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How To Regain Control When Your Goals Are Overwhelming You

Wellness

Over the weekend, I was on the phone with Brittany, one of my good friends back in Atlanta. We were on a topic we talk about a lot -- what we want in our careers. As we talked, I said to her, "I hate two questions. 'What's next and what do you want to do?'"


"Why do you think that is?" she asked me. It took me a few minutes to really think about the reasons why. I'd never given the why much thought. As she let me ramble on about the reasons it could be, a light bulb went off.

For one, those questions make me feel like I've accomplished nothing. Secondly, they make me feel like no one has paid attention to what I've been working so hard for over the last ten years. Our conversation got me to thinking about how this could be affecting other women in the world that feel overwhelmed (and sometimes stifled) by their dreams. Mainly because our dreams sometimes seem so big that saying them proudly to the people closest to you seems impossible, at least in my case.

Here are a few ways to get through those moments when you feel more overwhelmed than inspired:

Practice Gratitude

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Lately, I have been making myself stop when I feel overwhelmed by my goals. I stop everything I'm doing and go outside (without my phone), pull out my journal, and write at least one thing I'm grateful for in life or that day. It could be as simple as having a nice cup of coffee at my desk in the morning (which is one of my favorite rituals) or something as big as getting an email about a new opportunity. The practice of being thankful really can help put things into perspective when you feel yourself spiraling.

Think Less About The "End Game" and More About The Process

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Last week a friend asked me, "What's your end game?" My real answer to that is, I have no clue, and when I think about my life in that way — I just want to give up. The reality is, end games change. One year you could see yourself getting your Master's degree in Public Health and the next thing you know you're teaching English abroad or starting a family. For me, my end game has changed too many times to count.

When I graduated from college, I thought I was going to be the next Jovita Moore, but thanks to the recession, I took whatever job I could get to ensure my student loans were paid. I ended up working at an art museum for seven years while pursuing acting and building a successful stationery company. What's wild about where that pivot took me is that my stationery company, Mae B, is why I was invited in for an interview at BuzzFeed. Two weeks after the interview, I was offered the position and was packing up my life and buying a one-way plane ticket Los Angeles to start a career in the brand new field (with zero experience).

Related: Why I Took The Job As A 30-Year-Old Intern At BuzzFeed

That experience taught me to do the work I love and plan less because what is for me will show up sometimes in a package I never imagined. No end game needed.

Think About What You've Accomplished (Big or Small)

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If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago what I think I've accomplished, I probably would have looked at you with a big blank stare. I have become immune to my achievements because I'm too busy checking things off. Get my business featured in these publications. Check. Book a commercial. Check. Write for xoNecole. Check. These were all things I'd dreamed about, but when they happened, I was on to the next opportunity to check off of my list. That is a sad road to take because you'll never take time to pat yourself on the back, and you'll never be pleased. We don't have to make everything happen in this weird timeline that is projected on us. I believe that one of the keys to success is taking the time to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "You did that!"

Stop Comparing Your Journey

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I can't tell you how many times I've thought about packing my bags and buying a one-way ticket back to Atlanta. Why? I'm watching someone else win and wondering why I haven't gotten the cool opportunities they're working on. I'm so over myself. For one, jealousy isn't cute. We don't know how long someone has been working to see the fruits of their labor bloom. Two, if these people are in our fields and look like us, we should be lifting them up (I'm talking to myself here) because that means they're making space for the rest of us. Instead of comparing, I reach out to the people I admire in my industries. I have invited them out for coffee and even gone on Target runs with them. Not to gain any intel, but to be in the presence of women I admire.

Don't Be Ashamed To Talk About What You Want In Life

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Saying you want to make a career out of something that was unexpected can bring resistance. Maybe your parents saw you doing something else, you chose to take a pay cut, you followed your wildest dream, or you've done all of the above? I've wanted a creative career for as long as I can remember. My dream was to go to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but that was quickly shut down because in my household, my sister and I had to be practical. A traditional four-year institution was my only option if my parents were going to pay for it.

But, hey, I'm a creative so practical has never been my thing. Feeling the need to think about my life in those terms has made it difficult to share my true aspirations out loud out of fear that I'll hear "grow up," or worse, if they don't happen as quickly as I'd hoped, I will be labeled a failure. Speaking about your work proudly can open up new doors. You never know who you're talking to or who has the means to be able to help you get to your next step.

Take A Minute

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If you've read any of the pieces I've written here, you know I talk about social media often. I am sure that generations before us felt pressured by the societal time clock, but I think that we aren't just feeling it, we have a visual 24/7. Each time we open our apps, we're reminded of the partner we haven't found yet, the grandkids our parents want, the house we haven't bought yet, or the career we wish we had.

As one of my favorite people would say, "You gotta chill." You can rush all of the moments I mentioned above, but will they be tailor-made of you? I don't think so. Slow down. Breathe. Journal. Travel. Delete the apps. Pray. Do whatever gives you space from the hamster wheel in your brain and that the things that feed it.

Being an adult is hard, no need to add to that by feeding your brain's negative narratives and overloading ourselves with all of the things we haven't accomplished yet. The reality is that it doesn't serve us or our higher purpose. I believe we all have one.

Good luck, beauty. You've got this.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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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

Featured image by Shutterstock

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