In this series, we sit down with the staff and subject matter experts (SMEs) that facilitate the many different workshops, Q&As, and processing calls with our members.

Today, we’re talking with Hadassah Damien, MA, an artist, technologist, and Accredited Asset Management Specialist who’s leading several workshops in our membership program over the next few weeks. Hadassah founded Ride Free Fearless Money, an empowering financial education program centering on women and the queer community. The ‘ride free’ part of the title comes from Hadassah’s love of motorcycles.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m a creative systems thinker, so my professional role is best described as a strategist — currently my focus is on finance and socioeconomics. As a queer artist and progressive cultural worker, I’ve run businesses for the last 15 years, including five years of teaching, consulting, and coaching on how money works — all simultaneously with growing a practice as a technologist and participatory designer. 

From my perspective, it’s all systems, and all the work I do helps me learn how organizations get things done and individuals get needs met. I focus on these basics because I come from a working class and DIY background that keeps you focused on what must get done. What I had to learn, and what I teach, is how to be efficient, strategic, and true to your values to get the basics done.

What drew you to teaching personal finance workshops?

I grew up with really limited financial resources, which was scary and sad at a lot of times. That led me to see the world from a resilience perspective — I thought, “I’ve gotta learn to make something out of nothing,” and to believe that I was good at managing a little money, but bad at making it. 

After managing money for an arts collective and a technology worker co-op, I started to realize I might not be “bad” at this after all. What else could I learn about money and how it works? And what other cool, progressive, rad things that I want in the world could be better off if the money made more sense and was more sustainable?!? 

That reframe, which synced up with my decision to start a sobriety journey, unlocked both a lot of personal transformation and led me to begin my business. I work with organizations and individuals on money and finances from an intersectional perspective because I see what changes when money isn’t a source of shame, avoidance, pain, and stress. I truly believe having a plan reduces that stress, which allows you to put your energy to what you’re really seeking to be and accomplish—that downstream effect motivates me to do my work!

What does the word recovery mean to you?

As someone who’s recovering from scarcity, and the underlying fear of not being able to meet my needs, recovery means finding new evidence that my situation can change, and practicing believing that I can change with it. Recovery also means letting go of my former frameworks: I felt so much pain about not being able to meet my needs, and resentment that it seemed that others had it easier. Recovery meant doing things to change my experience, so I could meet my needs, heal the pain, and let go of the grinding resentment already.

Do you have an affirmation that you use regularly? 

A recent affirmation that helped me navigate a change was, “A job that brings me joy and I bring joy to is ready for me, and will pay me abundantly.” I was coming from the nonprofit world and feeling ground down and under-resourced, so I had to generate some belief that it didn’t have to be that way.  In particular, I identified that joy was crucial to me. I realized I was acting like “real work” was meant to be distasteful, but yet I had tons of side projects I threw myself into that brought me joy, connection, creativity, and meaning. I realized that my story — work sucks — was only honoring part of the labor my ancestors did to get me here today. They also centered pleasure, and I was missing that.

I wanted to shift my lived experience, and to do so, I asked myself, “Will I find joy in this work?” It led me to discover and dive into a super fun niche role where I combine my facilitation, teaching, social history research, technical, and analytical skills. That helped me become an even better finance educator. For me, an affirmation that got to my core needs and values was resonant because it grounded me and gave me a north star to look for when making big and small decisions.

Can you list a few things you have in your sobriety ‘toolkit’? 

My sobriety toolkit has a LOT of seltzer in it, and writing rituals around achieving my goals and dreams. I am shameless about drinking seltzer out of a cup with a straw.

What has been the best part about being sober?

The best part about being sober is having mornings! I used to write at night, late, drinking, and it generated good work for me. When I got sober I was afraid I’d lose my creative time, but now I just wake up early naturally—shocking me and everyone I know—and write in the morning. It’s so affirming to know it’s ok to change and I won’t lose the most important things to me.

Want to learn more about Tempest Membership? You can explore the program here.