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Millennial Tings: I Spent $100K In The Pursuit Of Happiness

My energy was so Debbie Downer that I fully embodied sis.

Her Voice

Graduate school is where you go when you finally have an inkling what career is going to bring you closer to your passion (that spells happiness in a millennial's native tongue). Yeah, that's what they say about undergrad too … except this time it's for real. Though, grad school is also a test of patience and will. I know this now but no one had clued me in prior to beginning three years ago. In discovering this on my own, I built a more intimate relationship with myself, my faith, and learned how to find joy at all costs.

Really this moment in time was 'adapt or die' for me because I had already begun grad school on a shaky foundation--jobless with no savings--I relocated for my dual masters program one semester deep.

And while I did get a job here and there, nothing worked with my schedule. To get a job in my profession, I'd have to attend school part-time. And working as a server quickly began to interfere with my weekend classes which were as often as three times per month. Needless to say, there were sacrifices and tough decisions all throughout! Fully aware that the route I chose was one of privilege, it certainly didn't make it feel any easier. In truth, it was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation--grad school, that is.

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I witnessed much of my cohort struggle maintaining full-time careers on part-time school schedules or hold down five rinky-dink jobs so that they had time to intern and attend school. There was no sense of normalcy and whatever any of us chose, we were all struggling. This is in part to academia being such a large scam (ethically speaking), especially in human services. It was really eye-opening to watch professors preach self-care and force us to read up on studies pertaining to human nature while they asked us to defy that nature every step of the way. "The human brain doesn't retain info after x hours of reading or class but here's a 10-hour weekend course and 15 hours of reading."

Higher education intentionally and unnecessarily creates obstacles for students and that's the number one issue. That's a hill I'm willing to die on.

Because of this I was met with ridiculous self-negotiations due to regulations that wouldn't allow me to work and intern in the same place, but required 24 hours of field hours per week from grown ass adults with careers, families, etc. I was drowning for three fucking years but by the time year one came to a close, I had learned how to tread water to keep myself from going too deep under -- financially, spiritually, and mentally.

And that sounds wild that I had become content with perpetually drowning, but it's as true as it is a part of the journey.

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In that first year, I was waking up in tears and having panic attacks in DAILY anticipation of my bank account being over drafted at a minimum of $150. I was constantly in fear of the day I wasn't going to make ends meet. My anxiety and stress had piqued and I began manifesting illness and disaster where there weren't any: Hives, spider bites gone bad, severe acid reflux!

My energy was so Debbie Downer that I fully embodied sis.

And it wasn't until I heard this quote, "Worrying means you suffer twice," that the clouds parted. That one quote helped me start to apply manifestation techniques that I had read about in the past, but found it rather hard to apply-- you know? Head under water and all. But that's when it counts, that's when putting into practice matters. So first I had to learn how to stop putting so much fear and anxiety into the situation. I would make a checklist of everything I needed to do/pay/have and ask myself if I'd done everything in my power to secure those things for myself and if the answer was 'yes', then I learned to release it.

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This also required me to unlearn some stubborn behaviors such as asking for help. My mom married into a family that is all about helping one another, but she was raised to do everything independently and thus expected the same from me. So, much of my struggles in that first year were rooted in a lack mindset that I had to do it on my own, even if it killed me but once I got out of that habit...even just a little...my world changed immensely.

Manifestation is equal parts personal effort and the universe or God or Allah or whoever. And personal effort included using all the resources I had readily available -- friends, family, a motherfucking village.

I learned to lean into that and trusted that they genuinely wanted to be there helping me through in any way. Then, believing I was worth the help because I didn't and still have trouble believing, at times. I stopped feeling bad for treating myself to meals or the occasional night out and not just in the name of self-care, but as an act of rebellion. Making these changes required in-depth introspection and brutal honesty from myself and those around me. It truly took the village to get me where I am today.

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And although I took out $100K in student loans to find that truth it brought me so many other truths like better understanding the systems I hope to serve with this pricey degree.

I understand how capitalism works, how systemic racism works, how life works. And because of that, I'll be a better social worker and eventually therapist. But I also learned how to find joy in the most dire situations and sometimes it was a splurge, but other times it was gossiping with my nana or talking big futures with my girlfriend. Sometimes it was treating myself to an Uber ride from the damn grocery store and saying to hell with the $10 if it provides even the slightest bit of solace.

So while I'd never spend another dime on higher education, I don't regret one cent. I'd do it all over again if it meant I'd come out as insightful and aware of both my privilege and my oppression, but better yet how sifting through that provides a better sense of self and happiness.

There's no price I wouldn't pay for that level of inner-standing.

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