Countdown: 1 Week

I was planning to attend the inauguration with my friend and her 6-year-old daughter if Hillary Clinton won. Just like I attended the historic inauguration of the first Black president, I was going to make sure I was there for the inauguration of the first female president.

As we all know, those plans were shot.

Now there is an endless stream of tragic news- disastrous Trump appointees, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, passage of the REINS Act, a coordinated lack of transparency around multiple simultaneous cabinet nominee hearings, and more.

I was in a bit of a haze since the election and avoided any in-depth news coverage. I wasn’t in denial, but unwilling to let a Trump administration become a daily part of my thoughts and worries for the sake of my mental and emotional health. Now, with 8 days left in Obama’s presidency, the feelings of loss and fear are catching up to me.

Though I don’t agree with everything President Obama has done, he has meant a lot to me and so many people around the world. There were many instances when his thoughtfulness, intelligence, love for his family, humor, and progressiveness made me proud.

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His views on feminism and treatment of the women in his life were nothing like what I’d seen from a U.S. President. He set an example for the men who haven’t caught up yet and showed everyone what a loving, beautiful Black family looks like. In June 2016, I was invited to attend the first ever White House United State of Women Summit. I reflected on how amazing it was that this kind of event can happen under a presidential administration. Trump wasn’t even on our radar yet, but I wondered whether it would be the first and last summit of this kind. I think we all know the answer to that now.

I particularly appreciated his unique perspective given his biracial and international upbringing. From reading his memoir and throughout these eight years, I recognized how I can relate to his worldview in many ways. In other ways, I see how the difference can be attributed to generation and other life circumstances. (Video: The Making of a Black President)

The 2016 presidential election was personal. It happened the way it did largely in response to the personal and cultural significance of a Black president. With pride and jubilation on one side and defeat and loss of perceived power on the other, backlash was inevitable. Even without the racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, this election was a defeat of human decency at the most basic level. The severe contrast between presidents makes the departure of President Obama even more painful. Still, one thing we can look forward to is seeing what Barack and Michelle Obama do after leaving the White House. Following some much deserved time off, I’m sure we will see more of them both.

2017: The Year of Side Hustles

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions for 2017 and I never have in seriousness. I figure if I really want to and am ready to reach a goal, I won’t need to wait until the end of the year to get started. This year, even though I didn’t make a resolution, I am continuing the process of refocusing my life goals and taking consistent steps to achieve them.

I’ve recently become more serious about the idea of working remotely. Since I graduated from college in 2008, working at jobs where I am underpaid and overqualified has taken its toll. I grew up with the belief that going to college and getting a good job is just what people do and of course, I would do the same. That idea was abruptly shattered with the recession and it’s been a demoralizing struggle ever since.

Just the thought of being my own boss and having the freedom to work from anywhere makes me happy. To make it a reality, I’ve narrowed my best options down to three related side hustles that, hopefully, will become main hustles. (Multiple streams of income are a must these days.)

When I look back over random notes and planners from years ago, the common thread is writing and travel. Those old documents serve as an important reminder that that is where my passion lies and it hasn’t changed with time. I would be cheating myself if I didn’t wholeheartedly pursue these goals.  I’m finally focused and confident enough to put dedicated action behind my goal of working for myself.

On New Year’s Eve, with my two best friends and my boyfriend, we thought of things or people that we want to leave in the year 2016 and wrote them down on small pieces of paper to burn in the bonfire. On three of my pieces of paper I wrote self-doubt, self-sabotage, and selling myself short. Burning them in the fire was the easy part. Now comes the hard work of actually leaving these bad habits behind so my mind is free to focus on living the life I want.

Writing, Vulnerability, and Managing Fear

Part of the reason why I haven’t strongly pursued writing in the past is my fear of exposing vulnerability. The best writing happens when someone writes what he or she knows. That means vulnerability will always be present since personal experience is involved.

The topics I’ve just recently started to address in my writing–depression, anxiety, and my experience as a biracial woman–make me feel vulnerable and anxious, but are ultimately freeing. Each time I put these topics down on paper and then release them to the world, my mind runs wild with worry and fear. After I’ve submitted a piece and some time has passed, the frantic thoughts lessen and I reach a place of acceptance. With acceptance of whatever may come, a huge burden is lifted from my shoulders. This process happens over and over again. Sometimes the worried thoughts last for a week, sometimes for months. Usually, the entire process restarts when a new person reads my work. But I’ve learned to click the Send button anyway, despite the anxiety that I no longer allow to rule my actions.

In September, I will be a Guest Blogger for Mixed Roots Stories, a blog where multiracial people can explore their experiences in community with one another. This is the first time I have written exclusively on this topic. Although I went through the typical process of fear, anxiety, and frantic worried thoughts, I kept writing. Finishing all the pieces was cathartic and even fun, encouraging me to continue writing as truthfully as possible.

Can Social Media Change the World?

Note: I was selected to be a 2015 Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow for the United Nations Association; I attended the summit during U.N. Week in New York City and wrote on the issues presented. This blog post was originally published on GenUN.

Social media has quickly become a normal part of life for activists and others working for the social good. Still, not everyone is convinced that is a positive phenomenon. Some say social media allows people to feel satisfied with their tweets, posts, and likes while letting them off the hook for not participating in real action. But if you attended Mashable’s 2015 Social Good Summit, you may come away more of a believer in the power of new media and technology to make positive global change.

The purpose of social media is to connect individuals wherever they may be located. This doesn’t just mean looking up your elementary school bully or researching the guy who asked you out on a date. We’ve seen during international crises and natural disasters how social media allowed people to connect for grassroots organizing and safety purposes. During the Arab Spring, global audiences had a direct line to what was really happening on the ground versus what the mainstream media chose to report. Egyptians essentially became citizen journalists and attracted even more international attention than traditional reporting would have. Videos from Egyptians dominated the content shown on traditional media outlets.

The same is happening right now with the refugee crisis in Syria. The tragic photo of a drowned Syrian boy whose body washed onto a Turkish beach highlighted the humanity of the refugees and sparked outrage and concern. Photos and videos of refugees fleeing, being kicked by a Hungarian reporter, and being welcomed by a German crowd have become viral as they are shared among friends online. Whether concern translates into action by world leaders is a different story, but no one can deny the importance of an informed citizenry demanding that its government take action.

The direct communication that social media provides has proven to be vital during natural disasters, as well. As Dr. Pranav Shetty of the International Medical Corps (IMC) said during the summit, “speed saves lives.” Naomi Gleit, Vice President of Product Management for Social Good at Facebook, spoke about the Facebook safety check and donate button as examples of how social media can prompt a wide audience to become involved in social causes. After this year’s earthquake in Nepal, for example, cell phone and landline phones weren’t working so many people used the Facebook safety check to let family and friends know they were okay. Through Facebook donations, $15.5 million was raised for the IMC to provide services on the ground and people who wanted to volunteer to help were connected and therefore able to do so.

At a time when every social movement needs a hashtag (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter), it’s impossible to deny the utility of social media to connect us with strangers who, in the past, would have probably remained strangers. Social media is just that; a tool that we can use in the fight for social change. We will always need activists, experts, entrepreneurs, and leaders as the driving force. The difference is that now they can increase their reach exponentially by using social media to organize, connect, and empower to achieve social progress.