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I Quit My Job To Be "FUNemployed" For A Year

Unemployed on purpose. That's what I was for a year.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact as at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for a chance for your story to be featured.

This is Evelyn Ngugi's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

Unemployed on purpose. That's what I was for a year.

I toyed with the idea of quitting my full-time job for some time, but I never pulled the trigger. I had about $20,000 saved, was single, and had no kids—meaning that my decision only affected me. I was inspired by the realization of my potential.

In May 2017, I made a note in my phone titled, SABBATICAL, which listed some of the things I would get into if I weren't working and had more time. It had things like:

Learn to grow food

Visit TX National Parks

Go to museums

Take a screenwriting class

Support local events

Make a family history book

And most importantly, learn about SPACE.

The way my life was going, I wasn't learning or doing anything new, so my break was my way of taking time to explore new things, learn new skills, and enjoy life before diving back into full-time work. And this sabbatical note let me know in what areas of my life that I was unfulfilled.

It was as good a time as any to go for it.

To be funemployed, my only goal was to quit my full-time-job, and not immediately have to look for another. So I put in my resignation, moved out of my apartment—cutting my expenses in half—and moved in with my friends. I simply wanted to be professionally and personally stress-free for a year.

In a conversation discussing this with my dad, he asked, "What do you need from me?" I remember looking him in the eyes and saying, "I need you to trust me."

And from there, my funemployment year was born.

Courtesy of Evelyn Frpm the Internets

I'm a Kenyan-American theater nerd, humor writer, and digital storyteller in Austin, Texas. You've likely seen me on the 'internets'—or YouTube to be specific. I joined that weirdo website back in 2008, and today my channel has over 16 million views and 215K subscribers. I also call everyone who entertains my shenanigans my #InternetCousin. Evelyn from Austin and Evelyn from the Internets are basically the same, mostly except Evelyn talks in the shower and EFTI talks on camera. I'm pretty quiet (not shy!) in new group settings but I cackle at all the same jokes if I'm comfortable and around my friends. Other than that, I'm a creator through and through; in all aspects.

The more I think about it, maybe not reveling in my creativity is what drove my need for a break. Maybe it was being too content. Maybe it was a combination of both, I don't know, but I needed a moment. Mostly to travel, participate in any opportunities that I couldn't participate in before, and to absolutely use every ounce of time to learn new skills and be creative again.

Our self-worth is tied to productivity. And it sucks.

Whew, so during my break, I learned quite a bit about the human psyche. Mostly that capitalism really has us all the way messed up, but I was also shocked at how much my sense of worth as a human was tied to having a job—even though my lack of job was ON PURPOSE. Our society really doesn't value rest, and my biggest lessons came in learning how to balance rest and play.

I think it's a shame that we feel we have to be afforded some form of privilege or access in order to take time off, but everyone on this earth deserves the right to a full-bodied, well-rounded life. And although we didn't make this world, we live in it, therefore having to conform in some way.

This led to me spending an entire year thinking about doing and planning the doing, but not doing the doing... if that makes sense. The year really flew by and I didn't tackle nearly as many things on my SABBATICAL bucket list as I wanted. The transition back into work life was rough, I didn't set myself up with processes and systems to make work flow, especially as a self-employed person, run smoothly.

Shambles, girl.

Standing in the funemployment line was…something.

You know what, I low-key (high-key) didn't complete anything on my list. It's so interesting because I actually failed to take a true break. I spent so much time worrying about if I was being productive or taking a break "the correct way" (what?!) that I didn't feel well-rested or prepared to jump back into the swing of things. It definitely helped me understand how to set smaller goals and recognize the impact hustle culture has had on my own psyche.

Like, my favorite activity was honestly being able to go to the grocery store at 10:30am with no interruptions and cook for myself. Of all the space and freedom to do whatever I wanted, that's what my favorite activity was. *shamed* But it was because it's when I felt most settled, and not forcibly focusing on not working.

Other than that, my funemployment was a blur. I wish it was something epic like Home Alone or what my teen self wished for like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but really the entire experience was more like Portlandia.

I don't even know what that means but it's what I feel.

Don't take a year off unless you truly understand how you're going to spend your time and what you will say NO to if opportunities try to lure you back. 

Thinking back, I think I should have taken maybe three months off, max. It's weird to think about but you make the most of your time when you don't have so much of it. I've learned to protect my free time, and knowing it doesn't always have to be filled.

Just because I'm free from 5-9pm, doesn't mean that's when I should slide another meeting in. Free time is ME time. It's good to have empty space.

Also, I learned the importance of little basic things that we take for granted like signing up for classes if you live alone. You need other humans to vouch for your consistent presence somewhere - it helps to know "every tuesday Evelyn left the house for her screenwriting class" - issa safety thing!

Today, Evelyn is a year wiser and a year happier. I work again—two jobs actually—and have successfully concluded my funemployment. Although my year off was not as productive as I initially hoped, I did learn considerable life lessons; ones that I probably wouldn't have stopped to smell the flowers of before.

But this year, my only goals are to collaborate more, and practice the art of having actual hobbies that aren't for external consumption or entertainment...

Ha, what a concept!

Evelyn has many projects that you can follow through Instagram, her website, or YouTube. She is also a host and writer with Say It Loud digital series.

If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact as at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for a chance for your story to be featured.

Featured image by Jinni J

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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