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I Went Broke Trying To Live My Best Life

Some are born with the gift of gab, but I was born with the gift of wanderlust.

Her Voice

Some are born with the gift of gab, but I was born with the gift of wanderlust. Travel is ingrained in my blood.

My travel bug has always remained present, but it became more difficult to take on the extra expense once I transitioned into the world of adulting. Without hesitation, I made it a point to gain fewer possessions and more experiences the minute that I landed my first salary paying position, taking advantage of every holiday and every day of PTO. That meant taking every possible opportunity to travel, which was undoubtedly amazing.

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As I write this, I'm more ready to see the inside of my own poorly decorated plaid-clad living room than any other exotic destination. I'm dehydrated. Oversocialized. Broke. And more than ever, I'm realizing it's time to make the necessary changes. I write to you humbled, once and for all.

I can't tell you if rock bottom was sleeping in a Motel 6 bed with four other women while on "vacation," or sleeping in the airport in order to save money while awaiting the departure of my cheap flight, which was scheduled a day after everyone else's. I only know that if this is rock bottom, I've hit it. And God, I'm ready to listen.

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Although ESSENCE had been planned many months in advance, the final details hadn't been solidified just before arriving, admittedly leaving me with several opportunities to bow out. Despite my gut telling me to do so, I ignored it and in the end, I found myself paying rent late while leaving the festival with a literal dollar to my name.

For the past few years, it was fun to live on the edge and push the boundaries of my bank account. When I got laid off a couple of years ago, I had clearly forgotten how to humble myself and revert back to the days of penny pinching.

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However, the exhaustion of trying to pull this trip out of my ass as a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat has forced me to reevaluate what I consider fun and this just ain't it.

The realization that I have to find fun outside of my wanderlust is not an easy one, because it leaves me feeling as though I've regressed far too much for my liking. Every day since being laid off, it feels as though I'm living in limbo and a continuous state of uncertainty. This feeling comes despite knowing how miserable I was in my previous paid position and my bold decision to pursue Master's in Human Sexuality and fulfill my true passion. Yet, it's one that I can't shake.

There's this anxiety surrounding my almost-permanently zeroed out bank account (and that's being generous) that makes a part of me wonder if I'm destined to live this struggle life for the rest of my days.

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Traveling was the only thing that allowed me to escape all the scary changes that were happening in my life, and helped me avoid making any further changes.

The reality is that I haven't had a saving account since I've been out in the world alone, (New York will do that to you) and off the strength of that alone, it's safe to say I've been living my best life on borrowed time. I quit my serving job because it was another soul-sucking job that I could live without and deep down, I know that the only option for me is being the boss. With these realities and desires in mind, I have to figure out a way to reframe thoughts that I might have somehow failed myself and my bank account, and will continue to if I do not learn the art of balance.

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Traveling went from being my identity to my security blanket because I made all of these decisions in an effort to better myself without truly understanding that it would take a certain level of commitment, patience, and responsibility.

After all, if I'm too broke when I get back from my trip, I can't possibly invest in my brand. If I can never do that, then I can never fail. So what I can't afford to do is continue to budget vacation based on the overused logic of capturing experiences.

There's this irrational fear that if I don't book the flight, it might never happen and it forces me to believe that it's my mind's way of vocalizing my subconscious fear of failing at everything I set out to do when I gave up my old life. What if everything I thought I would be by escaping miserable jobs turns out to actually be nothing?

With all this in mind, I'm currently trying to talk myself down from the ledge and convince myself that my decision to temporarily settle down doesn't mean never traveling again, and it certainly doesn't make me any less spontaneous. It only means that I'm taking control of my fear and accepting accountability for creating the future that I so badly want.

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For me, that future looks like being able to travel first class like a boss because I will, in fact, be the boss. I'm grateful that my ESSENCE Fest trip was filled with empowering women doing exactly what I want to be doing, some of which who started off as broke as I am today.

This lifestyle change will not be easy for me, because it feels like I'll be waiting forever to reap the benefits of delayed gratification. But, it's the major key to unlocking the real life that I want and doing so forever...instead of for the moment and #travelgoals.

Originally published on July 24, 2018

Featured image by Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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