I had no mentors, no guidance, no programs, and no support, so my grades were C's, D's, and F's. 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 graduating from an alternative high school, college try #1 started. But living with verbal abuse and under the constant threat of being put out on the street 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 an unknown one, 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.
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 her joy of living in France. She doesn't know it, but she inspired me to expand my search for wellness beyond the borders of America.
Shortly after seeing that Michael Moore film, it felt possible to apply to an academic international fellowship in Chennai, India...AND I WON! My experience there helped me take inventory of my happiness, and most important, began my research into the nations that would best meet my goals for my wellness.
Time later, I met my then boyfriend, and on our 1st date, we shared how much debt we had. Together, we had $265,578.89 from 2 car payments; medical, tax, and utility bills; and of course, student loans. One of my measures of wellness included to not have to worry about the cost of living when things are at its worse, thus my journey to finding a country that takes good care of its people.
Only two years after we met, we improved our financial wellness by paying off 2 cars, medical bills, utility bills, taxes owed, and we got married at City Hall for $60! 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 $60,000 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 place that will give us (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, and (7) strict gun laws.
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, then the fear of uncertainty got smaller with knowledge and time.
The “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 wellness journey can encourage you to build yours.