Storyteller d’Arquoia Connor shares her story

d'Arquoia Connor
d'Arquoia Connor. Photo by Ambe J Photography

Storyteller d’Arquoia Connor chatted with #Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos, where she shared her story.

This journalist sat down with her to reflect on an article that she wrote a few years ago after graduate school.

I never thought my life would turn out this way. I was always taught, “if I work hard, everything else will fall into place.” 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, believe in myself, and I would achieve my dreams and become successful. Is this what the road to success looks like?

After graduate school, I worked a string of administrative temp jobs and waitressing gigs to pay my rent. I was 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 held my head high and submitted applications online day and night. I pounded the pavement to find another job, but no one would hire me. Employers kept telling me I was “overqualified with a Master’s Degree.” They wouldn’t employ me. How could I not find a job with this much education on my resume? Thank God I saved all my tips from waitressing.

The next two months I was barely able to pay my rent. 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 where they could, but my dad was also let go from his job at the time and my mother went back to nursing school. Money was tight for everyone and now after years of working two jobs and living away from home, I was once again dependent on the people I loved for my livelihood. I had a breakdown. I wanted to be a success story. Now after years of hard work, sleepless nights, and sacrifice, I was a burden on them.

After three months of living like this, I moved back home. I found myself back in the hood, living with my dad in a two bedroom apartment, 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. It was embarrassing to have to ask my dad for money to buy tampons. I had been working and making my own money since I was fourteen years old, and now, I had regressed a decade.

I remember lying on the couch after applying for jobs for months, defeated. My spirit was heavy and although I’m usually the epitome of optimism and positivity I felt lost, frustrated, sad, depressed. I felt like I kept 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.” To me, it was all white noise. My degree felt more like a receipt than an accomplishment. It felt like an annoying bill that needed to be paid when the product didn’t even work.

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. It didn’t add up. I didn’t understand. Was it because I’m Black, from a lower socioeconomic neighborhood, a woman? 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.” They even make songs about it! I stopped going on Facebook, Instagram, and all social media. I’m not a jealous person, 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.

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. Now, I think it was fate. My friend posted a short video from a motivational speaker named Eric Thomas. I listened to my friends thirty second 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.”

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 obstacles and adversities altered. That day, I decided to try again. This was not my final destination. I made a choice to be hopeful.

I decided to endure. I started reading books on self-development, listening to motivational speakers, going to empowerment conferences, and surrounding myself with other likeminded individuals. My little brother and I joined a network marketing company. A fire was lit within me, and I wanted to help others who were facing similar challenges and obstacles. I began to realize my purpose and wanted to make a real impact by motivating and inspiring others.

Life was still a struggle, but I had a renewed sense of purpose. I eventually got a job. I was still overworked and underpaid and had to get a second job to pay all my bills. At times I became discouraged, cried, had multiple breakdowns, but I continued to build myself up by
listening to motivational speakers, reading books, and going to events to keep myself motivated.

I replaced 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 am thankful for my independence and a roof over my head. I am still basically living paycheck to paycheck but am grateful for the source of income. I’m actually saving money to plan a trip out of the country, a dream I’ve always had but never had the means to do it. 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. And I am a Queen. 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 is 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, not a sprint. The race belongs to those that endure. I am ready for the next chapter, and ready to help others carry that baton.

What does it mean to be a millennial living in the digital age?

Following a recession and global pandemic, one thing we have learned is that time waits for no one, and more life is not promised. All we have is today and this present moment. Life is about experiences and the people that we experience life with. Having access to so much information can be overwhelming at times. What expert should I listen to? What advice should I take? How do I go from looking at someone else’s experiences on social media to having my own?

Today, being a Millennial in the Digital Age seems to be about a journey towards figuring out how to live out our own individual unique truths with the help of technology as our guide. That is what I am trying to do.