s Degree but they still wouldn’t employ me. It seemed like I could only get low paying jobs that would barely even pay my rent and didn’t even require a degree. I needed a job. How could I pursue my dreams if I couldn’t even keep a roof over my head?
I come from a lower socioeconomic neighborhood; I am Black, a woman, and have a Master’s Degree. I defied every statistic and yet there I was on my father’s couch, unemployed, knee-high in credit card debt and student loans, with no opportunities.
Thank God I saved all my tips from waitressing because I spent the next two months only being able to pay my rent and nothing else. My little sister paid my cell phone bill, I had to apply for food stamps, and my credit cards all went into collections. My parents helped out where they could but my dad was let go from his job and unemployed at the time and my mother went back to nursing school. Money was tight for everyone and now after years of working two jobs, being independent, and living away from home I was dependent on my family for my livelihood. I had a breakdown. My only motivation from the time I was fourteen years old was always to make my parents proud and to become successful so I could help my loved ones. Now after years of hard work, sleepless nights, and sacrifice I was a burden on them. No they didn’t say this but, it’s how I felt because they were helping me while they were struggling themselves.
After three months of living like this I decided that I could no longer allow the people I loved the most in life suffer for my dreams. I moved back home. I looked up and found myself back in the hood of Richmond California, living with my Dad in a two bedroom apartment, and sharing a room with my little sister (who also just graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree). I was right back where I started, living in the rough neighborhood I grew up in, sleeping in a twin bed next to my little sister, dependent on my parents for everything. It was embarrassing to have to ask my dad for money to buy tampons at twenty-four. I had been working and making my own money since I was fourteen years old.
I remember lying on the couch one day after applying for jobs for months so defeated. My spirit was heavy and although I usually am the epitome of optimism and positivity I felt lost, frustrated, sad, and depressed. I felt like I kept trying and trying and trying but nothing was working out. People kept saying, “It’s ok keep going! Don’t give up. It’s going to get better! It has to work out you have a Master’s Degree.” At that point it was all white noise. My Master’s Degree felt more like a receipt than an accomplishment. It felt like an annoying bill that needed to be paid when the product or service didn’t even work.
All I knew at that moment was that I did what I was supposed to do. I went to school, got good grades, respected my family and friends, was involved in my community, worked hard, exceeded expectations and sacrificed. It didn’t add up to me. I didn’t understand. I come from a lower socioeconomic neighborhood; I am Black, a woman, and have a Master’s Degree. I defied every statistic and yet there I was on my father’s couch, unemployed, knee-high in credit card debt and student loans, with no opportunities.
Looking back I realize I was depressed. I felt like a failure. But most of all, I felt like I had been told a lie my entire life that “all things were possible if you just work hard and believe in yourself” and “to get an education because it will give you more options in life.” I mean they even make songs about it! I stopped going on Facebook, Instagram and all social media. I’m not a jealous person and am ordinarily enthusiastic about the success of others but it was a tough pill to swallow when I saw my friends and peers succeeding who had done the same things I did or less and found themselves hoisted onto the wings of opportunity. Once again I didn’t understand and every positive fiber of my being was buried beneath an ocean of despair.
I felt like a failure. But most of all, I felt like I had been told a lie my entire life that “all things were possible if you just work hard and believe in yourself” and “to get an education because it will give you more options in life.”
One day after spending hours applying to jobs I decided to hop on Instagram out of pure boredom. I decided for some reason that I could handle being exposed to the lives of others that day. I think it was really fate. My friend posted a short video from a motivational speaker named Eric Thomas. I listened to my friends thirty second Instagram post and he said “Temporary defeat doesn’t always mean permanent failure. Get back up and try again. Where you’re at is only temporary.” He then went on to say other impactful words and I spent the rest of the night listening to video after video of his motivational talks.
That day something changed within me. I felt for the first time in months that could actually get back up and try again. Nothing was tangibly different and my circumstances remained the same but my mindset about the obstacles and adversities I was constantly up again altered. That day I decided to try again. This was not my final destination in life and I made a choice to be hopeful and optimistic by maintaining and keeping a positive mindset. I made a decision to endure. I started reading books on personal self-development, listening to motivational speakers, going to empowerment conferences, and surrounding myself with other like minded individuals. My little brother and I even got into sales and joined a multi level marketing company for a brief moment! A fire was lit within me and I wanted to help others who were facing challenges, obstacles, and adversities in life. I began to realize my purpose and wanted to make a real impact by motivating and inspiring others through exposure to personal self-development. I now knew what I was created to do.
Life continued to be a struggle and I remained on the survival train. I eventually got a job, was overworked and underpaid, had to get a second job to pay all my bills, became unemployed again, and took on temp jobs just to get by. At times I became discouraged, cried, and had multiple breakdowns but I continued to build myself up with personal self-development tools by listening to motivational speakers, reading books, and going to events to keep myself motivated and encouraged. I had to replace my negative internal conversation with the encouraging words of others to keep a positive mindset.
Fast forward three years later and I’m still surviving. I now living in Brooklyn with a roommate and am out of my father’s house. I sleep on an air mattress but am thankful for my independence and a roof over my head. I am living paycheck to paycheck and have a side hustle to make ends meet but am grateful for a source of income. My family and friends love me and support my visions and dreams. I am blessed to be in good health and thank God every day for waking me up and giving me the opportunity to try again. I will always continue to get back up when life knocks me down because Queens turn Pain into Power. I will stay true to who I am and ceaselessly listen to the quiet voice inside of me that knows I was born to do extraordinary things. I will always be aware that the blood that runs through my veins are of strength, resilience, and endurance. I will never forget the price that was paid and the sacrifices that were made by those that came before me. I will relentlessly continue my journey towards my dreams until victory is won! Life is a marathon and not a sprint and the race belongs to those that endure. When greatness calls upon me I will bow my head and submit.
About The Author
d’Arquoia Connor is an actress, aspiring motivational speaker, and is currently developing an inspirational talk show creating her own opportunity instead of asking someone else for one. Her intent is to motivate, inspire, and encourage Millennial audiences by providing entertaining content that adds value to their lives.