The Trauma of Hustle

Leslieann Hobayan
5 min readJul 26, 2021

These are the messages we receive in our capitalist society. It’s all GO GO GO. Do Do Do! It’s no wonder we’re all suffering from some kind of ailment, whether it’s physical illness like Crohn’s disease or a mental one like depression.

This is the trauma of The Hustle.


Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to work hard to earn money. Got you gotta hustle to survive.

I first understood the concept of hustle when I was 12, when my parents bought a franchise: Dunkin’ Donuts.

From my perspective as a kid, my parents had the entrepreneurial spirit. Even though my dad had his private medical practice, they ventured into small business ownership. My earliest memory was them participating in an old school MLM. You might be familiar with the name, Amway. Ah, the 80s!

Anyway, I watched how hard my mom worked at Dunkin Donuts. Running that business was a 24/7 job with little return. Literally. Our store was open 24/7. She would bring me into the store when the night baker didn’t show up and when she needed extra help behind the counter.

Plenty of Saturday mornings, she’d wake me up at 4:30 in the morning and tell me the night baker didn’t show again. I’d moan and curse out this mystery baker who never showed. And then we’d be off to the store, twenty minutes away, speeding in the pre-dawn dark.

It was a race against time. We needed donuts before the rush.

We’d load the commercial stand mixer with powders and water, stirring, stirring until we got the dough going. We’d slap it down on the giant wood worktable. My mom would roll it out while I washed the mixing bowl and hook to get it ready for the next batch of dough. Then we’d cut the donuts, placing them on mesh racks, loading them into the big rack, and wheeled them into the proofer, allowing them to rise.

Then the cake donuts were up next. Same steps but straight into the fryer.

We were quick, my mom and I. Making and finishing the donuts. Tumbling them into glaze or powdered sugar or cinnamon. Or filling them with jellies and creams.

Talk about hustle.

Then came the morning rush. Saturday mornings were hopping. Barely enough room for all of us-there were usually four of us behind the counter- to help the customers pouring in for their coffee and donut fixes. But we did it. There was a kind of dance to our movements between coffee pours and bean grinding and hot pots brewing amidst the rustle of wax paper grabbing donuts and coffee rolls, munchkins and cookies, muffins and croissants.

More hustle.

But in the end, despite all of my mom’s efforts at managing this particular business, my parents would lose money. You would think with having an established franchise, a seeming profitable formula and a recognizable brand, this would not be possible. But alas, this was not the case. Employees would steal money. Supplies and food would go to waste. It felt like a money drain.

I watched my mom wither into an exhausted old woman. And she was only in her mid-thirties.

Eventually, they sold the business after two years.

The hustle doesn’t always pay off.

Actually, I’m now wondering: does it ever?


So let me ask you this:

Is it possible to make money without hustling? Is it possible to generate wealth without running yourself ragged, burning the candle at both ends, driving yourself into the ground with burnout? (What other cliches can I throw in there? Haha!)

People of color are not given the narrative that anything is possible. Sure, there’s the American dream that is sold to us immigrants, but it’s delivered with hustle.

If you work hard enough, if you bust your butt, you too can achieve the American dream of wealth!

What they don’t tell you is that the system is designed to keep you away from wealth. If you follow the steps that are laid out for you, it will not be an easy path for you to achieve that. Yes, there are folks who have built their dream lives, following this path, but they are few and far between. If you look at statistics, you’ll see how systemic racism makes it much harder to grab that “dream”. For example, take a look at how people of color, specifically Black folks, are twice more likely to be rejected for a business loan than a white person. Now, if you’re a Black woman? Forget it!

Even American Banker says we’ve got a problem.

So what do we do?

We break the rules. Naturally.

Just because things have been done a certain way for so long doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Can we imagine different ways of creating wealth? Can we imagine new ways of BEING so that abundance can be drawn to us? Can we honor the flow of who we ARE instead of what we DO?

The answer, of course, is YES. It’s the “how” that gets folks tripped up.

Well, for one, let’s start dreaming and imagining. What does wealth look like for us folks of color? What does it feels like? Can we imagine that? If we can, then we can start to look for opportunities that arise (seemingly like magic) to help us get there.

Now, you might be thinking: what kind of cockamamie thing are you saying now, girl?

Well, this is the part where the “practical” meets magic.

We already know the stories of how one might achieve wealth. For folks of color, it’s hustle. We also know that the system is built to keep us small, to keep wealth away from us.

But what if we gamed the system? What if we created our own wealth from who we are BEING? What if we just went out there and got what’s ours? Attracting wealth TO us rather than chasing after it?

These are just some questions for you to think about.

And let’s also consider how The Hustle has traumatized us and our relationship with money. How that damaged relationship has kept us poor-both in our wallets and in our mindsets. And now consider how you might repair that relationship like you would with an old friend with whom you had a fight. Can you do the inner work to trust money like you would a friend? Can you trust that money will always be there for you as long as you nurture the relationship? How can you heal the damage that’s been done?

Let’s stop the hustle and thrive in living our best lives with ease and flow!

This is part of the Maverick Monday series, where I talk about healing trauma (micro and macro) through the lens of a woman writer of color (that’s me!). Each week, I’ll share a personal story from my healing journey in the hopes that others will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. I hope that by doing this, you can see that YES! healing-true, lasting, deep healing — — IS possible and that you can thrive in your life, living as your most authentic self without shrinking from the world. And I can help YOU get there! From my membership community, Witchy Writers, to Heal to Power, a program for WOCs, to one-on-one coaching, you’ll find what’s right for you!

Originally published at on July 26, 2021.



Leslieann Hobayan

Poet. Activist. Healer. Professor. Author of DIVORCE PAPERS: A SLOW BURN (Finishing Line Press, 2023)