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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.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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