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How I Stopped Living For The Moment & Started Living For Myself

My attempt at saving money helped me save myself.

Life & Travel

At the start of the year, my mother and I sat down to create a budget. It was laid on my heart to start saving for my wedding because I knew it wouldn't be cheap. I was single, but I went with it anyway.

I decided to save a certain amount of money this year and knew that meant cutting out some of my excessive spending – the most of which was attributed to vacationing.

I spent anywhere between $800-$1500 per trip. This varied based on location, duration, and whether an all-inclusive resort was an option or not. I may not have vacationed often, but when I did, I did it well. Cutting this per trip expenditure out of my yearly budget had the potential to bring me well above my savings goal.

This was a major – and worthwhile – sacrifice.

With my love for islands, and the Caribbean Sea, I went into it knowing it would be hard. What I didn't know, however, was how abstaining from vacations this year would lead me toward a deeper path of self-discovery.

Admittedly, many of my vacations were an attempt to escape some hardship. I vacationed when I graduated with my Master's and had no idea of my next move. I vacationed after I lost a valuable friendship. I even vacationed (a lot) after ending a three-year relationship. Unlike past years, escaping to a tropical paradise wasn't an option in 2018.

When life became challenging, I had nowhere to run. I couldn't hop on a flight and temporarily ignore my problems. I couldn't explore new terrains, imagining that it was my new life. I simply had to sit and deal with whatever life was throwing. I'd still take vacation days from work – because, self-care – but I did not accompany those vacation days with an actual vacation. Instead, I used those moments to pursue clarity and peace right where I was.

There was beauty in doing so that I had never taken time to understand. There was so much possibility in healing right at home. For as long as I could afford taking vacations, I vacationed. I'd venture off to discover a new part of the world and find a new part of myself. I pursued healing in different countries and found fun in places that I would have to spend loads of money to visit again. As memorable as those times were, they weren't sustainable.

Why should my only source of fun come from the exploration of foreign places?

Why should healing only happen poolside?

Why should my only escape be by way of a 4-hour flight to an island in the Caribbean?

And how come the idea of living my best life is only reflected in my ability to do these things, to visit these places, and to take pictures to prove it?

Truthfully, there is nowhere I could go that would make me immune to life happening. I could vacation for 13 days and return to the same turmoil I had just left. Since I couldn't run away from life this year, I decided to craft the life I desired. Finding fun and creating the best life right where I was.

In my moments of sadness or anger, I would retreat to my apartment, turn the lights off, light some candles, and find zen in the smooth sounds of my favorite soulful artists. Doing this helped me create a peaceful space in my own home. I set up a fortress that I could utilize for meditating and self-discovery; this served to be incredibly helpful for re-centering myself after bad days.

In the moments I needed fun, I would use Eventbrite and Instagram to find activities that could provide the level of "turn up" I was looking for. Doing this helped me make new local friends and explore events within the city that I never knew existed – events that I would later frequent.

When I needed time to simply relax, I would schedule a sauna visit at a spa about 20 minutes from my apartment, sit in solitude, and listen to ocean waves, compliments of Pandora Radio. On special occasions, I'd include a one-hour facial. This provided me with a similar sense of isolation and calm as my usual vacation, for a fraction of the cost.

With all these alternatives, I haven't missed vacationing at all.

This year, I learned that living my best life isn't about escaping from the life I have, it's about embracing it. It's about exploring the places right outside my front door and finding joy in what each one has to offer. It wasn't about counting down until my next trip, it was about enjoying each moment for what it was. It was about fostering growth in the space God placed me to grow in. It was about being able to find refuge, and healing, and possibility, and fun wherever I went.

It was about curating a fulfilling life right here, right now. This is my version of my best life.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't take vacations. Of course you should! It's to suggest that if you're looking for your best life, it can be found right where you are.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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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
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