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I'm Setting My Intentions To Lead A More Purposed & Fulfilled Year

2020 was about repair. 2021 is for intentional joy.

Inspiration

For many of us, 2020 was the most intense year we've ever lived. Talk about the roller coaster of events: from the pandemic, losing loved ones, jobs, police brutality making headline news and continuous protesting, to an intense ass election year, and finally having a Black and South Asian woman Vice President! Just thinking it through now, 2020 has been a wild year to navigate everyone's emotions and mental headspace. So many people lost their professions that they've been practicing for years and had to learn to pursue other professions just to get by. If there is one thing 2020 has taught us is that we need to be flexible with how life goes; everything doesn't always happen on our clock, and that's OK – God has something better for us to pursue in the meantime.

Adaptability is a trait that everyone has had to pick up one way or another due to life's circumstances. This year has brought so many people together and finally open to reconciliation. If there is one thing 2020 has shown me is to be patient and be intentional. In lieu of this, I've decided to opt for intention-setting in 2021 versus goal-setting. While every goal might not be checked off, the intentionality behind the way I hope to navigate the year ahead will always remain, which in a lot of ways feels more impactful. Keep reading to learn more about the intentions I'm setting for mental health, career, and love in 2021.

Mental Health intentions for 2021

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I don't know about y'all, but my mental health was the most affected in 2020. It's such an odd feeling to have no real control of setting up your future because things keep changing, events keep canceling, and it's such a weird recession that some industries are thriving, and others are failing excessively. Our top tier intention this year is stabilizing our mental; however, that may look like.

If meditating or breathing techniques for 15 minutes a day relieves stress for you, make time for it, don't put it on the back burner. Journaling is a great way to organize and analyze your emotions, get that morning or evening workout in at home; I'm sure we've all set up a little home gym by now. If you haven't sought therapy prior, maybe now is a great time to start.

Mental health professions have recorded this year being a huge increase in anxiety and depression, and many insurances have lowered co-pays or made it free so more people can access therapy.

Career intentions for 2021

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I'm sure 2020 has equipped everyone with new skill sets and being more open-minded on their career intentions. This year has taught us not to put all of our eggs in one basket because we don't know how things will pan out, so you could be working one job, but how are you growing your wealth in other areas? Recessions are one of the best seasons to start boosting your financial literacy, flipping and buying homes, investing in stocks, bonds, paying off debt, etc. I know we would all love to have more social events in our lives right now, but this is a season of diligence, act smarter with less versus having more.

It's a great time for creatives of all areas to start that business they have been dreaming of; small businesses are thriving, especially in the Black market when society finally realized we don't have to just invest in one Black brand; we can invest in several other ones – after all, we aren't a monolith, we all have something different to offer. If you want that promotion, start seeking those online classes or resources to build your skill sets to perform at a higher level at your job.

Just cause life is out of whack right now, don't lose focus, set your intentions, and leave room for grace but stay disciplined with achieving your goals.

Love intentions for 2021

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Everyone, this is a season of reconciliation in every loving relationship, whether it's platonic or romantic. This is a time frame for all of us where we have to learn to forgive our loved ones and talk through things no matter how painful it is. If there is one thing COVID has taught us, no one knows their time, and life is very precious – give people their flowers while they're alive. We have to learn to meet each other where we are versus where we want people to be.

Love is everything but selfish; it's selfless. The more we set our intentions on healing, the more we can enjoy each other's company and the less stress we have from avoiding one another. Put your pride aside to work things out with your significant other, family member, or friends you haven't spoken to in months; it's not worth the fight.

None of us knows what 2021 has to offer us, but we have to stay present and focus on being grateful for what we have now because it could be so much worse. We're so used to having so much; it makes us unfortunate to be fulfilled with the little we do have. We still can't fill our entire year with plans, but we could take it day by day and appreciate what we can do to bring us happiness in the meantime. Life isn't supposed to be predictable, so we have to learn to keep adjusting to make the best of this season based on the doors opened to us now.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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