I’m 38, Make $25K A Year, & Spent $211 On Wellness This Week

Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
Today: A woman who is working to make a positive difference in the lives of people around her through service and education.
Age: 38
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Occupation: Self-Employed Director of Non-Profit and Life Coach
Salary: $25,000
This diary was written in August 2020.
Day One:
7 a.m. — I’m feeling good as I wake up this morning to start my day. It’s the final week of school for my son. He’s been attending a nine-week Youth Summer Program to be certified as an electrician. So, for the past two months, I’ve been taking him both to school every morning and to work in the evenings. It’s been challenging but rewarding. I’m super-proud of him that he is so close to this goal, and it makes me feel good to be able to be a part of that, even if it means chauffeuring. 
9 a.m. — After dropping my son off, I’m back home to get my work day started. Since June, I’ve been working on the start-up of a new business that will promote voter participation and civic engagement. I founded this business after being laid off from my job in March due to COVID-19. The organization will help people get involved with issues affecting their communities, particularly communities of color. It’s not easy to start something new, but getting this venture off the ground has been really good for me, and helps my mental health to know I’m making a difference. 
I also started recently as an independent contractor on a research team conducting a clinical study on those using opioids and the HIV prevention drug PREP. In the next few weeks, we’ll be launching, and in the meantime, we've been doing training for the project on Zoom every week. These meetings have been draining. Maybe you’ve heard of “Zoom fatigue?” I definitely have it.
3 p.m. — I applied to work for the 2020 Census more than 10 months ago, and today we started in person training at the Embassy Suites. I feel good about this work because I’m helping my community in a meaningful way. The Census count only comes around every 10 years, so I could not miss out on this opportunity to be a part of history. Knowing this is good for my mental health. I pay $25 for gas at RaceTrac to get there. 
Daily total cost: $25
Day Two
9 a.m. I decide to go to the library today to work on the online training I have to do for my work with the Census. The library is one of my favorite public places to visit and hang out. There’s something about being surrounded by books that’s good for the soul. It’s also nice to get out of the house, although I do have Internet access there too. The training is pretty intense. I spent about three and a half hours working before I leave to pick my son up from school.
1 p.m. — I heard about several free COVID-19 drive-through testing sites in the city, so I signed up for my family to have a test done today at a church. This is my second test I’ve had done within a three week period. The entire process took 35 minutes, which is pretty good compared to some of the other testing sites I’ve heard about. We’ll need to wait five to seven days for results to come back. I’m feeling pretty positive that we’re well; my family and I have not experienced any symptoms since all this started. Still, I’ve participated in a few outside, social distancing gatherings in the past several weeks so I want to be sure. Despite everything going on around us related to the pandemic, I believe it’s important I still show up for some events. For example, Black Lives Matter demonstrations. It’s crucial for me that I don’t miss my opportunity to make my voice heard and be involved in this critical moment.
I believe racism is a public health crisis. We have laws and policies in the U.S. that negatively impact Black and brown people. I feel it’s important to do my part to change the world for the better. Yes, it’s trickier during these times, and the risk level is higher, but to me it's wroth it. I have faith the results will come back negative. 
11 p.m.  — My son usually clocks out from work around 10 p.m., so I wait out in the parking lot of the restaurant for him. After dropping him off at his place, I’m back home to finally wind down for the day. My husband usually does most of the cooking so the first thing I do is eat dinner when I make it back home. Today there is baked fish and steamed broccoli on the stove (we already had the groceries on hand). One of my favorite meals. I’m on the go most of the time during the day, so I’m always eating fast food such as burgers or fried chicken, so a homemade meal feels like just the ticket. After eating dinner, I take my shower and get ready for bed. I can’t go a night without listening to the gospel artist William Murphy station playing on Pandora (I use the free version). I’m asleep after about 10  minutes of my head hitting the pillow. It's been a long day!
Daily Costs: $0
Day Three
10:00 a.m. — Every Wednesday at this time, I’m scheduled to be on a weekly Zoom meeting for the study I’m working on. I feel good about serving folks who actively inject drugs and use opioids. We offer harm-reduction services such as clean syringes and supplies to safely inject drugs. We also offer free HIV and Hepatitis C testing as a harm reduction tool. Before I started working here, I had never heard of a syringe service program and I had my thoughts about this entire operation. “Y’all are enabling drug users and encouraging drug use” is something I hear a lot now, and something I might have said myself two years ago. But the truth is we’re saving lives. 
3 p.m. This afternoon I finally get around to doing something I’ve been meaning to do forever. I drive around for three and half hours in my hometown surveying businesses. Not much has changed since I was a kid. I moved away at the age of 19 because there were more job and education opportunities. Now, almost 20 years later, I’m coming back in hopes of helping the community and my personal business. I spend some time surveying local organizations and researching where and how I can help. I have a deep desire to give back, and cruising down these streets I still know so well makes me feel close to doing just that. Even though I know it’s a big project, I’m feeling optimistic my dream will become a reality. It puts me in a good mood.
Daily Costs: $0
Day Four
9 a.m. — My two younger step-kids are still in school. I’m excited and nervous to see what this surreal year will hold for them. Due to the coronavirus, they’ve been taking all their classes virtually for now. This has been a huge change for our family, although I’m optimistic all will go well and the kids seem excited. Today, we ran errands and bought some extra school supplies —  there’s nothing like this kind of shopping to remind you your babies are growing up, or to make you want to hold them closer. I enjoy the bonding time I get with them. We grab breakfast from McDonalds ($23). One child is in middle school and the other’s in high school, so it’ll be interesting to see how COVID-19 affects their age groups long-term differently in this online, new word. 
3 p.m. — I’m wrapping up yet another training for the 2020 Census. I should be ready to start in-person work next week if all goes as planned. I’ve spent so much of this pandemic at home working at my computer, so I’m ready to finally spend some time away from my laptop. I hope that when I speak to folks and post about the Census on Instagram and Facebook, they’ll take it seriously. I know we need to get everyone counted so our communities can receive the resources we need. Getting the word out about stuff like this has always been a passion for me and it makes me feel empowered and warm inside. Some say meditating is the ultimate mental health hack, but for me advocacy work is key. 
4 p.m. — I have to make a grocery run to Shoppers Value to pick up some items this afternoon ($108.29). I usually shop alone and it's not something I enjoy doing. Still it has to be done. Sometimes I enjoy sitting in the car alone with my thoughts before I go in, just as a decompressing activity before a stressful one. Today, I pick up chicken, fish, pasta, and some vegetables.
10 p.m. It feels so relaxing to lie in bed reading a good book before I drift off. It’s one of my favorite pastimes and it helps me clear my mind. I usually check out digital copies from my local library on my free OverDrive app. Right now, I’m reading Stacey Abrams’ Our Time Is Now which is riveting. 
Daily Costs: $131.29
Day Five
11 a.m. Ahh, I can’t even explain how good it feels to get in a few extra hours of sleep this morning. My busy schedule oftentimes won’t allow me to sleep past 7 a.m., so this is a real treat.
12 p.m. — I’m one proud mama! My son completed his last day of his summer program yesterday, and now he’s officially earned his level one electrical certification. I have to admit, I will miss our chats during our morning drives to school, but I know this is a good thing. 
6 p.m. — My family and I go to a ceremony to celebrate our son’s accomplishment. Everything is beautiful. We weren’t sure we’d get to attend a live event, due to  COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing, but we managed to make it work. This is the first indoor event I’ve attended since the start of the pandemic, which is a little eerie, but I know they’re taking all the precautions they can and this feels like a once in a lifetime moment. 
10 p.m. — My dad cooked up some gumbo earlier today and I haven’t had the chance to eat yet; so I stop by his house to get a bowl. It’s delicious. When I’m finally home, I just want to curl up underneath my blanket and read one of the many Kindle books I’m currently reading on my Apple iPad. One of my quirks is I’m constantly juggling reading a bunch of audiobooks, Kindle books, and paperback books all at once. I constantly say to myself, ‘I will not download another book until I complete at least one I’m currently reading.’ It never happens. I can’t help myself! If someone recommends one to me or I read a good review, I immediately go search for it and download it. Tonight I’m reading the Proverbs in my Bible app on my iPad, though. I’m most relaxed when I’m reading these passages.
Daily Costs: $0
Day Six 
8 a.m. — I’m lying in bed scrolling on Facebook and come across a virtual town hall on Facebook that I’ve been wanting to watch. It happened via FB Live a few days ago, so I’m just catching up. In my spare time, I love to view these sorts of videos about politics and current events around the country. This particular virtual town hall was hosted by one of my favorite trail blazers, Stacey Abrams. It touched on the Census and 2020 election. This is an interesting and free hobby, and I feel like it’s great for my intellectual wellbeing.  
4 p.m. — It’s Saturday, and I spent the afternoon working on my laptop. It’s pretty typical for me to work on weekends, but it doesn’t bother me too much. It can be a little stressful at times, but I know I’m hustling for my family and my business, which makes me feel good. 
Daily costs: $0
Day Seven 
8 a.m. — I rise early to prepare for an online worship service via Facebook Live. My church has not held worship in person since early March. It’s not the same as meeting in person but we have made the best of it. I’m grateful to be able to join in online, as I realize some people who aren’t as tech savvy don’t have this opportunity. I pay my tithes weekly through Givelify ($80).
1 p.m. — Today I have a hair appointment. My sister has been styling my hair since I was a little girl, and now she has her own salon. I’m overdue for a wash and style, so it’s nice getting back in the chair. Since going all natural two years ago, I don’t have to go to the hair salon as often, but it's still a must. I feel so relaxed as soon as I sit down, and luckily she gives me the family discount so it’s free. Another perk: Her salon is directly behind my dad’s house, so I’m guaranteed to get a meal before I leave. Today, he made cooked boiled shrimp, neck bones, and turkey necks. Yum. 
Daily Costs: $80
Total Cost: $211.29
Reflection: This has been a busy week as usual for me but I’m overjoyed knowing my son has completed his certification and he is done with school. That was a real highlight. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing others, especially those close to me, succeed. I'm always grateful for my family — yes they can be a little annoying at times — but spending time with them means everything to me. My children are teenagers and they tend to do what teenagers do, but they are respectful, level-headed, and humble, for the most part. 
My mind is constantly racing about how I can be a constant positive influence in the lives of my family and my community. Much of what I do these days is centered around making a difference and serving where I’m needed. There’s a lot of turmoil going on in the world today, but my focus this week (and always) was on doing my part to improve things in the best way I know how. Due to COVID-19, I've had a lot of time to rethink some of my priorities. Financial stability continues to be a concern for me, as I'm not fully established in my business, and making ends meet has been a challenge for my family as my husband's work was impacted by COVID-19 as well, but we are getting through. 
Ultimately, my faith is what guides me and keeps me going in the right direction. Without it, I would be a mess! I’m grateful for my family and those who support me in every way possible. I could not do what I’m doing without them. 
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