Yesterday was one of the proudest, most freeing and incredible moments of my life. It was the day I finally paid off over $80,000 in student loan debt.
My past is a huge part of my story. I’ve been wanting to share it with you for a long time now because I know so many people can relate and be inspired by this story. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I always knew what I wanted in life and that I’d do whatever it took to get there. In order to understand who I am today, you have to understand the earlier chapters of my life that molded me into the fighter and believer I am today.
First, it’s important for you to know that I have great parents that I’m extremely close to. I had an amazing childhood. My mom is the textbook definition of a selfless, loving mother that would do anything for her children. We talk daily, if not more. I get my strength, class, and perseverance from her. My dad and I have a very special bond. I get my work ethic, compassion, and enthusiasm from him. I wouldn’t be where I am without them pushing me, believing in me, and being my biggest fans since the day I was born.
But the past fifteen years or so have been extremely hard for my family. In one year alone, my dad suffered from a stroke, a heart dissection seven weeks later, thyroid cancer with metastasis to seven lymph nodes, and a brain aneurysm on top of ongoing and seemingly insurmountable stress from financial crises. He went from perfectly healthy to sick and disabled. It was more than any of us could handle. There were times we thought we’d lose him. I remember sitting by his bedside in the hospital wondering if he’d ever regain his speech. Watching someone I loved and admired so dearly suffer from so much in such a short period of time was and still is the hardest thing I’ve had to endure. Just when we thought “this has to be the lowest point,” there was yet another new low.
I’ve been financially independent for a long time now. I’ve worked multiple jobs since early college when I was doing a combination of babysitting, serving, demoing at grocery stores, and working as a research or catering assistant. After undergrad, on top of grad school and a full-time unpaid dietetic internship, I found time to babysit and serve and continue to build this blog that unbeknownst to me would eventually end up paying my student loans bills off in four years. I hustled because I had to. But also because I wanted to. My dreams were in my hands waiting for me to start bringing them to life.
I remember in my early twenties when I felt the weight of financial stress at its heaviest. I was in credit card debt and couldn’t get approved for a credit card. My loans were building. I couldn’t wait to finish school and start making real money, fast. The blog started to take off in 2016, meaning I actually made a full-time income. I wrote consistently for a solid three years before I made a dime, so you can imagine the shock and joy when I received my first check. When I started Hummusapien in 2011 I had no intention or desire to make money. That’s one of the reasons this blog has been so successful; it’s truly a labor of love.
No matter how tough things were at times, I always had the notion that I could live the life of my dreams if I wanted to. I recognize that people endure far greater challenges in life than what I’ve been through. What was stopping me besides my own limiting beliefs? There’s nothing that someone else is doing that isn’t in my power to achieve. I go after what I want hard, with insane enthusiasm and vigor and drive to grow and grow and grow. It’s in my DNA to hustle.
I used to drown in my own self pity about the overwhelming financial and health hardships my family went through. I was jealous that my friends had no student loans, that they were always traveling on family vacations, that their parents were in perfect health. But looking back, the struggles and pain of my past made me. They forced me to dive headfirst into my work, to lead with my passion and purpose and to do whatever the hell it took to fulfill my destiny. I would be successful. There was no other option for me.
When Alchemy first opened, I was there everyday at 6am and left around 4pm. I’d come home and work on my blog at night and on Sunday. Slowly but surely, my “side hustle” grew. As I gained followers and attracted an loyal audience, I was able to charge brands for sponsored posts on my site or on my social media accounts. I began to make a little money from affiliate links to different products. I added advertising to my site. I worked tirelessly to create meaningful content. At 9pm when I had worked all day at the restaurant, made dinner, and cleaned it up, I opened my computer and I wrote. For hours. And I still do.
There were so many times I didn’t “feel” like it. That’s what hard work is. I never wanted an average life and that meant not putting in the average amount of time and effort. I questioned many times if balancing two full-time jobs was sustainable. I had a panic attack in 2016 that forced me to take a step back. But I stuck with it. I worked when there were more fun things to do and I put in the time. I knew my worth and I charged accordingly.
I started paying off my credit card debt. Once it was all paid off, I decided the only way I’d use a credit card was if I could pay it off in full. I learned to call the credit card companies every six months to ask for a credit limit increase as long as everything had been paid off in time. I kept low balances on credit cards I barely used just to stay in good standing. I kept updating my income as it grew to get more credit. And after countless denial letters for new credit cards, I’ll never forget the day I was approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. There was a time my credit score was in the 400’s. It’s now 762.
I remember crying at the car dealership and the leasing office in college when they told me my credit wasn’t good enough to get a car or an apartment lease on my own and I had no one to co-sign the loan. Now, because of my perseverance and determination to succeed, I’m writing this post in the home I purchased this year and I will drive to work in the car I purchased last week.
Success wasn’t handed to me. I’ve had big dreams for as long as I can remember—to inspire change, to teach people that anything is possible, to help others thrive on an individual level and also touch the masses, to prove that our destiny is in our hands. My mindset and fierce ambition never changed. I’m eternally grateful for that.
Don’t let your past define your future. Believe in yourself and your dreams and work tirelessly for them. Fight for what’s GOOD. BE the change. You deserve the world.