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I Took A Break From My Ambitions For A Year To Self-Heal

Everything is looking up. And that's all I wanted. To look up.

Inspiration

I was sitting on the floor, in the candlelight. It was a random December evening and the house was quiet. It was just me, my records, and my wine. Here I was, reflecting on 2019, everything that went on that year in my life. My mother's unexpected passing at the top of the year, my new exciting job that I was so ecstatic about, not working out. My boyfriend's father passing a month later. My world was literally shattered at the start of a year that I looked so forward to.

And the wild part, is that the year progressively became more and more difficult.

I sat immersed in the moment, continuing to reflect.

Wishing I smoked or even had ganja on me to cleanse the year. This wine and candlelight will do.

"No one in the world can love me like you do baby."

Anita is blaring. She makes everything better.

A few months prior to this day, I made a note in my phone labeled, 'Two Thousand Nineteen'. It had items listed that had a major effect on me in a year's time frame. When I added them all up, the total came out to 29.

Twenty-nine.

I figured if I saw it written out loud, I could wrap up those 29 negative things, and throw them out with a simple 'delete' option. But in reality, they were there whether I deleted them or not.

I didn't say much to anyone throughout the year, even though I knew they just wanted to make sure I was OK. Text message responses got slower. I tried with everything in me to give myself just a few months to get back to normal. But every high was met with just as many rock bottoms. Every plan I made for myself was thrown to the side. I had fallen into a silent depression over something only the universe and a higher power had control over.

And I needed to figure out how to heal, but had no clue where to start.

After all, there was too much to do, I was on a mission to be promoted to a director-level position within my industry in a year. I had all these events I needed to plan and network for, buying a new car was a priority, and I needed to find a board to sit on. There was absolutely no time to be anything other than what I had always known: an industry hustle.

Go, Charmin. Figure out how to buy that property and help build this other brand. Also, go be a good friend, go check on your family. Go. Go.

Whew.

And one day, it occurred to me: like sis, you're not going to be able to accomplish anything. So, stop. Especially now. Especially in this headspace.

I remember that moment like yesterday.

It was so unfamiliar, yet a moment that would ultimately reshape my outlook on life. But I knew it was what I needed.

We as women say that we need a break all the time, or we need a vacation to get away from everything. This time was different. This time, I needed healing. I decided then and there to take a break from everything. So, I metaphorically packed my bags, and told my dreams I'll see you in a year.

Deuces.

In the initial stages, being ambitionless was tough. Our generation is so programmed to always go after the bag. It's almost as if we have some soul-tie to advancement—and I was no different. I knew I had to structure out a plan if I was going to succeed.

My plan was written as:

Date yourself.

Do things that make you happy.

Give people who give you the most peace, the most time.

Re-evaluate.

Find a purpose.

And as a grand finale, create an escape plan from everything you needed an escape from.

This allowed me to be more aware of what potentially stressed me the most. I knew my stress triggers would present themselves and I'd act accordingly to what was revealed.

Now, to clarify, my break was not an opportunity to be a bum and sit home and wallow in sorrow. This was instead a time to not directly work toward any of the goals that I've had for myself, and that had developed over the course of 33 years.

My only goal was to work on nurturing my mental health.

So, I would often unapologetically leave work and take myself to the movies or on lunch dates, I'd spend time researching local activities. I discovered new podcasts and worked on forming new habits. I focused on actively redirecting my thinking to more supportive, positive places. I am someone who never buys anything for myself, so I rediscovered shopping (I know, right). I would visit family 600 miles away or invite them into my space (major key). And I spent time seeking experiences and activities such as skiing road trips (experiences were also a huge factor).

And slowly, I began to feel welcomed back into my body. Soon, meaning returned back into my consciousness.

Ladies, I've learned that it is OK for us to take a moment. Just step outside of yourself and take a moment. Not every hour of the day has to be dedicated to "winning." Sometimes, what we're after is silently killing us. As adults, if you think about it, we deal with so much trauma, yet dust ourselves off and continue to work in mental chaos. I personally sought refuge in my home, simply because it was where I was happiest. And combining my home life with activities that I learned to love out loud, satisfied my healing process.

Today, I am happily back in the swing of life. My year is complete, and I am on a path that I literally had no idea I would be on 365 days prior. Everything is looking up. And that's all I wanted. To look up.

At the time of this article, I hadn't visited a therapist just yet, but maybe one day. I know that's probably where this final stage of healing lies.

But for now—just for now—I can truly say that packing those metaphorical bags to take that year off, saved my life.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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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