I did 7 years in the joint. College and Graduate School, that is. This one memorable, crazy hilarious time in graduate school, I was a Clinical Counseling intern. As esteemed and enjoyable as that position sounds and was, Enthusiastic Intern Life was unable to alleviate the jolting reality of “I have to work for free for four months in order to meet the requirements to receive this master’s degree from my graduate studies program that I am now thousands of dollars in debt for.” It was beyond my means to adequately budget for this experience, and I was admittedly underprepared.

As the oldest of eight children growing up and a soon-to-be two-time first-generation college graduate, I had become lost in the chaotic process and weight of an achievement of this magnitude. I was doing something I had never seen done before, attempting to pave a new path. Often, I was blindly placing one foot in front of another, just trying to make it through each stressful day as a drained graduate student fighting for a healthy work-to-living balance. During the first two years of school, I had been working two jobs at a time to make ends meet; however, that was not an option for this last phase.

I needed 600 hours of clinical experience and I had a tight 15 weeks to work them into. That meant I was working 40 hours a week for free. Student loans were a life-saver for a while but towards the end of the internship, the lifeboat was overcrowded and I was weakly wading in the middle of the “obligatory adulting expenses” ocean-like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of Titanic. Like many motivated students immediately expecting to reap the fruits of the labor in obtaining a degree, I had planned to hit the ground running once the degree was in my hands. Leap right into my dream job with no worries and minimal struggle. Then, I learned more about the licensure process for my field. I slowly realized I would be underqualified until licensed. So, I used my last burst of soul strength to complete the final lap: Graduate. I was disheartened but simultaneously humbled and grateful upon accepting an entry-level position; albeit, I was significantly overqualified and would be significantly underpaid. But, I needed income, and fast. How crazy hilarious are my college years!? I was in the movie Titanic!

Fast forward a few weeks post-graduation. It’s a day after I had gotten past the part in Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes in which she was so broke during grad school that she had to choose between wine and toilet paper (and the toilet paper not always winning). I was feeling good about life and motivated: Shonda Rhimes had been broke before, too! Yay! There was hope! I delightfully skipped outside (okay, I casually strolled like normal humans would on a normal day) to take a trip to a nearby park, only to find that my car was missing from where I had parked it. It was missing because it had been towed. It had been towed because it had been repossessed. It had been repossessed because I was BROKE!!! Not regular broke, I’m talking capital letters “BROKE” with three exclamation points behind it, an exclamation point for every month behind I was in major bills, including my car note.

I remember the date, July 1st because I posted an inspirational message on all of my social media pages for people who needed it, like me, in attempts to keep myself from going under like Leo. I remember because it was a few days before the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and when I called the car dealership I received a message saying they would be closed until July 5th to celebrate the holiday. Ironically, I pride myself on being fiercely independent. So, I did not have my car but I do have my degrees and I DID have an ugly cry the following morning at approximately 5:35 am. (Seriously, it was exactly 5:35 am because I snap-chatted about it with the filter that shows the time).

I know it’s hard. I know it really sucks watching other people “getting ahead” and living “your” dreams all up and down your timeline, right? No. Embrace your process. This is a gentle reminder that there may be blood, sweat, tears, and bottles of wine with no toilet tissue involved. Persist anyways. You are exactly where you are supposed to be and doing exactly what you have the opportunity to do, right now. Learn. Be still. Practice patience. Success is a process. A seed requires fertile soil, a little rain, and a lot of light to grow. It will be your time to bloom before you know it. This is what I learned, am continuing to learn. Sometimes withering is required to rise, shine, and blossom.