Featured Article: What I Learned Being the Son of a CPA by Warren Jocson

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Please contact licensed financial professionals for your tax, investment, and other financial needs.

At this time of the year, we may find ourselves reviewing the successes and challenges of the past 12 months. When it comes to money, a regular review of your finances can help you stay on top of your goals whether it’s to build up an emergency fund, save up for a family vacation, or prepare for a home purchase. We are inundated with tools, apps, and software to help navigate today’s demands but many times we can reap the most benefits from mastering the basics & setting up our foundation.

I’m happy to share an article written by my friend and former colleague Warren Jocson. As an Operations Manager at Target, Warren spent time before and after his shift to advise team members on their retirement goals. He was surprised to learn that many workers near retirement age had not taken action to set themselves up financially, even after working a well-paying job for 10+ years. While quarantined in the depths of the pandemic, Warren decided to write down the advice he’s shared with people at all levels of their financial journey. Here are 9 tips from the son of a CPA.


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By: Warren Jocson

My dad had, by far, my favorite saying financially. “It’s not about how much money you make but how much money you can save!” This has been my motto ever since he had shared it with me. One thing that I will state as a fact is that it is not easy being the son of a CPA.

You learn things you don’t even bother truly understanding until you’re very much older and wiser. Like for example, it’s 1991 and you are 7 years old and you see your friends in the window across the street enjoying playing Nintendo. Meanwhile, at your house, your mom is sitting across the table from you teaching you T accounts and how to balance your savings account and checking account. Talk about a mood killer.

The irony in the whole thing is how much that time really means to me now. I look back at all of those lessons and think to myself they, my parents, did a great job sharing important financial advice that has led me to be better today.

Many people are often so caught up in chasing the paper and making money they forget the old saying, “save for a rainy day”. I find it really sad that a vast majority of Americans lead a life of paycheck to paycheck. In fact, let me share some cold hard facts before saying much more:

  • According to Google, 54% of Americans live check to check.
  • Median Household Income is $67,521 per 2020 reports
  • In 2019 the median bank account balance was $5300
  • In the second quarter of 2021, consumer spending reached approximately 13.7 trillion U.S. dollars.
  • In 2019 average consumer spending was $63,036

I am amazed that US consumerism has such a huge effect on how Americans spend their hard-earned money. I also am amazed that the teachings of financial responsibility are no longer the same as it was 50 years ago let alone 10 years ago. I see the new generation so engrossed in technology and nonsense with social media and they have strayed away from responsibility and financial well-being planning. We live in a day and age that instant gratification is more important than looking forward to retirement.

We live in a day and age that instant gratification is more important than looking forward towards retirement.

I am by no means a millionaire or ridiculously rich venting and chomping down on everyone else for their points of view on how they handle their money. But instead, I thought I’d actually try and help and give back to my community in my own way. To share tips on financial savviness and learn to put as much of your hard-earned money away for retirement, a rainy-day fund, or towards something meaningful to you in the future. Here are a few of my tips below:

1. It is not about how much money you make but how much you save.

How many of you remember playing the board game, “Game of Life”? It was a fun game, right? Everyone always wanted to be the doctor earning 100k a year. That’s what everyone in real life gets so caught up on. Making the most you can make. When the simple fact is that it doesn’t matter if you make 100k or 60k a year. It’s about how much of that income is saved.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


2. Set a budget for yourself and your family.

Maybe it’s getting less Starbucks a week or every month. Maybe it’s not always eating out and trying to cook more home-cooked meals. Every dollar counts! If I make $50k a year just doing simple math, I’d probably be safe to say that my net take-home pay would be about $32,500 yearly with a rate of taxes and welfare benefits at a 35% deduction. Broken down monthly that would be about $2,708 and change. With this information, I would recommend you look into a few things:

  • What is my rent/mortgage?
  • How much do I need for food?
  • Car Payment?
  • Gasoline expense?
  • Insurance?
  • Utilities? (Electricity, Water, Gas, Trash, TV, Phone etc.)
  • Cell Bill?
  • Miscellaneous expenses
  • Medical expense on medications and health maintenance?

3. Once you figure out your budget, set a goal for savings!

In the same example, I am able to make the 50k a year and about $2708 net cash a month. My expenses ($2050) lead me to have a leftover of $658 left. I would suggest you save at least 50% of that amount! That’s only $329 to be put away somewhere and pretend it’s gone. Save it for a rainy-day fund or place it in an investment so you can let your money work hard for you!

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4. Banks are a place for holding or safekeeping the money that you instantly need.

It should not hold your hope for retirement. I often have shared with others that your bank savings should be an amount that would cover you scott-free for at least 6months to a year of fully paid bills. What I mean by this is if you unfortunately lost your job you don’t have that burden of immediately trying to find another job to get back on your feet. Having that rainy day fund or emergency fund, you are able to survive without worry and you will be able to still find the best job you would like rather than settling for an open vacancy.

An example of this is like our example earlier with making $2708 a month and having $2050 worth of expenses each month. I would take $2050 and use that as a baseline for how much I should have as an emergency-ready fund in a bank account. So, if I look at 6 months, I should have $12,300 ready at all times or if I wanted the full year safety net, I would be looking at having at least $24,600 in my account.

Having that rainy day fund or emergency fund, you are able to survive without worry and you will be able to still find the best job you would like rather than settling for an open vacancy.

5. So where should I put my money?

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Some people are often misled that all your savings should be placed in a bank account. That is so wrong. The bank earns you .01% return if you are lucky. Most of the time you end up owing them due to their fees and such. What is important to do once you have saved your rainy-day fund or emergency fund is to start looking at saving your money in a 401k or an IRA account. If you’ve already done that, consider maximizing each for the best possible savings. If you still have the ability to put more into a savings, consider a CD or Time Deposit or invest it in Real Estate or Money Market account. Save for retirement.

What is a 401k?

A 401(k) is a feature of a qualified profit-sharing plan that allows employees to contribute a portion of their wages to individual accounts. Elective salary deferrals are excluded from the employee’s taxable income (except for designated Roth deferrals). Employers can contribute to employees’ accounts. (Per Google)

401K max amount $19,500

What is an IRA?

An individual retirement account in the United States is a form of “individual retirement plan”, provided by many financial institutions, that provides tax advantages for retirement savings. (Per Wikipedia)

IRA max amount $6000 (2021)

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6. Maximize your 401k or IRA if you can!

Not only is it a great savings per year but it is an immediate tax deduction from your income! Many use this as a tactic to shield their tax implications. Imagine earning 100k a year but because you maximized your ability to save for retirement, you shrank your earnings down by 25.5% immediately. Now your new taxable amount from your salary is only $74,500.

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7. Understand the difference between Assets and Liabilities.

Such an important topic. Let’s face it, everyone has a weak spot for material items. Whether it’s cars, shoes, watches or purses, or maybe just an expensive vacation getaway yearly; all of these will face the question is this an asset or a liability. Quality of life plays a major role in this topic because is it possible to have a cheaper thing that works the same? Or is the brand more important to you? We all have wants and desires but how often do you indulge in the want or how often do you hold yourself off and just be practical about the matter? Be vigilant in delaying gratification! Patience is a tremendous virtue that leads to good things in the end!

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8. Investing in Real Estate or Money Market account.

You work hard for your money so why not let your money work hard for you? Purchasing a rental property is not a bad idea if you have the extra funds. Let the rental income become a passive stream of income for you! But remember in real estate, location vigilant location! Location is every bit of importance for keeping and holding your property value but also keeping renters interested in your home.

As for Money Market accounts, using a user-friendly app such as Robinhood, E*TRADE, Ameritrade, Fidelity or Scott Trade are all great ways to do self-trading with stocks and stock options. The only thing with stock trading is the time you will need to invest into it to be successful. If you are on the fence start trading Exchange Trade Funds first as they are most similar to Mutual Funds and help you with diversification if you’re still a beginner.

The other craze at the moment for investing really is CryptoCurrency exchanges. Crypto is doing so well behind the leader of the pack, Bitcoin. If you have time to look into these ways of earning more money on your money, I highly recommend it!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

9. My last bit of advice is spending some of your hard-earned money is very important.

Your family enjoying that vacation you all deserve is important. Taking the kids to enjoy new experiences is important. Treating yourself from time to time to something nice is important. In life, everything must be a balance. Living a balanced life will help you tremendously when it comes to enjoying life.

Photo by Nina Uhlu00edkovu00e1 on Pexels.com

If you are reviewing your finances to buy your first home or preparing to sell and take advantage of the seller’s market, feel free to reach out at 909-534-8657 or vivian.moon@exprealty.com or schedule a free consultation via calendly.

How to Start Your Home Buying Journey

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Congratulations!

You’ve made the first step in your home buying journey simply by asking questions. This is where the research starts. Whether it’s about your current financial situation, your retirement goals, or asking yourself if you even want to own your home, knowing where you stand is critical to getting where you want to go.

My goal in this blog series is to share information, resources, and actionable steps from a trusted friend who happens to be a real estate professional. (Learn more about me here.)

Staying ready empowers you to move if and when the market shifts. Whether it’s to create a home for your growing family or to explore the passive income opportunities in real estate, let’s start by asking questions.

Why Should I Own My Home?

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reports specific benefits for homeowners and their families including

  • Kids of homeowners are more likely to graduate high school
  • Kids of homeowners generally have less significant health issues
  • Kids of homeowners are more likely to own their own home
  • Homeownership is a significant source of household wealth
  • Particularly important for lower income and minority households
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Image Source: https://nmtsreno.org/

Considering the principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and also Housing First, it makes sense that people who have secured basic needs like stable housing are more able to pursue their highest self-actualization goals than those without housing stability.

Here are a couple other ways to think about it:

If you are living paycheck to paycheck and worry about rent increases, is there anything you can do to improve your financial situation?

If you do not need to pay $2000 monthly rent to your landlord, what would you do with the $24,000 equity built each year?

There is no reason to undermine your future based on what you may think of your current situation.

What do I need to know?

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

First, you need an honest evaluation of your financial habits and your commitment to becoming a homeowner. There are costs (like property taxes) as well as lifestyle changes (like home maintenance) that come with being a homeowner.

Use this “Am I Ready” worksheet to start your reflection. Make sure to include your loved ones who will be taking this journey with you.

Next, it’s important to know your current financial situation starting with your actual budget and income.

Use this Budget Worksheet and Monthly Income Worksheet to gain an understanding of where your money goes & how it grows.

It’s not how much money you make but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.

Robert Kiyosaki, Author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad

After you take time to consider your lifestyle, finances, and goals, you can also educate yourself on homeownership through Freddie Mac’s CreditSmart Homebuyer U.

It’s a free online course you can complete at your own pace & offers resources and worksheets to cater to your needs. You receive a certification upon completion, which you can use to qualify for some first time homebuyer programs (for either low or high income) later in the process.

Who can help me?

After some self-reflection, running numbers, and initial research, you’re ready to start building your team of licensed professionals!

Photo by Rebrand Cities on Pexels.com

Real Estate Advisor

Your real estate advisor’s job is to guide and educate you in this brave new world. Real estate agents make sure that you avoid expensive mistakes, and that your goals are met by working with you to create a strategic plan and a competitive offer.

Your real estate advisor can connect you to industry professionals like housing counselors, lenders, and contractors and vendors who are experienced and highly recommended. This saves time and stress because you can trust the quality of service and work. This is also why an agent is a great place to start even in the early stages.

There’s a joke among real estate advisors that once you buy your home, it feels like breaking up – although great agents stay in touch after you move in. Make sure to pick one you trust and like spending time with!

Housing Counselor

Housing Counselors help you get mortgage-ready. If your credit, employment, or other history is not yet strong enough to get a mortgage, a housing counselor can help you do a thorough review of your credit report and budget.

They provide tools to help you buy and keep your home by assessing your financial capacity and creating a plan. They can also help clarify how you could be impacted by interest rates and also more specific situations, for instance with any government benefits you may be receiving.

Lender

Lenders can get you pre-approved for your home shopping stage but they also support you throughout the homebuying process.

Who you choose as your lender, or mortgage provider, is important. Their role is to analyze a buyer’s overall financial capability to take on a mortgage. In other words, they are creating your story that will enable you to buy a home.

Highly recommended lenders are available to support you (and vouch for you) in the offer and escrow stages. In a multiple offer situation, a lender’s support is invaluable.

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When do I want to buy & Where do I want to live?

If you’re looking to buy as soon as possible, you are ready to shop when you have a pre-approval in hand & an agent to guide the way.

Considering the current market in November 2021 with low inventory of available homes, low interest rates, and high demand, you want to start shopping for your home at least three months before your desired move-in date & even earlier if you or your family have specific needs.

Why? Low inventory of homes means you may need to look longer for a home that fits your needs. High demand means there are a lot of players and multiple offers, which also prolong the offer process.

After your offer is accepted, it generally takes takes 30 days to close on the home and get the keys.

You may already be thinking about what your dream home looks like and where it will be located. Awesome – having a visual is going to help you in your house hunt as well as research on regional factors (like special taxes or environmental considerations).

But know that the first home you own may not be your dream home.

Buying and owning a home is a strategy to build equity, improve investment potential, and create generational wealth.

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

Remember this & you can find the best starter home for your wants and needs in your current or near future situation. Sell & buy after a few years of appreciation with the equity you built up through mortgage payments (that did not go to rent). Rinse and repeat, of course, with trusted and licensed advisors who know your goals.

This is a journey for the financial empowerment of you and your family, if you want it.

How am I going to get there?

With careful and honest reflection on your current financial situation & a clear definition of what you want for your future, anyone can start today to boost their homeownership potential for the future.

Partnering with your team of advisors, knowing what to expect, and understanding how you can make money from real estate will allow you to make the best decisions to reach your goals.

Because the process of homeownership can be vast and complex, this post addresses some basics of starting the home buying journey. What would you like to see in future posts? Leave me a comment!

About the Author

Vivian Moon is a real estate advisor based in Orange County, CA specializing in first-time home buyers. As part of eXp Realty of California, one of the biggest and fastest-growing independent brokerages in the US, Vivian is excited to harness the power of real estate to help clients, including those from underserved communities, to reach financial empowerment.

Moments of Clarity

In the depths of the pandemic in an unsettling post-election holidaze, I’ve had exceptional moments of clarity. What about you?

What’s kept you alive and well these days? The comfort of home or loved ones nearby, whether through touch or tech. The emergency fund that helps you enjoy the break of the daily grind and break the norm as we knew it. The exposure of political and social patterns we readily ignore or perpetuate.

Call it a breath of fresh air, or rather Covid, but chaos is the perfect time to recognize the sense from the noise.

At the beginning of this year, like many beginnings of years, I made a commitment to pursue my genuine self. Each year, I have a greater understanding of who I am and who I want to be. In 2020, my commitment was to create and release my debut hip hop album and share my poems as a hip hop artist. It happened. I ended up releasing two musical projects: Current Virus and The Book of Cosmosis. These two EPs catapulted me into a creative flux and empowering collaboration with local underground artists. In this stage of creation, a range of romantic and rabid mind states propelled me with momentum.

Now, in December 2020, I review my goals and progress as if it’s another end of the week. It takes thorough reflection and analysis to see how far we’ve come and how much further there is to go. How far we’re on track and how much we’ve wavered. To check in is to calibrate and redirect as needed.

When I finish a project or job, the notion of identity and belonging slithers back into my mind as doubt and insecurities. The all-too-friendly imposter syndrome gets in the way of the pure joy in doing the things I love. For a second, or a month, I take a break to feel and process these emotions. For the gajillionth time, I come back to my purpose to write and share.

These moments of clarity are forgiving, more so today thanks to the committed rounds of therapy. These moments must be forgiving, because what the fuck was this year? These moments remind me that not everything is as it seems.

In fact, we can create our own realities, manifest our success, and accept the deranged and unexpected ways life can take us in our pursuit.

God loves ugly, says Slug of Atmosphere. Don’t let the elevator take us down, says Prince. Hang-ups do not define a kid, says Sa-Roc.

Please celebrate your success in movement, progress, and growth – whatever it may look like.

Slant’d Issue 03 Launch Party

Who: Slant’d Media

What: Issue 03 Launch Party

When: Thursday, November 21, 2019

Where: Segovia Hall at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles

Why: Celebrate the launch of the third issue and network with AAPIs (Asian-American and Pacific Islanders) and allies

From slantd.media/magazine

Where my AAPIs at?! I’m excited to be performing a spoken word poetry set for the 3rd issue’s launch party for Asian-American collective Slant’d Media.

Slant’d was founded just two years ago in 2017 by Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen, who were frustrated at the lack of Asian-American voices and presence in the American story. Slant’d started out as a magazine, fully funded from their initial campaign on Kickstarter, and has now reintroduced themselves as a collective to share and celebrate our stories. In addition to an annual “anthology-meets-art” publication, Slant’d now offers community gatherings, an online store, and a revamped subscription program.

The launch party will take place on Thursday, November 21st 8-10pm at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. It will feature performances by other LA-based Asian-American artists DJ Mish, Jenevieve Ting and Jensen Reyes. There will also be a story slam around the theme of “taboo”, when attendees can share their experiences. Light refreshments will be served. Buy tickets here!

History and Horror in Salem, MA

Halloween is my favorite holiday. My costume of choice is derived from societal mockery infused with insanity plea, an attempt to indulge in how crazy I feel sometimes. Clown make-up optional.

It’s strangely consistent with the dynamics of horror and history in our commodified cultures. Horror stories are inspired and fueled by historical tragedies from which we hail the terror despite the sad realities that come with it. It becomes difficult to distinguish right from wrong, treat from trick, history from fantasy.

I decided to visit Salem, Massachusetts to break up my Boston trip for a Raw Artists show. After weeks of decidedly depressed endeavors, I needed an escape from the daily grind and familiar surroundings of a modern suburban poet. Gratefully, my art show coincided with the best month of the season, and I jumped at the opportunity to visit the site of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

Salem street with spire building, trees, and cars

Salem.org says “Make your own magic” in a seemingly light-hearted tone against a periwinkle background. None of the links work. There is no downloadable guide to Salem here. Simple icons state friendly topics like “Modern Witch”, “Literature Nut”, and “Halloween Enthusiast” and lead to nowhere.

Whether this website is obsolete or the city of Salem would rather not indulge in their fascinating yet horrible Salem Witch Trials history, you will not get the information you need here. The place to explore the Halloween capital is HauntedHappenings.org.

After a one-hour ferry ride from Boston, I was walking among hanging apparitions, distorted faces and bodies, and haunted or not burial sites.

Today, it’s a small town where modern witches, history nerds, and Halloween enthusiasts wander. I was there about four hours in the afternoon, not nearly enough time to enjoy events like Carrie: The Musical at the Neal Rantoul Black Box Theater, the Legacy of the Hanging Judge at the House of the Seven Gables, or An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe at the Remix Church. 

My goal was to pay homage to the innocent murdered women and men of the Salem Witch Trials, and my first stop was the Witch Trials Memorial. This is free to the public in an outdoor space surrounded by trees and lined with benches engraved with the names of those hanged and killed for the crime of witchcraft. Etched into the stones bordering the space, there are quotes from the accused during the trials.

I do plead not guilty.

Oh lord, help me.

I am wholly innocent of such wickedness.

He knows I am innocent.

It is alongside the Old Burying Point Cemetery, where Judge Hathorne, who led the convictions and deaths of the accused witches, lay and where all the accused innocent were forbidden to be buried. You must pass the food vendors and the Wax Museum to get here.

Shortly after, I stood outside the Salem Visitor Center peering over at the man in black, complete with headset microphone, handlebar mustache, and top hat adorned with bones and shrunken head. This will be interesting, I thought, slowly easing into my fascination of the horrors of Salem history by focusing on our tour guide, Dr. Vitka.

Dr. Vitka, tour guide for Spellbound Tours, stands in front of several visitors sitting down on curb. Dr. Vitka wears all black holding a staff/cane topped with a grimacing skull. Background is a red building encompassing the scene.
Dr. Vitka, Spellbound Tours

The Salem Voodoo Vampires and Ghosts Walking Tour is run by Spellbound Tours, described on TripAdvisor as “the only tour company in Salem that has actually done paranormal investigation in all the sites they visit”. I had booked my ticket immediately.

Before starting the 2:00 pm tour, Dr. Vitka explained that supernatural occurrences relate to the life or death of the deceased. So, don’t get too comfortable. We would be visiting actual haunted sites, verified through several accounts by locals and visitors, and should be ready to photograph and document our experiences even in the midday sun. He suggested that if any of us were spiritual, now would be a great time to protect ourselves by reciting any prayers or mantras. A flashback of my own experiences with spirits made me freeze, and I quickly prayed for protection from evil energies that may try to follow me home.

I repeated this prayer a few minutes later as we stood over the final resting place of Giles Corey. Is it still a “resting place” if he was pressed to death while cursing the community of Salem? At that time, the law did not allow a person who did not plead to be tried in court, and the punishment for not pleading was the process of placing boards, followed by heavy rocks and boulders, on the accused. Corey was killed in this manner, refusing to shout out in pain and demanding more weight before eventually dying in the third day. His last words: “I curse you and Salem!”

According to Dr. Vitka, the curse came true. There are records of Sheriff George Corwin, who killed Corey, and succeeding sheriffs dying suddenly with no prior health issues. A more recent example is from the early 2000s when a security guard working with Dr. Vitka began to feel chest pains and shortness of breath while standing at Corey’s death place. A couple months later, that security guard died suddenly, again with no prior health issues.

Another story that caught my attention was that of the first woman to be accused and hanged during the Salem Witch Trials. Bridget Bishop was considered a tramp, hoe, slut, enter any derogatory word for a woman who developed a promiscuous and flamboyant reputation. Accused of bewitching married men, Bishop was also found with small dolls in her room and a third nipple. The dolls convinced the public she was practicing voodoo, and the third nipple was then a sure-tell sign of witchery. She was hanged on June 1692, kicking off the subsequent executions of 13 more women and six men.

In Salem, anyone who accused another person of witchcraft was rewarded the estate and all belongings of the accused if they were found guilty. For the cases of Giles Corey, a notoriously hateful and violent man, and Bridget Bishop, an orchard-owner and three-times married woman, the townspeople jumped at the opportunity to accuse these social outcasts and ultimately condemn them to their deaths.

At 3:45 pm, I rushed away from Salem’s center and speed-walked 10 minutes to catch my 4:00 pm ferry. Snapping last-minute photos of creepy decorations bordering niche souvenir shops and rustic homes, I wondered how Salem’s history impacts us today.

I love Halloween and the paradoxical lightheartedness attached to the fucked-up realities found in human nature – there’s little time to consider the lack of seriousness or severity while crafting the perfect costume or reading the greatest horror novel.

As I sat on the wet and white benches on the Boston Harbor Ferry gaining speed and taking me further away from Salem back to the throws of modern-day city, I thought about the similarities between then and now. Human nature doesn’t change, though individuals can seek to grow. Witchcraft is back, but in a different light. And lastly, history tends to repeat itself, though it may not be so familiar at first.

Happy Halloween.

A flock of birds flying in a straight line above the ocean between grey clouds and the ferry railing. To the right, there is a small red sailboat.
A shadow of the blog writer as she walks down Salem's asphalt street.

How to Find Peace in Chaos

giphy.com

How do you find peace in chaos?

You define the elements that create this environment, break it down into understandable parts, then make a plan to change what you can control.

My chaos these days comes from an emotional clusterfuck in the heart of transitions and a global dramedy of tired topics. It’s tough to be segmented and regimented when personal matters, career aspirations, and global disfunction clash and bombard our daily lives. Maybe you have additional circumstances to work through like mental illness, taking care of ailing family members, or surviving trauma. Maybe your chaos is consumed by just one impactful situation.

Everyone’s chaos is unique. We have our own collections of stressors and realities that impact our ability to think clearly, solve our problems, and lead peaceful and happy lives.

To tackle my own plate of seemingly well-organized shit, I did an exercise to break through the noise of my thoughts, obsessions, and anxieties so I could start making moves about what actually matters to me.

My goal in this post is to help you find peace in chaos by sharing 3 steps to clear the air, hone your focus, and regain control.

  1. Define your chaos
  2. Break it down
  3. Create a plan

1. Define Your Chaos

Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides these definitions:

Chaos (n): as a state of utter confusion

Peace (n): a state of tranquility

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you feel? What is it that makes you feel confused or out of control?
  • Looking at the elements that make you feel this way, which parts can you control?
  • What brings you peace?

Throughout the day, we feel an incredible amount of emotional flux. We can learn to control many of these thoughts but only with practice. Mind control is the name of the game. If you don’t decide how you want to use your energy, our environment will make that decision for us.

As much as we are sidetracked and bombarded by media, business, and pop culture of what, when, and why to think, we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions. Sometimes, all it takes is defining exactly what it is, part by part, by taking an honest and scrupulous analysis of our emotions.

2. Break it down

giphy.com

So now you know how you feel, but it’s still messy. How can we isolate why or how we continue to feel this way?

Here are some ways you can start to get a handle on your brilliant mind.

  • Meditate.

Really. Do it. Mindfulness is trendy, and for good reason. It answers a need that is all too present in our fast-paced, technologically-fueled, convenience-centered lives of 2019. When you don’t have the day’s to-do list running constantly in your mind, or you’re not running from task to task, or you spend more than 5 minutes away from your phone, you can then give your mind a chance to breathe. This space allows your brain to explore topics lingering in the back of your mind and help you recognize subconscious thoughts, how they behave and fluctuate, and ultimately how they affect conscious thoughts and your day-to-day happiness.

Visit Gaiam for a beginner’s guide to meditation.

  • Reflect.

Start by writing in a journal of that day’s events. Your brain will end up making connections through the process of writing that you may not have observed otherwise. For instance, you may note that a friend said something to you that piqued your interest or how much a stranger’s smile boosted your confidence. I also challenge you to try writing in a stream of consciousness style, or freewriting. This is essentially writing without stopping to think or plan what to say. This helps gets your subconscious thoughts on paper and allow you to assess and pinpoint where the feeling of chaos is coming from.

Check out this Huffpost article on the benefits of journaling.

  • Review the past.

If you find yourself regularly thinking about past events, take some focused time and energy to observe what happened with as much of a non-biased eye as possible. There is no point in repeatedly reliving the event and related trauma, so give yourself the time to assess so you can move forward. Review it thoroughly, bravely assess those emotions you felt and continue to feel, and note how you would like future situations to improve. Then, move on. Let it go. It’s true that whatever you think about most becomes larger and, many times, overwhelming, creating a situation that some may refer to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focusing on past regrets or shame will keep you not only in the past but in a constricting mind frame that hinders real growth.

Read this article by Tony Robbins’ team on how to let go of the past.

3. Create a Plan

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Plan for the future you want. Visualize the person you want to be by thinking of a situation that made you feel bad, unworthy, or less than your true character. Rewrite that scene in your head as the person you ultimately want to be. Visualize, and assert those actions into reality. Use detailed steps and develop routines to ensure consistency.

Take care of yourself. When people have problems, we tend to nurse them with the sweet array of vices around us: alcohol, drugs, tv, sex, gossip. Whatever your poison, recognize that your physiology affects your emotions. If you are sleep-deprived, you may feel aggravated and groggy, which blocks your ability to be patient and think creatively with an open mind. If you are eating fast-food every day, your body doesn’t get the nutrition it needs and puts your body and mind in a slump. If you are always on the move, you may not be listening to signs your body gives you. Remember to take breaks, use meditation to be aware of how your body feels, and never forget to include activities that bring joy.

Whether it’s making tough decisions like taking a hard look at your harmful habits or saying goodbye to toxic friends, the decision to find peace is on you.

I am going through these steps as honestly and as paced as I need, so that I could become the person that I want to be. If you end up going through these steps or would like to share your opinions or experience, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Happy healing!

Day of Action / Call for Attention

Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action is this Saturday, September 14th. It calls for women around the country to stand up and resist the string of abortion bans passed in several states this past May.

Since I left my operations manager job in June, I have been committed to join the nonprofit community. Fed up with the utter disregard of data and logic in public policy, I was also fed up with my limited action regarding a cause I cared so deeply about. In college, I had interned with Planned Parenthood and thought fondly of those days passing out condoms, educating students on available resources, and reaching out to the community through phone banks and community events. My internship was cut short because I ended up studying abroad in Barcelona. The year earlier, I had passed up an opportunity to intern with the Feminist Majority Foundation so I could, again, study abroad.

A pattern emerges. If I had not opted for travel both of those times, I would be neck-deep in the fight for reproductive justice by now. Instead, I am an observer, and that’s luckier than it sounds. I’ve been able to work most times and usually had health insurance. I also live in southern California where Planned Parenthood clinics have been readily available. But in fact, being lucky and privileged doesn’t create the observer. I observe because, like most of society, I am caught up. My daily grind, hobbies, family, friends, entertainment.

The first principle of emergent strategy in organizing is that small is good and small is all. This means that your small actions everyday create the whole and ultimately create an organizing, ownership mindset. When I received a Planned Parenthood text offering free training for supporters who want to get involved, I jumped to take the 1.5-hour online training. There was valuable information, like the principles of emergent strategy, but when I searched for events near me, the closest one was Utah. Liberal California does not have any events set up for the Day of Action. There is nothing yet planned to show prochoice advocates and representatives where we stand. This also displays an invisible amount of support for our sisters in Utah, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and others.

Disappointed, I decided to spread word about the event on Instagram in hopes of attracting enough like-minded passion to gather a group of demonstrators for Saturday. The engagement was weak; I received under 15 likes and 0 comments. That post had no action, but there were tons of action for upcoming show notices, comedy routines, and Instagram influencers selling their products or preaching their truths. Their talent and drive are no less impressive or inspiring, yet it felt incredibly disconnected from current events where people, not just women, are losing their rights.

The avid ignorance we live is supplied, or at the least, supported, by the modern-day trap. We are bombarded with information. We consume news on the daily, or rather by the minute, as we hang by our connections to our phones, regular pop culture stations, and routine methods of mastering the day. Many of us do not seek out the information to act on the abuses against us or our neighbors. The information is not hard to find; it simply does not jump off the screen like your favorite artist’s latest American tour or the independent comedic actor cleverly mocking the status quo. Many times, the information that can truly have an impact on us is smothered by attractive people displaying the hottest fads in make-up and fashion.

A faded (or jaded) pink with block letters with the excitement of a copy machine company has no character, no wow factor to engage and, thus, inform. It sounds silly to slap on a trendy 90’s style sticker, but it would probably boost views and, thus, visibility.

It was disturbing to find a petition on whitehouse.gov from May 2019 addressing the constitutionality of the Alabama abortion laws that passed. The goal was 100,000 signatures against the ban. Only about 1% of that goal was met.

I’m not proud. An issue that has been so hotly discussed among my female friends was not getting the time of the day on direct feedback tools provided to us by the White House. Despite the uproar on social media and conversations at the round table, an easy opportunity to click and inform our representatives was unequivocally dropped. How many more opportunities continue to be missed?

There are many ways to get involved.

  • Contact Planned Parenthood Action Fund to attend events near you, stay updated on state litigation regarding bans, and receive training to become an organizer in your area
    • Volunteer at Planned Parenthood and other low-income healthcare providers
    • Volunteer as a clinic escort
    • Contact your representatives at the local and state levels.
    • Sign petitions, and let your voice be heard

Mainly, pay attention. If you do not approve of an abortion ban or other policy, seek out the resources to speak up and stand out. Our world has become accustomed to the human rights abuses that happen every day, and it’s scary to recognize how far we have come to know yet still ignore the need to act. It is much like our response to shootings, global warming disasters, and indiscriminate black murders by law enforcement. 

Now, publicizing information is not merely enough. It must flash, wow, awe, so that it is mobile-accessible and visually stunning. A sad and desperate truth that calls on each of our own decisions and questions how we show up every day. It is critical, starting with the small, to take ownership of our decisions and assess if we are truly doing all that we can to advance the cause.

Anti-abortion bans are currently blocked in Alabama and Missouri with a dangerous bill in the works in Arkansas. Last month, Planned Parenthood was forced out of Title X funding. Hundreds of health clinics, beyond those with Planned Parenthood, risk shutting down if they do not isolate themselves from abortion-related services.

Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action will come and go, yet the ongoing fight for reproductive rights continues, even at the sight of trends or memes. It will take personal accountability to levels that our dedicated social media timelines never asked of us. This is not a time to scroll and like or even post and gripe; it is a time to find out the answers and solve these issues.

RAW Boston presents Stellar – Oct. 17, 2019

I’m honored to be included in another RAW Artists event, this time in Boston. Catch my spoken word set at Boston STELLAR on Thursday, October 17th. You can buy tickets here.

Show starts at 7:00 pm at Mixx360. Set time TBD.

If you haven’t been to a RAW Artists showcase and you love art, you are missing out on a colorful and eclectic night filled with more kinds of art than you’re used to in one venue. There’s musicians, dancers, performance artists, makeup artists, fashion designers, accessory designers, a runway show, and more! Yes, there is a bar. Helps all the art go down.

See you there!