Started from the bottom…

In a recent post I wrote about how much I spent in a week in New York City, and it was not a little bit of money. For some reason I feel the need to explain that it was not always this way and I worked extremely hard against a number of odds to even be here. I always had big dreams. I wanted to travel the world and get out of the small town I grew up in, in Durham, North Carolina. I had an amazing childhood and though I never wanted for anything, I saw my mother and my family struggle. My mom had me when she was just 17 years old but she still managed to graduate from high school with honors. She was and still is so smart and determined to be the best at everything she does. I definitely got my gusto and guile from her. At one point my mother, my aunties, their children and I, all lived in my grandma’s 2 bedroom apartment in the projects. It was cramped but I loved being around my family. My family is pretty tight knit and not everyone has that. I was one of the first in my family to go to college. The first to go to graduate school and the first to get a doctorate degree.

I put myself through college. I depended on loans and scholarships and grants. My family couldn’t contribute much but when they could they most certainly did. What I may have lacked in money, I more than had in love and support. My grandma was a co-signer on a loan for a new car. While I was in undergrad and graduate school my dad paid my cell phone bill. He also drove the 7 hour drive from North Carolina to New York City when I was homesick and couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving, just to bring me home cooked meals and a few pies he’d baked for me to share with my classmates. My mom was a beacon of moral support calling me everyday the first year I lived in New York. I also think she was kind of scared for me after 9/11. I took to carrying a box cutter everywhere I went and walked with it in my hand most nights after work to my dorm. We were discouraged from getting jobs while in Physical Therapy School, but I had no other choice.
I had gotten a few scholarships and loans but there was never enough money left over for basic things like food. I ended up getting a part-time job at Forever 21 in Union Square. I worked upwards of 20-25 hours a week while going to Physical Therapy Graduate School at NYU full-time. When my advisor found out I had a job she called me into her office and was furious. I must note that I was the only black person in my class of 42 students. I explained to her that my family contribution was zero and without a job I couldn’t survive. It was then that she made a few calls to get me some more grants but I still kept my job. I was making decent grades in school but I suffered because I didn’t have enough time to study. I’d study during my lunch breaks at work in the cramped break room or at 2am, when I’d get back from closing the store. That store gets so messy, we often didn’t leave until 1am after re-organizing everything.

Photography by Rose Lazard || Editing by Monroe Steele

Urban Outfitter’s Top | Free People Skirt thrifted from Buffalo Exchange | Tibi Mules | Annie Costello Brown Earrings | Half Tortoise Shell Sunnies | Gifted Basket Bag | Cult Gaia Bangle

GET THE LOOK


My aunt saved me. I don’t know if she knows but she was my saving grace during that first year of graduate school. She had set it up so that every time she got paid, $20 would be auto-debited from her account and go into mine. I swear some weeks that was the only money I had to my name. I’d wait for that $20 to hit my account just to buy some food that wasn’t ramen. New York is a hard place to live on minimum wage. Honestly without the support of my family and the first great friend I made in Physical Therapy School, another black girl a year ahead of me, I would have been lost. I wouldn’t have made it. She opened her family and her friends to me when I had no one here. If there was a family dinner, I was always invited. I made a lot of friends through work and church and slowly built a support system.

I’m still paying off my student loans and probably will be forever. But none of it came easy. I literally went broke to obtain a degree, which is why I will never give it up. If I have to use it to fund my dreams, so be it. I can still hear my grandmother, calling me Dr. Steele. She’s the only person I ever let call me that. I know the people, places and things God placed in my life so that I could get to this place. Just know that anything you want, you can have. The only limits to what you can do, are those that are self imposed. I get a lot of messages, comments and emails from people who say I inspire them. That makes me very happy, but what you see is the highlight reel. None of this came easy, and I’m still learning and growing everyday. To the women out there struggling to find their passion, struggling to take care of their children, struggling to survive I commend you and I’m a testament to what can be done when you truly believe there are no limits to what you can do and accomplish in this life. 

xx

Monroe

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47 Comments

  1. Faith
    July 12, 2018 / 7:38 am

    You are what these kids say these days #goals! Thanks for sharing your backstory … very, very inspiring!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 7:53 am

      Teehee thanks Faith I appreciate you reading.

      xx
      Monroe

    • Krys
      July 13, 2018 / 10:50 am

      This was a really dope read! People see the bright lights and sometimes forget that everyone has a story. Thank you for sharing! God bless!

      • monroesteele
        Author
        July 14, 2018 / 9:25 am

        Thanks so much for reading and thats the truth!

        xx
        Monroe

  2. Lavette
    July 12, 2018 / 7:55 am

    This is an AWESOME inspiration brought tears to my eyes!!!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 7:59 am

      Thanks Mom. Love ya!

      xx
      Meks

  3. Rashida Mims
    July 12, 2018 / 8:50 am

    Monroe you’re a powerful example of “faith without work is dead”. You definitely put in the WORK!!! Your work ethic is unmatched!! I can remember my sister sending me $15 regularly when I was in under grad in Boston and how I felt when I got it. Years later I graduated from law school and she was in the front cheering for me.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 8:56 am

      She was really a God sent. I’m definitely paying it forward for my own nieces. Thank you so much for reading!

      xx
      Monroe

  4. mm
    July 12, 2018 / 8:53 am

    You are an inspiration! God Bless you!!!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 8:54 am

      Thank you so much! I appreciate you.

      xx
      Monroe

  5. July 12, 2018 / 9:25 am

    Thank you for sharing your story Dr. Steele. Your work ethic is truly unmatched, so inspiring.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 10:06 am

      Teehee. Thank you boo for reading and being a huge part of my family here. LOVE YA!

      xx
      Monroe

  6. Atiya
    July 12, 2018 / 10:00 am

    Wow what a story! Hard work and faith certainly pays off!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 10:06 am

      Thanks you so much! And you’re so right..every.single.time.

      xx
      Monroe

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 11:08 am

      Thanks so much Kristie.

      xx
      Monroe

  7. Nicolelisa
    July 12, 2018 / 10:42 am

    Wow! What a testimony. Thank you for sharing.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 11:08 am

      Thank you so much for reading!

      xx
      Monroe

  8. Chioma Ezenagu
    July 12, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Wow. Inspirational Thursday for me. God bless you.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 1:12 pm

      Thanks so much for reading.

      xx
      Monroe

  9. July 12, 2018 / 11:53 am

    Thank you for sharing this story! I’d have to send a separate email to explain everything but I’m gearing up to finally move there the first weekend of January and I’ll pretty much be funding everything…school and all. It’s inspiring to know that other people have moved from smaller cities to NY and, through a lot of love, support and hard work, have made it through the difficult moments. I appreciate your experiences so much.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 1:09 pm

      Nice! I’m glad I could be of assistance. There is no guide to moving here and making it. You just have to do the best you can. I do have a post with a few moving to New York City Tips you can search NYC and find that post. I’m sure it will answer most of your questions. Email is on tilt at the moment and it may take me some time to get to you through that.

      Best,
      Monroe

  10. July 12, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    I loved reading every bit of this. Thank you so much for sharing this Monroe! I’m going to share this with my followers.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 1:58 pm

      Wow thank you so much Shannae, I really appreciate that.

      xx
      Monroe

  11. Nirva O
    July 12, 2018 / 2:51 pm

    wheeeeewwwww chillleeeee!
    Thank you for this read and keep on inspiring:-)

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 5:59 pm

      teehee. I love this response. Thank you love.

      xx
      Monroe

  12. July 12, 2018 / 4:34 pm

    You are the epitome of bulletproof. Your story is powerful and will inspire generations.

    Thank you for sharing. xo

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      Thanks Jennifer to taking the time to read and comment. I really hope so. It’s so easy to get discouraged but if my story can help anyone then I’m happy to tell it as many times as possible.

      xx
      Monroe

  13. Dacia Althea
    July 12, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    So. I have been lurking on you blog and Instagram awhile. As a black Woman trying to conquer this world you have been an inspiration. Your content is unexpected, your pictures show a talent to rival anyone in the blogging world. There is a reason you have pics go viral. You have the eye. It’s inspirational how boldly you live your life. Do you know how good you are?

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate you. I’m just happy to be able to share my passion and something that I love and that I can inspire anyone. Your comment makes me so happy though.

      xx
      Monroe

  14. Melissa
    July 12, 2018 / 7:04 pm

    Wow this brought tears to my eyes. I’m so proud of you keep inspiring us all love. My son wants to be a physical therapist as well 😉

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 8:03 pm

      Thanks Melissa. You have been such a great support to me and I appreciate you so much. YES! It’s a great profession, he’ll love it!

      xx
      Monroe

      • Melissa
        July 12, 2018 / 9:30 pm

        😉

  15. July 13, 2018 / 1:00 am

    This was absolutely beautiful; every bit of it! You deserve to bask in every bit of success you’ve achieved and will continue to achieve. I’m sure your loved ones who supported you with so much care are proud of you and bask in your success too. Your acknowledgement of them and your journey is refreshing.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 13, 2018 / 9:25 am

      Thank you so much! My family and friends were definitely key!

      xx
      Monroe

  16. Jen
    July 13, 2018 / 8:40 am

    Living where you are from I got so bored the south isn’t my thing. lol but I so understand that you did so much to get where you are and it’s not only excellent but Inspiring. I am a nyc native. Moving back is hell. I realized that my family been there so it was easy to just stay. I am in DC now and it’s not like home but I deal. It’s just as hard as NYC. I always tell people you can eat off a few dollars a day in nyc but if you aren’t a native who will show you ? Your location plays a part because the ones around you do not know about the other boroughs. There’s no place like home. It makes me happy to see when others see and succeeds there. It’s what shapes me what makes me try to hard here where they are
    Not used to the NYC mentality. Keep shining.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 13, 2018 / 9:26 am

      Thats so true. It’s hard when you don’t know anyone in New York and how to live on a budget. It gets expensive pretty fast. That’s why I’m so thankful for my first friend here. She guided me and showed me the ropes. DC is pretty expensive too. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

      xx
      Monroe

  17. July 13, 2018 / 8:43 am

    This made me emotional and I don’t even know you lol but beautiful testimony keep shining luv much success your way

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 13, 2018 / 9:26 am

      Thank you so much for reading and for the well wishes. I appreciate you.

      xx
      Monroe

  18. Michelle
    July 14, 2018 / 8:02 pm

    All I can say is “WOW”. I have read your blog for a while but this is the first time I felt like you really let us get to know you. You were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth but you have shown that with hard work and determination anything is possible! Way to go my sister, way to go! Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 15, 2018 / 8:54 am

      Thank you so much. I don’t often talk about my life but I do share a lot of stories and experiences and hope that my readers get a sense of my personality through those articles. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your readership and encouragement.

      xx
      Monroe

  19. July 16, 2018 / 5:35 am

    It is going to take me a loong long while to get over this feeling of happiness and hope I got after reading this blog post. And thank you for lending us eyes into your life for a moment. It is inspiring how far you’ve come, but even more, how far you’re going. Girl, you definitely bring something new to the table when it comes to blogging and content creation. You are awesome! Cheers!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 16, 2018 / 7:12 am

      Thanks so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I’m definitely trying to do something new and creative with writing and blogging and I’m glad it shows.

      xx
      Monroe

  20. July 16, 2018 / 7:18 pm

    Your brutal honesty was refreshing. Everyone sees the nice oictures and outfit ps and assume they know how someone is really living. I’m definitely inspired!! After raising my son who is now 19 and heading into his second year of college, I’m back to pursuing my old dreams of becoming a clinician. It may take a long time but it’s a burning goal and just like I made it as a first generational college student and single mom shortly after I earned my BS. I can do anything now at 41. My Granny called me her college girl. I plan on going back next year.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 16, 2018 / 9:49 pm

      Thank you so much for reading. I think its amazing that you’re going back to school. My Mom did the same in her 40s and it was awesome. Good luck.

      xx
      Monroe

  21. July 29, 2018 / 9:51 am

    Aww this clearly brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy for you, where you are at now and where you are headed. Welldone babe xx

    • monroesteele
      Author
      July 29, 2018 / 11:38 am

      Thanks so much for reading and for your encouragement!

      xx
      Monroe

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