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Millennial Tings: I Spent $100K In The Pursuit Of Happiness

My energy was so Debbie Downer that I fully embodied sis.

Her Voice

Graduate school is where you go when you finally have an inkling what career is going to bring you closer to your passion (that spells happiness in a millennial's native tongue). Yeah, that's what they say about undergrad too … except this time it's for real. Though, grad school is also a test of patience and will. I know this now but no one had clued me in prior to beginning three years ago. In discovering this on my own, I built a more intimate relationship with myself, my faith, and learned how to find joy at all costs.

Really this moment in time was 'adapt or die' for me because I had already begun grad school on a shaky foundation--jobless with no savings--I relocated for my dual masters program one semester deep.

And while I did get a job here and there, nothing worked with my schedule. To get a job in my profession, I'd have to attend school part-time. And working as a server quickly began to interfere with my weekend classes which were as often as three times per month. Needless to say, there were sacrifices and tough decisions all throughout! Fully aware that the route I chose was one of privilege, it certainly didn't make it feel any easier. In truth, it was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation--grad school, that is.

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I witnessed much of my cohort struggle maintaining full-time careers on part-time school schedules or hold down five rinky-dink jobs so that they had time to intern and attend school. There was no sense of normalcy and whatever any of us chose, we were all struggling. This is in part to academia being such a large scam (ethically speaking), especially in human services. It was really eye-opening to watch professors preach self-care and force us to read up on studies pertaining to human nature while they asked us to defy that nature every step of the way. "The human brain doesn't retain info after x hours of reading or class but here's a 10-hour weekend course and 15 hours of reading."

Higher education intentionally and unnecessarily creates obstacles for students and that's the number one issue. That's a hill I'm willing to die on.

Because of this I was met with ridiculous self-negotiations due to regulations that wouldn't allow me to work and intern in the same place, but required 24 hours of field hours per week from grown ass adults with careers, families, etc. I was drowning for three fucking years but by the time year one came to a close, I had learned how to tread water to keep myself from going too deep under -- financially, spiritually, and mentally.

And that sounds wild that I had become content with perpetually drowning, but it's as true as it is a part of the journey.

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In that first year, I was waking up in tears and having panic attacks in DAILY anticipation of my bank account being over drafted at a minimum of $150. I was constantly in fear of the day I wasn't going to make ends meet. My anxiety and stress had piqued and I began manifesting illness and disaster where there weren't any: Hives, spider bites gone bad, severe acid reflux!

My energy was so Debbie Downer that I fully embodied sis.

And it wasn't until I heard this quote, "Worrying means you suffer twice," that the clouds parted. That one quote helped me start to apply manifestation techniques that I had read about in the past, but found it rather hard to apply-- you know? Head under water and all. But that's when it counts, that's when putting into practice matters. So first I had to learn how to stop putting so much fear and anxiety into the situation. I would make a checklist of everything I needed to do/pay/have and ask myself if I'd done everything in my power to secure those things for myself and if the answer was 'yes', then I learned to release it.

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This also required me to unlearn some stubborn behaviors such as asking for help. My mom married into a family that is all about helping one another, but she was raised to do everything independently and thus expected the same from me. So, much of my struggles in that first year were rooted in a lack mindset that I had to do it on my own, even if it killed me but once I got out of that habit...even just a little...my world changed immensely.

Manifestation is equal parts personal effort and the universe or God or Allah or whoever. And personal effort included using all the resources I had readily available -- friends, family, a motherfucking village.

I learned to lean into that and trusted that they genuinely wanted to be there helping me through in any way. Then, believing I was worth the help because I didn't and still have trouble believing, at times. I stopped feeling bad for treating myself to meals or the occasional night out and not just in the name of self-care, but as an act of rebellion. Making these changes required in-depth introspection and brutal honesty from myself and those around me. It truly took the village to get me where I am today.

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And although I took out $100K in student loans to find that truth it brought me so many other truths like better understanding the systems I hope to serve with this pricey degree.

I understand how capitalism works, how systemic racism works, how life works. And because of that, I'll be a better social worker and eventually therapist. But I also learned how to find joy in the most dire situations and sometimes it was a splurge, but other times it was gossiping with my nana or talking big futures with my girlfriend. Sometimes it was treating myself to an Uber ride from the damn grocery store and saying to hell with the $10 if it provides even the slightest bit of solace.

So while I'd never spend another dime on higher education, I don't regret one cent. I'd do it all over again if it meant I'd come out as insightful and aware of both my privilege and my oppression, but better yet how sifting through that provides a better sense of self and happiness.

There's no price I wouldn't pay for that level of inner-standing.

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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
Sign up

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Lawd, lawd. I'm assuming that I'm not being too presumptuous when I start this all out by saying, I'm pretty sure that more than just a few of us can relate to this title and topic. I know that personally, there are several men from my sexual past who would've been out of my space a lot sooner had the sex not been…shoot, so damn good. And it's because of that very thing that you'll never ever convince me that sex can't mess with your head. The oxytocin highs (that happen when we kiss, cuddle and orgasm) alone can easily explain why a lot of us will make a sexual connection with someone and stay involved with them for weeks, months, years even, even if the mental and emotional dynamic is subpar, at best.

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