Overdrawn, overspent and overanxious.
Wasteful spending was never in my wheelhouse. I was a talented dog-walking entrepreneur growing up and scrambled to pull neighbors' garbage out for a spare dollar or two each week. I did everything to justify any spending a 10-year-old might do.
Saving matured with me as I entered college. Textbooks were to be both rented and previously used, or, God willing, split with another classmate. Bargain brands were king any time I had to shop.
But there was one corner I couldn’t cut.
Tuition prices didn’t scare me my first year -- I thought very little of them. But in the beginning of my second year, as I pulled money out of an ATM to pay at the bursar’s office, I got an alert from my bank.
To say I was afraid would be an understatement.
Peering back at me was a balance of $4.63. Just about the kind of amount college students joke to having to their name. It’s enough to begrudgingly order a shot with, in hopes of drowning out the impending notices a bank might send shortly thereafter.
But it certainly wasn’t enough to pay for the rest of that semester.
It’s a feeling so many people face, whether due to college or not. It crushes you from all sides, and squirms into every thought you have. And it can be hard to come back from the overwhelming fear that you will have absolutely no money to your name.
Knowing I needed money, but knowing full-well I was afraid of needles and, by extension, donating plasma, I began applying to as many positions as I could find that still gave optimal hours. I had worked for the university before, calling alumni and groveling for money. Clearly, that left a bad taste in my mouth. So getting an interview on campus to work with a professor doing vaguely-defined projects didn’t exactly call for angels singing from the heavens. The more appropriate sound heard on high would be fluorescent bulbs crackling in worn-down rooms. Regardless, it was a lead to having an income.
Truth be told, I barely remember my first interview. I was worrying about securing it to make my next payment. Somehow, the professor who interviewed me saw potential and offered me the position.
Eager to rid my balance, I worked as often as I could and eventually was able to double my hours. It was monotonous research that led to very simple products that I had to produce two times per week, which ended up going unused in the long run.
Then I got rehired at the new semester.
That then turned into job security until graduation.
As my employment progressed, it came with a great working relationship with my boss, who’s acted as a great advisor and the occasional stress mitigator, and skills I wouldn’t have picked up on at most other jobs.
I’ve never been the type to subscribe to silver linings, let alone believe in fate. But somehow, my bank account bottoming out opened this amazing door that’s been more helpful than any of the other jobs I applied for, and has given more experience than any internship possibly could have.
Everyone’s response to a financial obstacle is different. But sharing in that experience and knowing that so many others around you struggle with it makes it slightly more palatable. That helpful door that I was able to find quickly sometimes waits behind a few sets of other doors, but getting to that spot makes the payoff so much sweeter.