If It’s Good Enough for Obama, It’s Good Enough For Me: How I Chose To Resist

Gentle Readers,

You know I feel strongly about making the world a better place. You know that I am not in favor of our current POTUS. There are so many things he stands for that I find abhorrent. However, one person can only do so much, and I prefer to focus my efforts into things I can actually impact. I cannot do a damn thing about Russian interference. I cannot stop climate change. I cannot protect NAFTA. I cannot make them hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.

My advocacy must lay elsewhere if it is to have an impact

For advocacy to be most effective, it should focus on asking the right person to do or not do something specific that is within their power to do or not do. Unless your advocacy is more broadly about making a conversation happen. Changing narratives is important, but it cannot be the only thing done. I am glad that there are people staging protests and using their voices in that way, but it is not the route for me.

My tactics are different. I do not have much available time, and I must use it effectively.

I know that the election was decided by a very small margin of voters. I also know that many potential voters wanted to vote, but were disenfranchised. Either by someone’s intent, or through inability to secure the proper documentation. The very inability to secure the proper documentation is because of how we set up our system. I think it is intentional. Many countries automatically register everyone to vote, or use ink on a finger as proof that you’ve already voted, etc. Our system is not the only way, nor is it an effective way if you want more of the electorate to vote.

One of my many internships was working at a nonprofit that considered itself a homeless shelter without walls. We did not have beds for people, but we acted as a hub in that community to enable people to access the multiple services they all needed. Most of our clients had been through homelessness and many other complicating factors. To access services provided by the city and state, they needed to prove who they were. Many homeless individuals lose their birth certificates and other documentation because they are very far down in the hierarchy of needs.

Part of my job included contacting the office of vital records on a client’s behalf. I would fill out the paperwork and get our treasurer to write a check for ten dollars. None of our clients had ten dollars to spare for something that was not urgent for survival. Within seven to ten business days, that man would have a birth certificate. Then we would help him get an ID. Another process that can be hard for people to navigate. The forms can be confusing even if your language skills are more “advanced” than others. The forms also required patience and the ability to prove where you lived. Not always easy for someone. People who’ve been homeless don’t often have utilities in their name.

Without an ID, people cannot vote. As seen above, even without government agencies and officials intentionally disenfranchising people, ie felons and former felons in some jurisdictions, the processes to navigate having the paperwork can be impenetrable. If a person uses a mobility aid, and the bus system only comes by once an hour when it works properly, that person may not be able to make it to the DMV during the appointed time. Having nonprofits who can literally arrange transportation for people who do not have access to personal vehicles can literally be the difference between a citizen being allowed to vote in elections that impact their bus service and not being allowed to vote.

How I chose to resist

Knowing all this, I have followed President Obama’s lead and will focus my energies on voter enfranchisement work. He is a politician, and rightly focused on anti-gerrymandering work, but I don’t have the political knowledge or resources to impact these efforts. I know more about how government works than the average American, but not enough about the systems and processes and political machinations to be able to successfully work in that arena.

I don’t have the capacity to volunteer in a nonprofit at this time, but I do have the internet and the ability to research.

I looked at the states with the most voting restrictions. Then I narrowed that list to those states that had the closest elections in 2016. I chose to narrow in this manner because I do not have unlimited funds. If I were rich, I would have expanded my list and worked on all states with significant voting restrictions.

The states with the most voting restrictions that had the closest elections in 2016 were Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

I then searched for organizations in those states doing voter registration or anti-gerrymandering work. I found https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/, http://www.nonprofitvote.org/, and http://www.blueprintnc.org/. All of these organizations are focused on nonpartisan civic engagement.

If the organization I interned at still existed, I would love to donate to an organization like that. Especially if they allowed me to direct it to enfranchisement efforts.

This is the concrete action I have chosen to take. It is okay if you have chosen something else. I just needed a discrete problem to focus on because of how my brain works. I cannot solve all problems. I know advocacy works. I saw it when all of the phone calls, town halls, letters to Congress and berating our Legislators resulted in the Affordable Care Act living to see another day.

I cannot do everything, but I can do this one thing.

How do you engage in resistance? Do you have a nonprofit you wished I more folks donated to?

 

Road Less Traveled Challenge

Gentle Readers,

If you are not reading Our Next Life, you are missing out on some delightful people. They have issued a challenge whose mantle is well-worth taking up.

The challenge: Instead of talking about what we’re all doing that’s the same (saving at a high rate, optimizing our budgets, etc.), let’s celebrate what we’re each doing that’s unique.

My unique path is relatively simple. I’m a dyke and have been setting my own course from a very early age. If you do not conform to heterosexuality and the assumptions that many people attach to it, you must necessarily decide what life should be for you because there are fewer examples. This is a blessing. You have to figure out what is important to you. You have to create your joy. The day I graduated from high school, I moved out of my “family” home. I’ve been forging an expanded version of family and what life means for me ever since.  It changes with new information and new versions of myself. Self-improvement means that you have to accept new ways of being.

I was fortunate to find other families to take me in at all times. I was never on the street. In other people’s homes, I found a way to contribute, but mainly I learned from them and appreciated the safety and food they provided. The conclusion I reached from living with so many diverse people was that every person believes they are normal. Every person thinks that the way their family has always done something is the way to do something. Everyone’s assumptions are hidden from themselves because they’ve lived in them for so long. The greatest thing about my early nomadic lifestyle was to see through the veil of normal. There are a million ways to “properly” prepare dinner, and all of them are right for someone.

The way you’ve always done something does not have to be the way you continue doing something. 

Until very recently, I never imagined that I would be able to retire at all. I have significant student loan debt and some personal debt. My net worth is hovering around -$150,000.  However, there has been a change brewing in me. I see hope to drastically alter my situation through two different mechanisms.

The first mechanism involves learning a skill that will double my earnings. I’m really enjoying the learning process and plan to continue learning it even after it becomes profitable for me. Once I’m able to do temp work based on that skill-set, my take home pay will skyrocket. It will be enough money that I could realistically pay off all of my debt and save for a down payment in a high COL area in three years or less. With a much higher income, I intend to take a “balanced” approach. Credit card debt will be knocked out entirely in a month. Then I will save a down payment while increasing my emergency fund. If all goes well, I’ll find a small place that is affordable. Once I get an understanding of what my mortgage feels like on my bank account, I will shift focus to buying index funds and paying down my student loans. After the educational debt is gone, I will probably work one more year doing the highly lucrative temp work and plow most of my earnings into index funds.

Then, I will stop.

I will shift to my second mechanism. With the encouragement of my best friends and girlfriend, I started an LLC two years ago that will eventually allow me to live the lifestyle I desire. The work is a passion of mine and contributes to making the world better. With an appropriate nest egg and low expenses, I could work 20 hours a week doing something of value for the world without wearing myself out. My free time will be mine. I will have slow mornings with strong coffee.

I will use the freedom to travel to practice languages I’ve learned. To go on miniature adventures and learn even more ways people view their choices as normal.

I will use the freedom to create things. I like to write stories and paint furniture. I think I will continue to like that in the future.

I will use the freedom to properly learn how to cook. I’m an excellent baker, but my cooking skills are mediocre. Classes would be wonderful. I love food. I’m sure I can learn.

I will use my freedom to continue volunteering for organizations in my city. I will use my freedom to be a more involved citizen.

I will use my freedom to get a puppy. A big one.

What is your unique approach to life and FIRE?