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Rebecca White really didn't enjoy being yelled at all day.

In her job as a telephone support representative for a bank, White — a Louisville, Kentucky, educator — had to contend with abusive colleagues, monotony, and patchy training that left her baffled by customer questions she was often unable to answer.

It was a job she felt she had to take. Struggling through a series of part-time teaching gigs left her with inadequate care for her diabetes and kidney problems. Relying on Planned Parenthood and other free or low-cost clinics for basic treatment was not working anymore. The job offered her health insurance — even as it left her glued to her chair for hours at a time, exacerbating her medical issues.


Photo via iStock.

"It was really rough on me to be as immobile as you have to be. There's no moving around," White says.

A month after the most recent legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2015, White quit her job.

She now receives insurance through Kentucky's Kynect exchange while working part-time as a substitute teacher and launching her own tutoring business. Emotionally — and physically — she's in a better, more secure place.

Before the Affordable Care Act, if you got seriously sick, and didn't want to go bankrupt, having a have a full-time job with a good health plan attached was essential.

In 2008, a Harvard Business School study estimated that 11 million Americans were stuck in jobs they would prefer to change or leave because those jobs offered health care coverage.

In the years since ACA's passage, millions of those Americans have been able to leave those jobs and try something new.

Photo via iStock.

Data on the law's effect on "employment lock" — workers staying in unwanted jobs because those jobs offer health benefits — is mixed. A Princeton-Cornell study recently detailed in a working paper found that the ACA's Medicaid expansion produced no substantial short-term job shifting among lower-income workers. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found a 10% increase in voluntary part-time workers since the first quarter of 2013.

The latter figure includes people, like White, who suddenly found themselves free to leave toxic or harmful work environments to pursue alternate or self-employment as well as others who discovered that working a series of projects, rather than a single full-time job, was a boon to their career growth and personal lives.

James Sasek, an IT worker in Des Moines, Iowa, discovered that the flexibility to jump from project to project afforded by his ACA insurance allows him to better balance work and family.

Sasek found access to the ACA's health insurance market invaluable after his wife was laid off from her banking job shortly after giving birth to their second child. The law allowed him to leave his own frustrating job and go freelance, something both he and his wife had long desired.

"Our plan is to take advantage of our gaps in employment to enjoy our kids' childhood with them," he said. "If one of us has a few months off between gigs, it's a really great and unique opportunity."

In addition to the flexibility to spend time with his family, Sasek explained that he earns more money in his freelance gigs than he did in his old jobs and that the ability to take on a diverse array of projects allows him to consistently add new skills to his resume.

For David Rigano, a theater director and playwright in New York City, the ACA was both a hurdle and a blessing.

After graduating from college, Rigano took a part-time job at Trader Joe's to secure a steady income and health insurance. When the ACA was passed, he was informed that he would need to scale up his hours to stay on his employer's health plan. Instead, he transferred to a plan on the exchange, which allowed him to continue to work a part-time schedule that helped him pursue directing and writing jobs.  

David Rigano (right) and brother Paul (left), performing in New York City. Photo by Tiffany Doris Kaldenbach/Facebook.  

"I learned a lot that year about applying for insurance as a freelancer whose work from year to year changes," he said.

With the freedom to work any job — not just one that offered him insurance — he landed a gig as a guest services representative at New York's Lincoln Center, which doesn't offer a health plan, and left Trader Joe's in December. His new job offers him a steady paycheck in his chosen field and lets him do personal projects on the side.

Some of the same folks are nervous that the law's repeal will jeopardize the gains they've made in their lives and careers.

Nearly 16.4 million people have gained insurance coverage since the ACA was passed in 2010, prompting many of them, like White, Sasek, and Rigano, to make big personal and professional decisions.

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of seeing the law scaled back — or done away with altogether — is setting their nerves on edge.

"If we go back to pre-ACA, my family will have to work more, have less choice in jobs, and spend less time with our children," Sasek said. It's a message he frequently relays to his local and national legislators.

Without coverage on the ACA's health care exchange, Sasek explained, either he or his wife would have to find work that offers it, giving them less flexibility to chart their careers or spend time with their kids.

White, meanwhile, worries about returning to a job that mistreats her. "Even if I can find one — and I looked a good long time before I got the bank job — if this is accompanied by the economy tanking again, and I'm pretty sure it will, things will just be a disaster," she said.

As the 115th Congress debates what to do with the ACA, the people who depend on it are waiting and watching.

With a Republican administration incoming, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare this year. While the repeal part is self-explanatory, it is unclear what a potential replacement would look like.

Photo via iStock.

For now, Rigano's theater career is on the upswing. In recent years, he's seen more paying directing jobs and is mounting a production of a new science-fiction musical in New York.

That trajectory, he worries, is what's at stake for him in the coming months.

"I think that a complete repeal without something comparable replacing it will result in a lot of people who need to find jobs and can't build careers," he said. A vastly scaled-back Obamacare would leave him with a tough choice: to compromise his goals for the sake of his health.

Like many of the law's beneficiaries, he hopes he doesn't have to choose any time soon.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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