My elementary school grades were good to average, but once my dad was no longer in the picture and we moved from the north side to the south side of Chicago, everything changed. El Niños Heroes Elementary School did not live up to its name for me. My first F was in the 3rd grade from a geography test. We lived on the south side of Chicago, so I thought the answer to what country we lived in was South America. I had no understanding of the world I lived in.
With no real understanding of dating, love, sex education, or self-esteem, I became a teen mom at the age of 15. Becoming a high school dropout and a part of the hidden homeless came immediately after. I was told that I ruined my chance at happiness and that my world never move beyond my zip code.
After being instructed to drop out of high school, I later enrolled and graduated from an alternative high school. College try #1 started at a community college, but living with my mother again also meant living with verbal abuse and being under the constant threat of being put out on the street again , and that resulted in a 0.667 GPA. I was told to get a regular job because college, and other rites of passage, was not for someone like me.
College try #2 came with no ACT, no SAT, and no letters of recommendation. I restarted my college education through The CHANCE Program at NIU. Once I left my toxic environment and took a chance on going to the middle of nowhere in the center of cornfield, I received love and support from staff members, faculty, and other students and earned my first successful academic semester!
College try #3 came with a transfer to NEIU. This new college experience paved the way to my becoming a McNair Scholar and I researched how images influence Black students' decisions to become college educated. From that, I learned how important representation is to visualization and actualization. Not only did I complete my Bachelor degree, I gained my Master's degree as well.
A class assignment led me to, Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" where I got that "Ah-Ha" moment. At 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 49 seconds is where I saw a Black American sharing the privileges of working and living in France. She doesn't know it, but she inspired me to expand my search for wellness, happiness, and joy beyond the borders of the United States of America.
Shortly after seeing the Michael Moore film "Sicko", it felt possible to apply to an international fellowship in Chennai, India...AND I WON! My experience there gave me a global perspective on wellness, joy, and happiness, and most important, the experience began my research into the nations that would best meet my goals for my wellness.
After doing the work to get my mental health in order, I knew how to "date with a purpose." Because I knew that my wellness journey included not living in America, my first date questions always included if that person was open to permanently living abroad. Noah Lomax was the only one that did not hesitate to say "Yes"; and one year later when he asked to marry me, I said "Yes" too.
Only two years after we met, we improved our financial wellness by paying off two cars early, medical bills, utility bills, taxes owed, got married at City Hall for $60, paid less than $150 for our wedding rings, and we did the work to get our student loans out of default. With only student loan debt and with all the things that have financially gone wrong for so many during the 2020 global pandemic, we worked together to save $76,000 to date toward our goal to move abroad in the near future!
Our allegiance is to our wellness, so we have given ourselves permission to find the places in the world that will offer (1) a real work-life balance, (2) options for a robust unemployment security, (3) universal healthcare, (4) low cost childcare and paid child benefits, (5) great public education, (6) better protected human rights, (7) strict civilian gun laws, (8) lower incarceration rates, and (9) lower police killing rates.
Choosing to do a global search for wellness is a massive undertaking and having the “what if” questions was normal. But once we measured our values and took the time to search which nations can best support the elements of our wellness, joy, and happiness, then the fear of uncertainty got smaller with knowledge and time.
The dreaded “what ifs” no longer holds me back because I trust in my research on the history, laws, governments, traditions, and cultures of the U.S. and of nations abroad that look to benefit or contradict the betterment of the human condition. I am inspired that my life story can encourage you to build yours.