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I Was Lost In The Journey To Becoming My Dream Self​

How to find your way back and step into who you aspire to be.

Inspiration

At the forefront of my mind remains the image of my dream self---the ideal and successful version of me I long to grow into. In the humblest way, my dream self is pretty mind-blowing, or époustouflante, as we say in French. If you take a glance at my vision board, it won't take long for you to define the way I portray her: She has Leticia Gardner's looks and married life, blossoms through her career as beautifully as Necole Kane does, and writes pieces that touch people in such a deep way the world refers to her as "young Oprah".

She's a great leading woman, the kind whose main aspirations are to inspire and make a difference. She dreams of everything fancy and would break any wall that prevents her from reaching those dreams. Where some people hear "no", she hears "try harder". She's intelligent, constantly strives for self-accomplishment and fears nothing.

I came across a photo of Leticia Marie Gardener when I took my first trip to Los Angeles. Living up to its reputation, the City of Angels naturally didn't fail to work its magic on me. From visiting famous TV-show sets to grabbing coffee with Devious Maids actress Edy Ganem in Beverly Hills and being offered dinner by Eva Longoria at her restaurant Beso Hollywood, L.A. showed me that all the glitz and glamour I've always fantasized about are possible (because yeah, you can aim to make a difference but still be fancy AF). It showed me that I, too, could have a seat at the table. And by showing me just that, L.A. gifted me with the secret sauce I'd been missing to make something out of my dreams: a vision.

However, after 6 years of pursuing my vision and several spiritual awakenings, I learned that you're never safe from losing sight of who your dream self is. And there are a lot of setbacks and growth to experience before you can become her.

Image via Giphy

Reflecting on where I stood in my life last year, what comes to mind is "the Ordeal". In what's known as "the Hero's Journey", the Ordeal refers to the moment in the Hero's life where, after approaching "the Inmost Cave", a major crisis occurs. The Hero is therefore led to face his biggest fears and finds himself on the edge of death. His survival depends on whether or not he wins the fight against those fears. What triggered that crisis in my case were two defining decisions that I made a couple of years ago: Give up on a master's degree in mass communications/journalism to settle for a job that wasn't fulfilling but paid well, and move out of my mother's house whereas my goal was to stack enough money to participate in the UCLA Extension Writer's Program.

Although making those decisions seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, all it did was bring serious disorder into my life. It resulted in me turning into a miserable person---depressed, lost and trapped in a reality I never intended to make mine. My dream self and I were dying, and I was the one killing us both.

Last May, when the consequences of my choices became unbearable and I hit rock bottom, I started seeking help wherever I could.

I began seeing a therapist every two weeks, working on my relationship with God, hanging out with friends more often, and doing a lot more of the things that are probably on your usual self-care list. Had you told me that the most efficient help I'd find was going to be in writing a letter to myself, I wouldn't have believed you.

When it comes to writing a letter to ourselves, oftentimes we write about the things we would tell our younger self or the things we'd love to read when we turn a certain age. Either way, the words on paper aren't dedicated to our present self. Yet, what I needed was instant guidance. I needed someone to call me out on my bullsh*t. RIGHT. NOW. Someone who wouldn't give me the traditional "that's life" speech, but more the "you need to get your life together" one. And considering how misunderstood I felt, I knew that the only one who'd be able to get me back on my feet was my dream self. So, I grabbed my favorite pen and a piece of paper, stepped into her shoes, and asked myself: "What would my dream self say if she knew why she's so close to never existing?"

Stop ignoring what the voice within you is trying to tell you.

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Within each of us resides a voice that's purpose is to guide us through this thing called life. It's there to make sure that every step we take is in the direction of the life God---the Universe, whatever you want to call it---has uniquely designed for every one of us. She who decides to pay attention and listen to that voice will be provided with all the answers. She who decides to ignore it engages in a deadly fight against herself.

Three years ago, I made two decisions that didn't feel right in my heart but I still chose to ignore because I thought they were necessary. By not listening to what my heart was telling me, I created chaos in my life which, at some point, forced me to take huge steps back so I could save myself. I had to quit my job and move back in with my mom.

Sometimes, the only way for us to reroute toward the right direction is to destroy the foundation that we built around some important life decisions that we made---a foundation we, in most cases, became attached to and which somehow became part of our identity. Going back to square one was a painful way for me to learn that, no matter how aggressive its method, the voice within will always find a way to be heard.

​"Your life is a piece of art and art is never finished, only abandoned." 

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To me, life's art, and human beings are all born artists. Indeed, we might not all be born painters, writers, dancers, or musicians, but we've all been given the ability to create something out of nothing---to create ourselves and our own reality. The beauty of art is that, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, it's never finished. It can always be refined. Colors can always be added, words can always be rewritten and sculptures can always be reshaped. So can life.

Again, going back to square one taught me an important lesson: The artist in me is allowed to create and recreate my current reality until it looks perfectly like the masterpiece I've always imagined my life to be, no matter what it takes.

Wherever you find yourself in life, if it doesn't feel right, then move. You're not stuck. Take a leap of faith and walk into the unknown where thousands of opportunities are waiting for you.

Focus on being the first you instead of the next someone else. 

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Have you ever admired someone so much that you wished you were that person? And not only did you wish you were that person, but you actually started impersonating her and doing everything like her as though it would lead to living the same life? When people would ask me who I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to answer, "I want to be the next Oprah Winfrey." Truth be told, if I could've turned into any celebrity I was fangirling over, I definitely would have.

One of the reasons I got so lost in the journey to becoming my dream self was the fact that I was following someone else's path believing that, since we were reaching for the same destination, we could also head in the same direction. Wrong. The world doesn't need another Oprah Winfrey. It needs me and my gift.

As I've mentioned before, there's a path that's been uniquely designed for each and every one of us. It's paved with flowers only you can smell and mountains only you can climb. Its light is the only light that'll ever make you shine. Somewhere down this path is where your treasure is.

It's the only way for you to grow into the person God wants you to be--not the one you wish you could be. Walking down someone else's path will surely lead you to the destination you aim to reach, but it'll always keep you looking for the dream and the magic. Walking down your own path, however, allows the magic to operate. Then, you become the dream.

Every day is a good day to put in the work.

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They say that dreams don't work unless you do. And as a pro procrastinator who only puts in the work when I feel like it, taking action tends to be a bit problematic at times, especially when it doesn't provide me with instant gratification. I eventually had to face the fact that becoming my dream self isn't an overnight success but the result of constant and vigorous efforts.

My dream self owes her success as a writer to the hours she spends writing every day, even when inspiration's hiding. She manages to write a bestseller because she won't let the time it would take to write discourage her from doing so. She's as fit as Leticia Gardner because the results she gets from hitting the gym daily are more important than the satisfaction she gets from snacking while binge-watching Netflix.

Accessing your dream life will require hard work and discipline from you. The more you give it your all, the closer you get to your breakthrough. You have to be responsible for how much you get done. Don't be the one standing in your own way. Push yourself to do the work. Every. Single. Day.

Here and now is still good. The journey matters more than the destination.

Image via Giphy

Human beings are unsatisfied creatures always yearning for more. I can't recall a time where I felt like my reality was enough. My mind has always teemed with all these big dreams and, before this intimate conversation with my dream self, all I was waiting for was the day they'd be fulfilled so I could feel fulfilled myself. The last thing she had to tell me, which is by far one of the most important, is to stop missing out on what's already in front of me by rushing to the next big thing.

No more "I'll be happy when". Bliss might be waiting for you at the finish line, but happiness lies in the here and the now. You just have to be willing to find it.

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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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