In 2008, I graduated. I had worked on Obama’s successful political campaign for president. I felt like change was coming. I decided to work to give back to my community and do AmeriCorps. I worked at UMass Boston and served a wonderful community of students and had wonderful co-workers. I met an amazing, diverse group of AmeriCorps MACC corps members. I had a great year. Then I went to grad school and in doing so I moved to Washington, DC. The economy was terrible – I had a work-study job, a retail job, three internships, I was in grad school full-time. I was exhausted but I continued the hustle.

With the help of a friend after graduating, I found full-time work. My salary was low. I worked with incredibly smart people, but I felt down. I had worked so hard for what? A minimal salary job in Washington, DC with the perks of staying in hotels I myself, could not afford. I continued to work my retail job. The shop closed. I found a new job and another part-time job. I got burned out. Finally, with the skills, I gained in my last job in DC I found an IT job in higher education. I thought – my ticket out from the hustle. I moved, went into debt moving, and continued to hustle albeit in one job. I got engaged. We started looking for a house.

When the pandemic hit. I thought – I am secure. I am fine. I am valued. I will be the one with a job. Then I found out I will be furloughed, even after helping transition a campus to remote learning. I know so many tools, I have so many skills yet to my job, I am not of enough value to keep on.

I am still hustling, paying off debts, and was in school again about to graduate with an MBA this July. I had always run into barriers in my work – I didn’t have a PhD, I didn’t have an MILS, I didn’t have an x..y…z. In higher education, those barriers still exist for me, I don’t have the PhD, and because I realized I am fascinated by many things and I’m also in my mind practical. I don’t want to study anything that much. And I don’t have the passion for any specific thing, I have a passion for many things, and I know how tough the market is for PhDs, so I decided to be practical and get that MBA!

I have an MA and hopefully soon will have an MBA graduating in the worst economic crisis since the great depression.

I never got a promotion, I never got an out of the ordinary raise. I did gain a lot of experience over the last 12 years of work, but still found myself at what I sometimes feel like is failing upward. I’m almost done with my 2nd masters. Who will want me? Who will hire me? Will my current job take me back after two months off?

You know what I went and did with all these questions in my mind. I got myself, what feels like my 1000th internship/apprenticeship. I promised to do work with a non-profit I’m on the board of. I’m going to keep hustling even in an economy that to me has deemed me not valuable enough.

I thought this is a chance to grow. I’m still approaching everything this way. The virus has turned my world upsidedown and so many furloughed and unemployed people feel the same way. I’m still seeking opportunity because it’s the hustle I know. Finding joy within the work I can do, even at no cost, even when every piece of advice says don’t. Sometimes you live the hustle. Sometimes your grit outweighs your salary. And sometimes that growth mindset you have is all that will keep you moving forward.