From ME to YOU

I’m tired 
Tired of hearing the word YOU 
Leave your mouth or fingertips 
As you yell through a screen 
YOU deserve this $4,000 retreat
YOU should invest in yourself
YOU should do this so you can feel that way 
Stand up for this 
And walk through life like that 
Don’t know me 
And I don’t know you 
A couple hundred photos 
With 30 words attached 
And a 100,000+ followers
Doesn’t qualify you to tell me 
Where or who I should be in this life 
Because this is my journey 
And I’m not interested in what advice YOU have for ME 
I am interested in your story 
That’s it 
Not your workshops 
When you pretend to have the life experience 
To help me through mine 
Not your rants of injustice in this world 
While you continue to do nothing 
But talk about how the world should be 
YOU can’t guilt me into buying 
Your self-help bullshit 
What happened to your powerful stories 
Where I could take your experiences 
And choose whether or not to relate them to mine?
Since when do you need to finish every story 
With some pieces of empowerment 
And give me the permission to feel the same way you do? 
I never needed your permission 
And I never will. 

I’m not sure what happened. Why is it that I’ve lost so many of my favorite modern day writers to the life coach empowerment frenzy? What turned me onto these writers was hearing their story, their vulnerability and rawness. But somewhere a switch was flipped and now, instead of talking to me they are talking AT me. What is it about social media success that makes people feel entitled, let alone qualified, to guide other people through this life? What makes you think your life experience qualifies you to help me work through my trauma? It feels arrogant and somewhat patronizing.

When I hear someone on social media with these sweeping statements such as, “Sometimes I think WE judge ourselves for _____.”

No, WE don’t. YOU do. I know you don’t want to feel alone in how you’re feeling but please stop acting like I am on the same journey as you. Just tell me how you are feeling and let me choose for myself whether or not I can relate. The moment you start giving me unsolicited advice is the moment I stop listening. Sharing your story and talking about everything from the perspective of your own personal experience hits me harder and deeper than this bizarre effort to pull me onto your path.

The Crazy Woman

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day about men. She had brought up a past guy she dated that tried to use the word crazy as a form of manipulation. It brought up a lot of old baggage for me. I’ve been in those relationships, and probably every woman has, where the man tries to gain power over the situation by calling me crazy. A woman who speaks her mind, who stands up for what she believes in, who wears her heart on her sleeve can often times be shoved into the “looney bin” by the male because he’s uncomfortable. It’s an easy way for him to not have to own up to his own shit or address the issue at hand. And ironically, for the woman, it is crazy making and it is also absolute bullshit.

Of course, there will always be women and men that do actually act crazy. That haven’t done the work or learned how to handle conflict or other people’s emotions. But that’s not the kind of crazy I am talking about. Being emotionally vulnerable and open is not crazy and is not the definition of crazy. Instead of taking the time to listen we’re quickly dismissed as irrational and hormonal. And you can’t blame the men really. Many have been raised to deal with emotions by ignoring them, by pushing them way down and never showing the greatest sign of “weakness”, vulnerability. But next time, when you find yourself about to utter that word, take a moment and ask yourself what it is your not willing to deal with and why?

“Stop acting crazy”, he says 
As I pour my soul into an overflowing cup 
spilling out all over the table
Us women 
We’ve heard this a dozen times in our lifetime
I’m not here to yell at you 
For putting me in the container of the
Irrational hormonal woman 
No, that story is old and tired 
I’m not here to scream from the roof tops 
And say fuck the masculine 
Fuck the patriarchy
I will no longer wear your idea of “crazy” 
With shame 
With anger
But rather as a badge of honor 
Because it takes courage to be crazy 
It takes courage to be lead 
By emotion 
And not live in the container 
That someone else has built for you 
You want to know a little secret?
You call me crazy 
Because you don’t know 
Who you are 
Because you have fallen in line 
And You want me to as well
Because it makes you feel better about yourself
So, I’ll be over here being crazy 
While you’re over there being boring 

The C Word

Photo:  Laura Hughes

Commitment. Even writing down the word makes my throat feel tight and my hands clammy. I am a commitment-phobe. I guess I could say I have always known this. My actions demonstrate it quite well. This is part of why I live in a van, why I have a job that allows me to be remote, probably why I don’t have a partner, and is most certainly a contributor to my loneliness.

I’ve been trying to find the root-cause to this phobia, performing some grade-school psychology on myself. It could be because I’ve seen many marriages fail, because I’ve seen what it means to really be stuck in a job, place, or relationship you hate. I remember making a promise to myself as a little girl to never fall into that. I didn’t spend time fantasizing about owning a home, marriage, or having kids. My sights were always set on far-off destinations and the unconventional lifestyle. I had purchased a one-way ticket to freedom with no plans on looking back.

But I am realizing that with commitment comes freedom. Living in the van for the past four years has been freeing in its own right. I’ve been able to go wherever the flow takes me and not worry about who is going to water the plants or feed the dog. I don’t have a mortgage, kids, wife or husband. But that sort of freedom feels like a stepping stone or a portal to a more meaningful, different kind of freedom. It’s as though that type of freedom was more of a tool to help me find that which I think we all seek. And that’s a space that feels like ours. Somewhere we can be ourselves, alone, and with others. Where we can adopt a routine and life that allows for personal growth and alignment.

Of course, I was able to make the inside of my van into a space that felt like mine. But every time I stepped outside, I was no longer home. And, in this case, what is outside matters almost as much as what is inside. Imagine feeling like a guest or a visitor for four years of your life. On one hand, you get very good at belonging to yourself and realizing that nothing or no one else is responsible for your own happiness. But on the other you can miss out on connections that only come with the familiar. Maya Angelou said it very well,
”You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.”

And this is a very important part of the personal growth process, and again, that freedom was a tool in helping me learn how to belong to me. And I think it took me having the freedom of living in the van to learn (lets be real, still learning) to belong to myself. But, I don’t think I need that tool anymore. I think now, I am ready to invest in a new one; and that is commitment to a place. I committed four years of my life to nowhere, to the wilderness. Now, I believe it’s time to make my way out of the woods.

So I’m selling my van and trading it in for something more economical and simple. I’m not sure what is in store for me when I get back to the states. I’m not sure who I will be after having settled into a life here in Costa Rica for seven months. My values might change. Maybe I commit to a place in Costa and continue to live nomadically in the states for the paddling months? I don’t know and I don’t need to. But I can say, that surrendering the freedom that accompanies Vanlife feels more freeing than I could have ever imagined.