For The Women Searching For Happiness Everywhere But Where They Currently Are

A bad case of destination addiction may be making you miss out on true happiness.


I used to think in order for my writing career to go anywhere, I had to literally go somewhere and get out of Philly.

There was no way I had a shot at being the next Iyanla Vanzant or the black Mindy Kaling if I was located anywhere outside of New York City. While it's true that changing your area code can give you better access to certain opportunities, there's no substitute for hustle, ambition, and a healthy dose of talent, especially when it comes to writing in a Wi-fi/Wordpress kind of world. For some of us, success is as simple as of change of address, but far too often many of us use “chasing our dreams" as a way to run away from our real problems.

Chances are we all know (or have been someone) who's packed up and moved to Los Angeles, New York City, or, the latest fave, Atlanta with the belief that relocation was the key to making their dreams come true. What about that person who is constantly quitting a job, moving to a new apartment, getting engaged, or even having children believing that the next big life change is the key to their happiness?

If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be affected by destination addiction (and it has nothing to do with frequent flyer miles). The term, coined by psychologist Dr. Robert Holden, creator of The Happiness Project, refers to the idea that success or happiness is a destination that we are traveling to which is unfortunately limiting many of us from enjoying the ride.

We find ourselves in a continued pursuit of happiness without allowing ourselves to enjoy the space we're presently in.

According to Dr. Holden, that pursuit is making many of us unnecessarily unhappy:

“We suffer, literally, from the pursuit of happiness. We are always on the run, on the move, and on the go. Our goal is not to enjoy the day, it is to get through the day."

I began to notice fleeting episodes of destination addiction among my friends and I the closer we all got to our 30's. It was as if there was this life checklist that we were frantically trying to complete that included college degree, professional career, home ownership, committed relationship and 2.5 kids all by the age of 35. I don't know why, but there's something about the big 3-0 that makes some people feel like they're captain of the Carnival Broken Dreams cruise ship if they are still living at home with parents and miles away from achieving the American dream.

The biggest problem with destination addiction is that it robs you of the opportunity to learn more about yourself in the moment and focuses on everything outside of your control. Some of us suffer from destination addiction because we truly believe happiness is always coming with the next big change. Others avoid spending too much time focused on the present because it forces them to deal with the real problem.

To be blunt: You have to step back every now and then and be honest about the part you play in your own unhappiness. Moving to a new home is not going to give you a fresh start if you allow your f**kboy of an ex-boyfriend to lay up under you whenever you're lonely. If you can't ever seem to get along with your co-workers, maybe the issue is your work ethic and not who you work for. And lastly, if you have no hustle in little No Name Town, USA, odds are moving to New York City won't suddenly make you get on your grind.

Destination addiction is deceptive because it makes you believe that happiness is something you have to seek rather than create.

There's nothing wrong with having goals, creating vision boards and generally wanting more for your life. I personally believe that life is about progress and every day I work on being a better person than I was the day before. The problem comes when your definition of better is solely based on your next move, material things and what looks good on paper. I can't tell you how many people I've met who can't wait to tell you about their Master's degrees or six-figure salaries, but can't even hold a decent conversation about current events because they spend their time scrolling through headlines without actually reading the articles. On the other hand, I've come across very humble people who are content with having 307 subscribers to their YouTube yoga channel and can talk about everything from Iran's nuclear program negotiations to Beyoncé's latest black power moves.

The one thing everyone who seemed genuinely happy and successful had in common: They enjoyed their lives because they were authentic to who they were and what they wanted specifically from life. Not what Instagram, their peers, or the American Dream told them they should. They were also focused on the quality of their life, not the quantity of experiences and making the most of the moment they were in, instead of rushing from one achievement to the next.

All of this Oprah Super Soul Sunday talk sounds good, but I can't tell you how much of an effort it takes to be at peace with the space I'm in lately, especially after being laid off about a month ago. As many quotes as I "pin" to my Inspiration Pinterest board, all it takes is one minute in my Instagram feed to make me instantly question my definition of "winning". The funny thing is, I first found the above "destination addiction" quote on Angela Simmons' Instagram page. It was sandwiched in between an #OOTD that I'm sure cost more than a week's salary for most people and selfies of her in a bikini on some exotic beach and I thought to myself, Hey Angela. I see you're jet-setting yet again. I'm just going to sit here and figure out how many more days I have until my student loan payment is officially delinquent.

The fact is, social media and an era of excess make a major contribution to this epidemic of destination addiction.

Scrolling through our Instagram and Facebook feeds are making many of us believe the good life is one waist trainer, designer handbag, or international vacation away.

I always think its funny when people say things like, “(Insert celeb name here) must not have any problems as much money as they make." How many Kanye West emotional outbursts do we have to witness before we realize that fame and money aren't the keys to happiness? It's an everyday to struggle to experience this moment in my life for what it is, and perhaps it's not about the next career move right now. Maybe it's time to enjoy my family, to balance myself and attach happiness to nothing more than my state of mind.

None of us are immune to destination addiction and we all have times where we have to convince ourselves that better times are ahead just to make it through the day. But the key to defeating destination addiction is to find happiness with the life you have and to achieve the goals that are important to YOU, not the ones you think will impress everyone else.

Going back to school to get that Master's degree? Get it because you want to be better educated, not because you want to impress your in-laws. Wait to marry someone you can't imagine living without, not because you're tired of your girlfriends giving you the side-eye because the longest relationship you've been in is with the Supernatural series. Most importantly, put that phone down and actually experience your trip to the Cook Islands instead of snapchatting the whole damn thing or planning the next impressive trip you'll take before you even board the plane.

You shouldn't need a passport in you pursuit of happiness. Learn to look forward to the future while finding peace with your present and attach the meaning of your life to the moments and not the milestones.

Featured image by Getty Images

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.


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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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