You Are Not Alone and Now Is Not the Time to Be Silent

I’m struggling to find ways to take action while abroad. I cannot attend the weekly protests erupting at home. I have a French SIM card and can’t call internationally to encourage my senators to flex their spines. My mom (successfully!) emailed Murkowski against the confirmation of DeVos (though it proved insufficient), but mainly we just wake up and drop our jaws at our tiny screens hurling the horrors that transpired while we slept. Despite the moments of heartening, it’s difficult to evade becoming overwhelmed. So while France, too, nurses the foreboding possibility of its own entrance into this wave of 21st-century fascism and shakes its head along with us at each day’s events comically worse than the last, I feel removed from the home that, despite its fundamental atrocities and hypocrisies, I still desperately love.

My heart breaks for the people encompassed in a sweeping ban designating national hostility, for hard-won legislation and also common-sense legislation, for body autonomy and reproductive rights and healthcare and environmental protection and efforts to dismantle institutional racism and foreign diplomacy and heeding history’s lessons and every misguided, backwards step to come. Precisely because I feel so bitingly this overwhelming and cruel uncertainty, I also feel more heavily ashamed and unjustified at the minute yet paralyzing pain that governs my own personal existence. And because with every action comes its equal and opposite reaction, snide reminders of the insignificance of my struggles in the face of so many real issues to struggle against only feed that dripping, hollowing shame.

But it is not so far a leap to uncover the connections. In these double-edged times when it is all we can do to convincingly remind ourselves that our fortitude needs exercising to grow and that perseverance is possible, there is no division between personal and political. The larger collective world is not separate from us. It is a testament to humanity that we can feel enormous pain in (comparably) trivial adversities and allow it to topple us, to strike us squarely in the gut so as to simultaneously steal our breath and bend us in half.

For some agonizing time I fell back into spiked ruts which, though painful, are now as familiar and intimate as my own shadow. In that exasperating palimpsest of the demons we refuse to let go of, I bewilderedly watch myself repeatedly, voluntarily hand over my worth, resilience and belief in possibility to a prolonged delusion that scrapes away my insides. As I half-curiously, half-irritatedly contemplated how to reconcile my selfish desire to wallow in my endless faults with my quivering yet burning need to participate in just progress, I looked in the mirror and smiled at the wonder that I saw.

Because this body that endures changes and squeezes and death glares and deep breaths and chastising and congratulations (which are two sides of the same coin) and scorn and far too much responsibility for anyone to handle, this body has again demonstrated that inside of it exists an ancient and powerful knowledge that it is but a microcosm of the web it inhabits. Against my resubscription to a bogus, sexist, oppressive business scheme and mental manipulation deeply infiltrated in society, my body rebelled.

Long-held injuries flared up and hot tears stung. I panicked and flailed defeatedly — here I was again — but gradually, in the way that subconsciously you have known something for a very long time as it builds up under your skin but finally hits as if an entirely new, revolutionary epiphany, I wrapped myself in the soft truth of my connectedness and saw that my inner struggle mirrored the outer. In the context of the coinciding of a deeply introspective, fracturing historical moment and a well-positioned yet idiotic demagogue; when what the world needs most is compassion yet we are told to harden our skins; when we are convinced at once of the need to emulate simpler and truer times of the past and to speed forward towards relentless progress that should have already been made, we push harder to control and return more devastated when we can’t.

This is not to say that we do not have agency. Through protest and civic engagement and displays of humanity and commitment to step up and speak out when we recognize the warning signs, people power cannot be ignored and is already churning out impact and influence. Within every moment, we have choices. But in the larger framework of an election truly not decided by the people, and a history to which we are beholden but unable to change, and the sticky snowball of fear with a mind of its own that declares the only way up and out is to glom on, we are not in control of this world.

Surrender on this global scale, implemented personally and effected collectively, means leaning into that blurred mesh that feels a little uncomfortable because we know it’s time to wake up. Let us feel entirely the despair, the overwhelming deluge of absurdities and regressive power plays inundating our life-bubbles we have worked so hard to protect. Let us throw open the doors to that one little space maintained pink and tender, secret and oh-so-precious, reserved for the a-political and the soft glow on which we know we can depend in our moments of retreat.

Because if there was ever a time to deepen our humanity and build our strength, this is it. We cannot escape the realities of cementing justice and compassion as irremovable and uncompromising by separating our personal humanity from that of the rest. When we lean in, when we allow the full melding of our determined activist ideals and our vulnerable, tired, sacred organs, that pink and precious place will grow deeper and wider. When we finally fully listen to people of color and believe in their pain as our own, when we interrupt the steamroller of betrayed agreements to respect indigenous rights, when we pull from our education of a modern genocide embodying evil to recognize that Never Again requires commitment, when we engage with our bodies not in a hostile tug-of-war but by nurturing boundless acceptance, then we will truly feel the gears of change turning. Then we will feel more ourselves and more human, and remember that we have always been those things.

So yes, take care of yourself. Spread self-compassion and self-care unsparingly, and let it seep outwards and permeate the boundaries. But please, let’s not build walls. Let’s share and listen even when all we want to do is crawl and huddle and cry, and then when we’re on our knees and puffy-eyed let’s sit in a circle (or maybe a virtual one) and touch our hands or maybe not, maybe just let the space and the waves and the beingness roll and sit and refresh us.

We’ve got work to do, and my journey and yours and ours is so very far from over. And it will change and we’ll mess up and we’ll learn things and relearn things and forget them again, and hopefully relearn them, and I will love myself, as fiercely and unconditionally as humanly muster-able. Now is the time to be fiercely and unconditionally human. Truly, we have no other choice.

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My Dirty, White T-shirt of a Flag

Yeah, about that “return in full force come May” thing…

Well, inspiration just never quite hit. I returned home and attempted to digest all that I’d experienced and chew on the simultaneous stagnancy and rapid change that I returned to and spit it all out just to take another bite, and it seemed that it was all the same stuff. No one wants to read someone else’s confused detritus over and over again. And that’s fine, because the beauty of the blog is that there are no rules.

And so, in the interest of cohesiveness, here’s a quick update: after a wonderful three weeks in New York City with my grandma working on a piece about perfectionism for an organization called Ma’yan, my time in South America with Where There Be Dragons was incredible. I fell in love with the Andes, was injected with a healthy dose of respect for the Amazon and the people that live in it, learned a lot about myself and work I need to do, read a lot of good books, wrote in my journal regularly, and underwent countless other experiences, some of which you can read about more presently and in depth in my travel blog. As expected, it was hard, because life is hard. And even while I was tucked away in a bubble of privilege to have that opportunity, with guidance and exempt from the full responsibilities of traveling alone, there was still the reality of navigating new and challenging situations, traveling with twelve other American teenagers who I’d never met before and attempting to negotiate group dynamics, leaving home for the longest I ever had, and the indelible truth that I will likely always be on a journey of finding inner peace. In short, it was exactly what a 16-year-old high school graduate who thinks too much needed.

But now I’m 17, and times have changed. (Just kidding.)

Upon homecoming, my head was still spinning from watching my 98-year-old host grandmother (see below) cry when I said goodbye, visiting El Tío with the star (Basilio) of the PBS documentary The Devil’s Miner (which I highly recommend), and our recurrent conversations on service and its detriments, among other things.

Maria (or Flora), my 98-year-old Quechua host grandmother who chases chickens and chops alfalfa and is a general all-around badass

Maria (or Flora), my 98-year-old Quechua host grandmother who chases chickens and chops alfalfa and is a general all-around badass

 

El Tío (The Uncle), god of the mines and a simultaneous force of evil and protection. He has a long history in relation to forced labor of indigenous miners, and is at once a companion in the long hours and dark depths of the mines as well as a source of fear and trepidation. Miners offer coca, pure alcohol, and other gifts. El Tío is said to be married to Pachamama, Mother Earth, and if women work in the mines Pachamama will get jealous and cause misfortune. Women can enter but not work in the mines. Idols like this can be found throughout the mines in Potosí.

El Tío (The Uncle), god of the mines and a simultaneous force of evil and protection. He has a long history in relation to forced labor of indigenous miners, and is at once a companion in the long hours and dark depths of the mines as well as a source of fear and trepidation. Miners offer coca, pure alcohol, and other gifts. El Tío is said to be married to Pachamama, Mother Earth, and if women work in the mines Pachamama will get jealous and cause misfortune. Women can enter but not work in the mines. Idols like this can be found throughout the mines in Potosí.

Life at home had kept moving while I was gone, of course, and also felt exactly the same. There was slight reverse culture shock while I tried to reconcile the two realities and attempted to resist falling back into the same patterns that I’d left. What I realized, though, was that there are no two separate realities, existing in different universes at different times where I am different people. While it is essential to recognize those enormous differences — not doing so is delusional and a recipe for misunderstanding and disappointment — that incredible and vibrant portion of my life is another fold, an additional step bringing with it new ideas and perceptions of the world.

I am constantly dumbfounded by my luck and privilege to be born into a circumstance where I can explore and learn from countless people in Bolivia and Peru at 16 years old and continually discover how much more there is to learn. And yet…

I move through every single day undulating between forty-seven different states of existence, often loitering in a default of despair that I wish I could climb out of but now I see there’s no other path than to embrace it. To settle in. How do I position myself as an effective ally for and active participant in the meaningful and imperative issues of social justice and collective healing — America’s abhorrent and vibrant racism; pervasive devaluing, controlling, and shaming of bodies (women’s in particular); honed and entrenched sexism; consequences of colonialism; the often-callous destruction of our environment, etc. — that I truly care about when I am still holding out hope that whatever is wrong with me will someday be righted?

I am tired of that burden. There is nothing wrong with me. The longer I believe there is, the less I have to offer to the dismantling of those injustices and the system that enables them — from which I often greatly benefit — and the less gratitude I can feel for my very actuality in which I can sleep in a stone hut high in a remote Andean village and then return home to a memory foam-lined mattress. The longer I believe there is something wrong with me the more damaging a family member I am, the less tolerant and less spontaneous a friend, the less soft caresses I can muster to bestow upon my survivor of a belly.

And so I will continue to wonder, to move and progress because I have no choice, to continually and constantly remind myself that I am a ping pong ball and I better learn to get served. When 6 months have passed without writing and I’m still deciphering what I’m trying to say I will give in, I will give up. Surrender is the only noble option.

 

EMERGENCY

Okay, well, don’t get too excited.

I actually had a few topics I wanted to write about, but then something happened and it was just begging to be documented and who am I to turn down inspiration? (Even if I am hunkered down on the side of a precarious dirt road furiously typing on my phone and greatly increasing the risk of giving myself carpal tunnel syndrome).

Let me paint a picture for you: I just had a reasonably disastrous night in some ways. It’s 70° F in Homer, Alaska and I’m biking out to a Russian village that starts where the road ends, or at least in that general direction. I biked back and forth between my house and a friend’s a couple times in my sweatpants and essentially a bathrobe because I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the bike work, and I’m not too skilled a biker, mind you. I’m wearing a funky, too-big, bright orange/red helmet and a large and bouncing fanny pack. I saw a mama moose munching that didn’t see me, which is the very best kind of human-moose interaction. I’m not going to describe the view, because my clumsy semantic attempts at imagery can’t begin to do justice to the never-ending range of blue peaks varying height and shape with effortless perfection and cradling pristine expanses of glacial fairy dust. Oops. I just did.

Well, actually, I could just give you a real picture.

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Kisses all around

I’ve been taking something of a break from exercise and any type of dietary consciousness for a while: “letting myself go” if you will, though I’ve been trying to see it as just another stage in the mysterious process.

So, in something of a revolutionary twist, I biked along the path of moseying. I stopped for water and snacks and texts and selfies and views, I downshifted frequently (meaning I made it easier for myself), I stopped to write this in my phone’s notes; in short, I wasn’t really doing it for ‘exercise,’ per say.

An absolutely amazing thing happened. I’m not sure exactly where; perhaps after the multiple confused trips to actually get the bike or after I realized hills don’t have to be so hard if you don’t stay in the highest gear or when I thought about my friends on a cross country bike trip or when I found out I actually kind of enjoy biking despite what I’ve been telling myself…

Regardless, somewhere amidst the ridiculous amount of enormous trucks which seem to be almost exclusively populating the road,

Exhibit A, although this one isn't that big, I know, but I was stopped already, okay?

Exhibit A, although this one isn’t that big, I know, but I was stopped already, okay?

my unbridled (okay, maybe a little bridled) joy burst out of me like a hyped-up-yet-still-kinda-slow sprinkler. Bridled because I know I’m still injured; I know this feeling is temporary; my tummy still talks to me when I put food in it ’cause it’s not so good at digestion, especially when I feed it much, much, much more than it was asking for; I’m aware part of me is still doing it for the calories; and I’m not foolish enough to think any one thing will change my world forever.

BUT. I FELT it. It’s real and that oppressing cloud of depression and self-hatred and doubt and bleak resignation and unjustified resentment and hopeless abandon was tangibly released from duty for a little while.

I have not a single delusion that soon I won’t find that annoyingly relentless companion by my side again. But a stupid chocolate granola bar never tasted so good and I never felt the soft parts of my belly with such acceptance and the mosquitoes and bees never bothered me so little and I worked so fucking hard to get here. Oftentimes against myself, but nevertheless no one can deny I was working my ass off to the point of exhaustion without respite.

I’m not “there,” but this is certainly, without a doubt, a far different universe than the one I’ve been loitering in — hell, than the one I was descending into last night. I can still touch that other universe and access it at a moment’s notice, and I know I’ll be there again soon.

I didn’t want to believe it. For some ludicrous and asinine reason I didn’t want to believe that satisfaction and genuine smiles were waiting for me, that every opportunity is a chance for escape and that I too have the ability to open the door.

Caveat: don’t just think I’m all better (whatever that means) and abandon me and that the rest of my posts will be love letters and celebrations to life. This is NOT the endpoint, in case you haven’t gotten the gist of my precautions yet.

‘Cause the mosquitoes and flies are starting to bug me a bit (sorry, couldn’t help it) and I have to bike back up this bouncing, headache-inducing dirt road.

I’m kidding, I’m not back to that universe yet.

I’ll be sixteen tomorrow, and to jump straight into cliché city, it can only go up from here, right?

(I mean, there’s a fairly nasty uphill and then the rest is pretty much all downhill back to my house, but let’s not get too caught up in the details.)

A Funny Kind of Gratitude

Amidst my fixations on the difficulties and opportunities for disaster that seem to pop up nearly every time my outlook approaches a point of genuine positivity and excitement, I have so, so, soooo many things to be grateful for. When I try to “count my blessings,” as they say, I am invariably overwhelmed by my fortune and have to go remember all the shitty parts of my life so I don’t burst with gratitude.

I’m kidding; that kind of overpowering sentiment is ALWAYS welcome into my consciousness with an open door and all the accommodations.

When I’m stuck in my little whirlwinds of panic, my mom tells me to “get bigger” and get outside myself. Honestly, this advice makes me a little annoyed, because when I’m hosting a pity party I really don’t want to be reminded of the incredibly vast and mystifying world that doesn’t include my endless, larger-than-life personal problems. Really, her advice makes me mad because of course I know she’s right; I don’t even try to deny it, I just resort to screaming “I don’t WANT to go outside!” Which is an obvious indication of my delusion and utter wrongness.

But in those moments of lucidity, of acceptance and fulfillment — aka after drinking coffee — I simply want to twirl around in my dress of clouds and sun rays in the field of laughter and collect a line dance of thankful people smiling so hard the only thing left is sore cheeks.

I’m just glad that that fairyland — the real world, as far as I’m concerned — can peek through the fog sometimes.

Because the truth is, when I look up from my feet shuffling along the tundra and notice the untouched mountains stretching to the ends of the earth and the minute stream trickling through the moss and the rich, just-budding alpine flowers opening their baby-flower eyes, I have absolutely no choice but to believe in magic.

There’s just no other explanation for the utter love I feel in the midst of a laughing fit so intense my breath takes an unpaid vacation and my eyes stream with the shared understanding of a joke that was, in reality, probably pretty lame. There’s no other explanation for the existence of a miniature floating mermaid house that doubles as a sauna or a glorified tree(lake)house. (See below)

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There’s no explanation devoid of magic for the beauty in becoming a silhouette with my sister lost in the clouds.

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When I read the works of a master or praise myself for a thoughtful gift-giving job well done or witness the authentic happiness of someone I care about or realize I overcame a crippling obstacle or stop to take in the utopia of wilderness I somehow gained the privilege to enter, that other, very real place of desperation and solitude becomes simply another ingredient in the magic.

If I didn’t know suffering, I would never be able to find inside me the understanding of the freezing homeless man stuck in a thankless refuge of alcohol or the glacier melting without ever being asked if it may have wanted to stick around and contribute to the ecosystem for a while longer. I would never be able to appreciate the extreme stroke of luck I encountered to be born into a situation of such freedom and fortuity. I would never fully experience my heartfelt compassion for the friend who will live the rest of her life without a mom or the kid who just couldn’t care less that he wears the same stinky clothes to school everyday because he’s a hell of a lot more concerned with staying away from his loveless and dangerous home.

I’m not saying I know what it’s like to be in any of these situations. I hope I never do. But my own suffering, however pathetic or self-imposed, has opened a whole world of feeling that adds an invaluable layer of depth to my own experience. I can understand the irrational obsessions and idiosyncrasies of someone I’ve never met. I am no longer grossed out or condescendingly perplexed by compulsions or socially unacceptable actions. When I find myself judging someone on their physical appearance or food choice, for example, I make a concerted effort to stop and remind myself that while I remain an irrevocably opinionated person and may not be able to completely halt those judgments, I actually, truly, do NOT believe in their validity and that perception will NOT dictate my understanding of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still harshly judgmental and make fun of strange occurrences all the time, almost subconsciously. It’s ingrained in our psyche to have an unacknowledged superiority complex lying under the thick strata of self-deprecation, and I am by NO MEANS an exception. I’m moody and volatile and selfish and secretive and close-minded.

But my acquaintance with shameful despair and bottomless doubt has exposed me to the nuance that makes the colors brighter and the sounds harsher, the wind colder and the boredom longer. It makes the disappointment greater, the tears saltier, and the apathetic insults cut a little deeper.

In essence, sorrow makes life sharper, and living in a blurry state of delusion is only half the human experience. (There is a time and a place for delusion, without a doubt).

I’m not to that annoyingly contented point where I can say I’m thankful for the hard stuff and I wouldn’t change my struggles because they’ve made me who I am today. (Annoying because we’re all jealous of people who feel comfortable with themselves and their situations). I’m definitely not there yet.

I’m just thankful I’m taking the time right now to remember the feeling of a heart ready to explode with the fullness of circulation.

A Body Manifesto

I love stories. I love novels and short stories and poems and movies and biographies and stories about the hilarious look the teacher made when he heard that one kid fart and then blush until his lips started trembling from the effort of trying not to let on that he was the culprit of that god-awful stench. But my favorite kind of stories are the ones behind the expressions I see every day and actions I scoff at or that shoot right over my head. Consciously or not, I anticipate the revelation that comes from hearing the stories of people I judge or misunderstand. (Judging is a whole ‘nother issue that we can discuss later. Don’t worry, I have lots of issues.) Despite the countless reminders I send myself about respecting each person’s own experiences and needs, I still catch myself determining the validity of others’ opinions or decisions for them. Because I am the ultimate authority on everything, obviously.

Any time I am lucky enough to hear someone else’s story, I am once again reminded of the seemingly insurmountable demons and obsessions that whirl around and stir up tornados — to varying degrees — in everyone’s personal realms, and the different lessons we’re all taught by them, however painfully.

As I mentioned before, my demons have grown pretty evil and gigantic lately. In fact, sometimes they look exactly like an extremely short, talkative girl with a big nose, brown hair, and thoughts bursting out of her brain (see picture in footer, or any picture of me ever, or just me). Whaddya know. Unfortunately, a lot of my struggles have taken the form of an epidemic that plagues most women in the country and nearly every teenage girl: body insecurity.

Yayyyy, a huge part of my problems are excessively characteristic of being a white, upper middle class teenage girl and center around superficial societal expectations. Could I be a little more dull and self-absorbed, please?

But body image/food issues have ballooned into a ginormous, uberly oppressive force that is ruthlessly conquering the brain of every woman (and men, but overwhelmingly women), extracting her sanity, and doubting her self-worth.

As something of a disclaimer, I’ve spent the last year and half almostly constantly immersed in this topic, or with at least half my being trained primarily on the issue, so I have a lot of ideas about it. My thinking swims and jumps around in shapes I can’t even begin to describe. I’ll have the unquestionable, fool-proof theory or solution in one instant and be utterly crushed and contradicted the next. In short, I still have no clue what I think or what the answer is.

That being said, I do have quite a bit to say on the topic, and if I can induce any kind of discussion, relation, release, inspiration, or really any authentic reaction, this mission is worth undertaking. As I travel on this healing journey of falling in love with myself and consequently this spectacular world I’m surrounded by, I hope that the bulk of my actions can benefit both my inner and outer environments. In other words, this exploration and liberation is undeniably for my own welfare and support, but my aim is to widen the scope and include other wise and delicious souls in the entire process and discussion.

My history with this beast includes a host of “disorders” and destructive habits, actions, and thought processes. I’m the Queen — and King, for that matter; hell, I rule the whole damn empire — of digging my own holes, dredging them into ruts so deep Everest-grade climbing ropes can’t pull me out, covering the surface so I can hardly breathe, and doing my best to drag everyone else down with me. One of my biggest struggles has been the fact that I really don’t fit into any of the “food issues” categories (mine ranges from binging to over-exercising and always accompanied by utterly crippling obsession).

For all of our sake, I won’t get too in depth into the endless list of dirty details that have festered in the midnight rut for far, far too long.

What I will say is that being at constant war with myself and being so focused on my own maintenance and image that there is truly no room for any other meaningful consideration SUCKS. Not letting myself eat sucks, eating so much I can’t move without pain sucks, feeling paralyzing shame and disgust at my own body sucks, letting my emotions and validity be inversely proportional to a number on a scale sucks, it’s all just sucky yucky muck.

While I am fully aware that my own food/body image obsession is wholly irrational and absolutely by no means universal, there is something wayyyy too common about this whole situation.

WHY DOES THE SIZE OR COMPOSITION OF OUR BODIES HAVE ANY BEARING WHATSOEVER ON OUR CHARACTER OR WORTH OR STATUS OR LITERALLY ANYTHING EVER??!?!?!?!

I get that some people feel a toned/muscular/skinny/fit body is a sign of discipline and self-care, but you know what’s not? Obsession and misery!

A lot of us who struggle with this monster are severely ashamed of its shallowness and vanity. At the risk of repeating what has become one of the most talked-about yet stagnant issues, I would, again, like to point out that it’s really REALLY HARD to feel worthy, capable, attractive, powerful, and lovable when every social construct designates “fat” as an insult. We’re at “WAR with obesity,” for God’s sake!

This preoccupation with food, body image, and appearance has become so entrenched in mental health and personal accomplishment that it’s become hard to isolate. How could this perpetual evaluating and comparing and squeezing of our flesh result in anything other than a deep, shameful yearning for approval and a hidden (or not so hidden) pocket of penetrating guilt?

Health is important. I’m just not convinced healthy means cutting out chocolate if that’s all you can think about or going to a spin class that you really really hate. A lot of my own behaviors are unhealthy and very difficult to change, but I think health has a whole lot to do with not squashing your own worth into a bullet that can’t fill a cartridge but is fully capable of being shot.

I’m not sure what healthy means for me, and I’m just as confused now as I ever was. Maybe there’ll be a time in my life when a six-pack and sanity are coexistent, but that’s not right now. Maybe I’ll gain 30 pounds or maybe I’ll suddenly discover I can eat a meal without stuffing myself to the point of popping. I really just have no idea, and I’m learning (trying) to be okay with this state of not knowing, perched on the edge of catastrophe and bliss.

I feel a little unjustified making these statements because no matter how deeply in my soul I know these words to be true, I still (very) often fall prey to that inexplicably cruel wave of guilt and self-doubt. But I’m ready to surrender and break open the floodgates of hot, sticky, magnificent, boundless love that I know is stirring around somewhere. I can feel it boiling and spreading and aching to join with all of yours.

This will most likely be a resurfacing theme, and I’ll try not to linger too long but some things just need to be let out.

This is my story. My heart has an opening for yours.

If anyone has any experiences/thoughts/questions/insights/anything at all that surfaces for you I would be SO honored and thrilled to hear them. Please feel free to share in the comments below or email me at hirschbarae@gmail.com

Art by Gail Baker

Art by Gail Baker

 

 

Riding the Wave

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trapped in my own company.

And that says it all, doesn’t it? Trapped. The thing is, I see no imminent escape route, obviously. No matter how much I daydream about the drastic changes and freedom summer will bring or the endless possibilities of a gap year or the incredibly hip, confident persona I’ll embody in college, I’ll always be stuck with my own utterly perplexed self.

I’m not claiming to have the answer. Hell, I’m the most confused person I know. But that’s just it: I’m pretty sure no one knows someone more messed up than themselves. Because we’re all stuck in our own obsessive, private Idahos, hyper-focused on self-improvement that’s traveling in an entirely different dimension than the rest of the world. (See my poem, Deceptively Unborn). We’re so tangled in these minuscule knots the whole universe shrinks into a floating snow globe waaaaayyy out in the distance.

Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.

I’m tired of being alone, because I know it’s a self-imposed isolation. There are so many absolutely astounding, compassionate, engaging people that surround me, let alone fill this planet (and beyond???). It would be a shame to miss the invaluable experiences and love they have to offer because I can’t break out of myself for a bit. And to do that, I need to seriously heal myself. I want to enjoy my own company, not just be stuck with it.

And that’s where you come in.

The Internet is a magical place. It’s a strange reality that most of my generation feels more comfortable opening up to literally the entire world than people they see every day. While I tend to unload/rant to my real-life connections more frequently than I think any of us would like, this worldwideweb seems like an opportunity to let my mom have her own problems for a couple seconds.

Just kidding, this will not be me journaling my teenage angst in hope for an immediate viral boom and dedicated following of professional complimenters (although, if that somehow transpired, I mean…) I would like to share some personal thoughts, hence the blog, and will also be publishing some of my written pieces as well as commentaries/articles and who knows what else. I’m just as curious as you. Although you’re probably not that curious, since I have no idea if I’ll even be able to generate enough internet traffic to justify using the second person.

In any case, I’ve recently experienced Enlightenment (don’t worry, I’ve fallen back to my unfortunate, annoyingly-persistent pessimism) and I know that the path to balance, compassion, acceptance, and genuine vitality and excitement will by no means be linear. I’m fully expecting the maze from The Shining, only with pop-up terrors of endless rejection, scary life decisions, more tears than fill the ocean that’s creeping over Florida, failures that make me want to curl into a ball so small I could be flushed down the toilet, and other general life proceedings. I already experienced de-Enlightenment approximately 50 minutes following my arrival. But I’m ready for a transformation. I’m committed (yeah yeah, I say that every morning before the fan starts spreading the stench, but hey, I started a website, didn’t I?) to this self-love thing, because I am not going to live as a prisoner of shame in this perpetual purgatory of not good enough.

I want to traipse and explore and navigate and commute and fly and dance and schlep and twirl and crawl and gallivant through this labyrinth without a backpack full of lead parasites masquerading as authentic thoughts.

I want to voyage proudly and contentedly, but trips are almost always more fun with some company. With the help of this handy Internet meshuggeneh (you might wanna learn some Yiddish), we can get the best of both worlds. We travel on our own wifi but we share the same path. I’ll just keep on plugging away over here, whether anyone discovers this site or not, but I would be overwhelmingly honored to pick up some companions.

I’m embarking on a journey, and I invite you to join me.

(My horoscope agrees)

Horoscope