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A Breakup And Moving To London Helped Me Find True Self-Love

My last relationship was a whirlwind in the best way possible.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

This is Paige Mariah's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

My last relationship was a whirlwind.

And not in a bad way. But in the best way possible.

When we met, he told me upfront that he had applied for the Peace Corps and would be leaving in a year to serve in Gambia for 27 months. Though I had my reservations, I allowed myself to let my guard down and really fall in love for the first time.

Man, we had such an intense romance. It almost felt as if our love was on a timer, so we were always looking for new and exciting experiences together to make the most of the little time we had left. Sometimes we would even take sick days together from work, just so we could be in each other's presence longer.

As his time in the States began to wind down, I knew that I had to start to figure out what was next for me, before the heartbreak completely consumed me. My relationship became my primary source of happiness, when everything else around me felt so unsure and complicated. What was I going to do once he left? He was choosing himself and I felt like I needed to do something big and exciting that would benefit my own life as well.

If he was able to drop everything to follow his dreams, why couldn't I?

Courtesy of Paige Mariah

I'm a digital content creator by trade, hailing from the suburbs of Chicago. I attended Hampton University and returned to Chicago to begin my career once I graduated. Though I had a 9-5, my 24/7 was digital content creation—from written blogs, to YouTube videos to building my social media presence. I've always been passionate about sharing my experiences in hopes of helping others.

After four years at my job, I was feeling extremely stagnant and my love life was just as unfulfilling. I just felt something was missing in my life. Though I wasn't happy in my career, I was slightly convinced that once I found true romantic love, that emptiness would begin to be filled. Then, it felt like all of my prayers were finally answered with my last relationship.

So, to feel this way, suddenly meet the man I prayed for, and have it was all ripped away from me...I was destroyed.

But even though I dreaded losing him, a major part of me always felt he was very brave for making the decision to leave everything to pursue his passion. He seemed so sure of himself and his decisions, whereas I overthink and often second-guess myself. How can I not admire that? He forced me to realize just how much I was holding back in my own life. And although London always had been the city of my dreams, actually living there never felt quite possible or realistic. But I didn't care. I stripped myself of my fears and decided to go for it. I applied to grad school and prepared to move to London.

We broke up about two months before I was scheduled to leave, which I thought that would be enough time to heal and get over him. So when I arrived, I started dating almost immediately—probably like the second week of being here. I got into a new situation with a really great guy, but then the honeymoon phase quickly ended. He had no idea what he was getting himself into and neither did I. I found myself acting so out of character. I was mean, snappy. Everything he did just seemed like the opposite of what my ex would do and it would irritate me. I told myself that maybe this was because I hadn't given myself the opportunity to "multi-date" and really enjoy the single life.

During my spring break, I went on a 10-day tour around Europe. I climbed to the top of a mountain in Switzerland, did paragliding in Austria—basically having the experiences of a lifetime, but yet I still felt so incredibly sad. I was convinced that I just missed my ex, my home, my comfortable life. I finally accepted that there was some much-needed self-work that needed to be done. Immediately.

It was time to work on my relationship with myself.

I took an official hiatus from dating and ended things with any guys pursuing me romantically. I stopped relying on "good morning texts" for comfort, or being "chosen" by a guy as reassurance. I needed to figure out why being alone was so scary.

To combat this, I spent a lot of time alone; taking walks, listening to audiobooks and podcasts that focused on manifestation, positivity, and self-love. These forced me to face deeply-rooted issues and insecurities that I never even realized that I had. I knew this was the best thing I could have done for myself.

When you lose control of the reasons someone is no longer in your life, your mind is filled with millions of irrational thoughts. I would frequently ask myself questions that negatively affected my mental health.

"What are you going to do with yourself when he leaves? Will you ever find anything as good as this again? How much longer will it take for me to start over with someone else to get married and start a family one day? Will he fall in love with someone else who can relate to his experience in a way you will never be able to? Would people think I wasn't good enough to make him stay?"

Ladies, we have to stop doing this to ourselves.

After my little hiatus, I developed a totally different perspective on dating. I now feel less pressure and stress when it comes to finding "the one". I don't settle anymore. I once felt like I had to come off low maintenance and agreeable to find love. Now, if I realize that a guy isn't what I want, I just move on.

Courtesy of Paige Mariah

I am complete by myself.

Of course I will always enjoy and desire companionship and love. But approaching dating this way just feels so much lighter.

Things are looking up for me and I feel the happiest, and sometimes even emotional, when I'm doing something as simple as walking down the street or grocery shopping. I still look around and can't believe that I really live in London. I just feel so grateful for how far I've come, how blessed I am to be living this dream and how much I've been able to grow over the last year.

I feel closer to my purpose than I ever have in my life. And honestly, couldn't ask for anything more.

To keep up with Paige, you can follow her on Instagram and subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Featured image courtesy of Paige Mariah

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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