My mother was a true nomad. She could never stay in one place for very long, and it forced me to learn to quickly adapt to new environments. I find myself drawn to other adapters. In New York I would sometimes wind up in a small group of virtual strangers, having the best conversation ever into the wee hours of the night, and someone would casually mention that “…because I moved around a lot as a kid…” Then someone else would chime in “no way, I moved around a lot as a kid too,” and before we knew it the whole group would realize that we were all nomad progeny.
I stood there sweating, panting, looking at the 9 other Amazonian women standing with me in a circle.
“After a gazelle gets chased by a lion, if it gets away and doesn’t get eaten, it shakes it out, ” said Rochelle Schieck. “The gazelle doesn’t go to therapy for ten years, it shakes out all its nerves and goes about being a gazelle.” She instructed us to shake out every limb and portion of our bodies without worrying about what it looked like. “Just do what feels good.” I did as I was told.
I was at a Qoya class, a female-only movement system Schieck developed to help women remember. When she said that’s what it was for at the beginning of class, I didn’t really get what she meant. I have a pretty good memory and didn’t feel like I had forgotten anything especially important. But after two hours of wild flailing, yoga, stretching, trust falls, and moving about the room to tribal music while blindfolded, I remembered what I forgot.
Generally in adult life, there is only a small subset of accepted motions that we can do with our bodies: walking, sitting, and standing. If you’re in a gym, you can do some more. If you’re on a dance floor, the subset grows depending on how many other people are dancing, how much space there is, how much you think you might get made fun of if you were to bust a move, and how much you’ve had to drink. Even in dance and exercise classes, movement is relatively prescribed. Even during sex, people typically don’t trust themselves enough or listen to their partners enough to move spontaneously, so they mimic porn instead. Most adults don’t know how to move freely.
Little kids though, they fling themselves in every which way just because it feels good. This class made me remember what it was like to be a little girl in my kid body. I remembered how I used to move around innocently before all the self-consciousness set in, before I felt the weariness of gazes that I worried might judge me, sexualize me, mock me, ignore me. I remembered that we minimize the possibilities of negative events occurring to the detriment of positive ones. I remembered that I didn’t always used to just sit in front of a computer screen all day and jump on the elliptical machine when I got too stressed out to function — I used to be a dancer, for about 15 years of my youth.
The ten of us lay on our backs kicking our legs into the air, something I’m pretty sure my mom has a home movie of me doing when I was like three. The whole rest of the day, I felt the impulse to listen to the pop punk I used to like in high school. I walked over to the Venice Beach shore to watch the sunset, and thought about letting myself love with all the confidence I had before I knew what a broken heart was.
Be more weird. Be the gazelle.
It’s been a long one. Right now, I’m pretty exhausted, but I’d really like to get back on my daily blogging schedule. Some people have this idea that people who spend time online do so because they don’t understand how to experience the real world. I get a lot of people going out of their way to save me from my electronic prison. I appreciate it, and I do need that sometimes, but right now I just want to lock myself in a technological isolation chamber for days and do nothing but write. I hope someone’s inventing such a thing right now.
Being a nomad for the past month, I’ve:
- Traveled to LA, San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle
- Completed a consulting project
- Registered a Limited Liability Company
- Learned how to eat a whole lobster (including the ovaries) using a hammer and my hands
- Met one of my teen dreams AND his blue and gold macaw
- Formed three new media partnerships
- Watched a man smash a lemon, Gallagher-style
- Looked death in the eyes and said, “Come at me, bro.”
- Gotten business-married
- Co-hosted the best party I’ve ever been to in San Francisco
- Sat in a “spiritual vortex” on the property where they filmed American Pie 2
- Realized that cults probably drive the majority of Southern California’s economy
- Visited an infrared spa, a banya, got a bikini wax that somehow didn’t hurt, and had a woman massage 10 layers of various earthly chemicals into my face
- Made some friends I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life
- Got Google Glass
- Got over someone not worth my time
- Fell for someone really wonderful
- Fell, literally, in a drunk piggybacking accident (somehow, everyone was ok)
- Edited some damn fine essays from some amazing authors
- Hoola hooped on network television
These are perhaps all stories in themselves, but I must warm the blogging muscles up again before I really dive in.
I experienced Burning Man for the first time this past September. I went to the week-long festival in the middle of the desert by myself with some water, booze, and a one-person tent I got for $80 on Craigslist. I was somewhat unprepared and had no idea where I would camp (or how to camp). I got there at 10pm on the first night and I set up my tent in the dark next to the vehicle I arrived in, which belonged to a Stanford philosophy professor I met in an online forum the previous night.
I walked out into the darkness, ready for an adventure. And I found one. Several, in fact. When I found my way back to my tent around 4am, I was oblivious to the cold and easily slid into slumber in my mummy sleeping bag. At 9am, I was forced awake by the heat as my tent turned into a sweat box. The only escape was the outside world, and I dreaded it. I don’t even know what exactly I was dreading, as I had never seen the environment in the daylight. But I was hungover and alone with the feeling I’d made a terrible mistake looming over me. I unzipped the half-circle flap of my tent and crawled out into the blinding sun.
It took my eyes a few seconds to focus on the man standing in front of me, looking at me with an amused smirk.
“Hi,” I croaked out.
“Want some coffee?”
I followed him into a big mesh-encased, octagonal structure on the other side of the car from my tent where I watched him expertly heat a pot of water on a mini propane stove. He tried to make conversation with me, but I was incapable of forming any kind of cohesive sentences while my mind struggled to assemble the critical information of “where are you and what are you doing hungover in the desert, dummy?” He poured a packet of Starbucks instant coffee mix into a metal mug of hot water and handed it to me. He laughed at me and told me I would be fine — more than fine, that I was in for the best time of my life. I trusted him, John from Sasketoon, Saskatchewan.
When I saw him talking with the people at the neighboring campsite, I shyly poked my head around the corner. From the way they were talking, I thought they were old friends, but it turned out he had only just met them. As someone who’s used to being the beach head in my social circles, I was surprised to find someone better at traveling than me.
I fell in friend-love with John from Sasketoon, Saskatchewan. I wanted to be around him all the time, and he wanted me around. We went adventuring together and never disagreed about what to do or where to go. There were no awkward silences. If we were tired, we just were. We learned how to let go of our pasts together. I cried in front of him and didn’t care. We partied together, and danced our faces off to electronic music in the wild night.
He would wait for me. If we went somewhere together and we split up for a while, he would come and find me before moving to the next thing. I never had to ask him not to leave me, he just waited. He had this homemade spirit animal hat with a mini basketball cut in half, glued to each side, and lined with EL wire — a glowing chameleon in the night. One night we went to the Temple, where people go to mourn their lost loved ones. We split up and agreed to meet back at the entrance when we were finished there. For a long moment, I thought I was lost, but seeing that silly gecko hat wandering back to me just as I started to spiral into despair washed away every sad thought.
We stayed up late into the night talking about traveling in South America and physics and love. I loved him, but it was never sexual, because that’s not what friend-love is about. He made me feel safe, the way a big brother might. I thought to myself, or maybe out loud, that I hoped this was only the first of our grand adventures together. When he dropped me off at my friend’s house in San Francisco after Burning Man was over, we never said goodbye. Just “see you tomorrow.”
I never saw him the next day, but he did come to visit me on Thanksgiving with his new girlfriend. I lightly scrutinized her to make sure she was good enough for him, like a little sister might, and was happy to find she passed my tests. She took a picture of us with her fancy Polaroid camera that I kept in my jewelry box and looked at every day because thinking of him makes me happy.
Now that I’m traveling, and happen to be in a place where every day is kind of like Burning Man in a way, I keep thinking about him and how much fun he would have with me and the people I’ve been meeting. I see the same spark that I saw in him in the adventurers I’ve been cohabitating with here in downtown LA for the past week. I think there must be a whole tribe of adventurers like us out there that I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of meeting. I used to think I was a lone wolf. I still do think that, but what I was wrong about was thinking that being a lone wolf means one must be alone. John told me that if I just keep meeting new people, I’ll always be happy. So that’s what I’ll do. And one of these days I’ll make it a point to get out to Sasketoon, Saskatchewan, too.
As you may know from my web postings, a budgie flew into my life a few weeks ago and I named him Twitter. Many people described Twitter’s appearance as “fate” and tried to convince me that the universe was trying to tell me I should stay in NYC. But I decided my friends were just being adorable and wanted to keep me near them and that I needed to carry on with my plan.
If anything was fate, it was that by coming to me, that little blue bird was destined to wind up in the best home possible. When Twitter first arrived, I immediately posted on the facebook group for my apartment complex (kind of an artist co-op) to try to find Twitter’s original owner. I never did, but one of my neighbors, Cecilia, responded to the thread when I posted a longshot inquiry to ask if anyone had a spare bird cage. She did, and it just so happened to match Twitter’s blue exactly.
I recognized her name as the neighbor I volunteered to bird sit for over the holidays. I carefully placed Twitter under a spaghetti strainer and went upstairs to get the cage, where I was greeted by her love birds, a moustached parrot, and a bunny rabbit hopping along the floor. Her boyfriend, Brian, offered to take Twitter right off the bat, but Cecelia was reasonably hesitant. She was thinking about getting another bunny, they would have to think about it.
I had some friends inquire about taking him, who all would have been fantastic bird owners, but extenuating circumstances derailed that plan. Also though, I knew from watching Twitter during the two short weeks he was in my life that he really wanted to be with other birds. He would hang out with me, but his favorite spot was on the window sill, where he would sit and stare out at the trees in the courtyard for hours. He tried in vain to start conversations with the birds out there who would abruptly stop tweeting once they realized the response was coming from an undesired recipient. I think he got sad that he couldn’t be a part of the flock.
So I sent Cecilia a facebook message and asked her to take Twitter. She agreed in an instant, and when I took him up to his new home the night before my flight, I knew I had made the right choice. They hugged me hello, and the birds were out and about, being social. She had toys for them to play with all over her cozy apartment. And most of all, I could tell her and Brian were both true bird lovers, people who reveled in their ability to provide a good life for the birds more than the satisfaction they got from being exposed to their beauty.
The day after I left, Cecelia posted a picture on my Timeline:
There’s Twitter, getting a smooch from his new best friend, Tia. (And no, he’s not trying to bite him. He wouldn’t just be sitting there if he was in danger, he has wings.)
There’s Twitter and Sunshine…
And him hanging out with Speedy, pretending he is the kind of the mountain by being higher than everyone else (overcompensation, Twitter?)
There’s them all playing on their play gym together <3
Even the bunny, Totoro, loves Twitter! Or at least his food.
I’m more confident than ever that I made the right decision. Twitter found his flock, and I found some peace of mind. Thank you, Cecilia and Brian, for the wonderful photos, and for saving the day! <3
Over the past week, I packed up my entire life. I donated about 70% of my things to various outlets, stored 20%, gave away 5% in the form of specialized care packages for my close friends, and packed the rest into two suitcases and a laptop bag. This morning, I left New York.
So long, New York!
Let it be known that when I say I’m going to do something, I don’t fuck around. As someone who tends to get paralyzed by her tendency to over-analyze things, probably the most helpful thing I’ve learned how to do as an adult is how to light a fire under my own ass. I highly recommend it.
The second most helpful thing I’ve learned is how to wing it. Which is in large part what I’m doing. So apologies to all the people I’ve dodged or maybe even gotten irritated at for asking me what my plan is. Who needs a plan? I’ve got everything I need to live and the desire to do so to the max. There is no plan.
However, there is a goal. I am going to go completely around the world — with no plan other than to not stay in any one place for longer than a month.
Today I arrived in LA, my starting point. Hello, LA!
For those of you who have stayed up at night ruminating over where I’m going because I pointedly ignored you when you asked (sorry!), I will be writing about my journey. Surely you didn’t think I was going to just go totally off-grid for a year like that guy, did you? Don’t you fret, my darling friends. The Millikan Daily will persist, and I’ll continue writing formally at all the usual outlets and a few new ones I’ll fill you in on soon.
For now, I’ll give you a few peaks of my starting point. I’m rolling in style (obvi) in my new Portovelo Shoes (courtesy of my friends at Small Girls — thanks Mal and Bianca!). I bought a magazine for the first time in a while today because this cover was all too awesome for an aspiring cyborg/technophile such as myself.
For the next two weeks I’ll be staying at the Advance Camps loft in Downtown LA, working with an amazing team of architects, designers, and builders who are creating North America’s premiere nomadic camp for creative exploration. I’m here to teach, but also here to learn everything I can about being a nomad.
First order of business: napping in the alpha dome :)
Second order of business: Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen! A reminder to keep my eye on the finish line: Japan.
Over and out.
Tonight I took a break from packing to read something that’s been open in a browser tab for days. Personally recommended for me by my friend and fellow Motherboard contributor Kelly Bourdet, the n+1 tab kept tempting my focus away from packing for a year on the road, planning the LadyBits launch party (which was AMAZING <3), and fielding the hundreds of responses that have poured in since I launched LadyBits on Medium (getting to each and every one of you, I promise!!). Five days later, I finally allowed myself to pause and consume “What Do You Desire?” by Emily Witt.
As enticing as the subject matter — which details a woman’s journey through the Kink.com armory — was the fact that it was picked for me. I love hunting through stories for the detail that makes a piece of writing subtly and especially relevant to my interests. At first I assumed Kelly had sent it because the gentleman who Kelley had asked to be on her Internet Week panel alongside me was a Kink.com pornstar. But when the author switched gears from fly-on-the-wall description to introspection, I was left feeling like the author was speaking out of my own experiences, and articulating them much more clearly than I could:
I had made no conscious decision to be single, but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Because of this, people around me continued to view love as a sort of messianic event, and my friends expressed a religious belief that it would arrive for me one day, as if love was something the universe owed to each of us, which no human could escape. I had known love, but having known love I knew how powerless I was to instigate it or ensure its duration. Whether love was going to arrive or not, I could not suspend my life in the expectation of its arrival. So, back in New York, I was single, but only very rarely would more than a few weeks pass without some kind of sexual encounter.
What even to call these relationships? Most of my friends had slept with one another and I had slept with many friends, too. Sometimes years separated sexual encounters. Things thought buried in the past would cycle around again, this time with less anxiety and greater clarity, in a fluid manner that occasionally imploded in horrible displays of pain or temporary insanity, but which for the most part functioned smoothly. We were souls flitting through limbo, piling up against one another like dried leaves, circling around, awaiting the messiah.
After a decade or so of living this way, with occasional suspensions for relationships that would first revive my belief in romantic love and its attendant structures of domesticity, and then once again fail and extinguish them, I started finding it difficult to revere the couple as the fundamental unit of society. I became a little ornery about it, to be honest: that couples paid lower taxes together, that they could afford better apartments, that there were so few structures of support to ease the raising of a child as a single person, that the divorced experience a sense of failure, that failed marriages are accompanied by so much logistical stress on top of the emotional difficulties. All this because we privilege a certain idea of love. The thought of the natural progression of couples, growing more and more insular, buying nicer and nicer furniture, shutting down the world, accruing things, relaxing into habit, scared me. As I grew older, I found it difficult to distinguish romantic love from other kinds of connections: the platonic love for the friends I did not want to have sex with, the euphoric chemical urges toward people I had sex with but did not love. Why was love between couples more exceptional? Because it attached itself to material objects, and to children? Because it ordered civilization? I probably would not have a baby without love, and buying a home seemed impossible for all kinds of reasons, but I could have sex. I had a body.
The entire piece is worth reading and losing yourself in. She goes on to seek the answers to her questions in all kinds of detail. Things I’ll probably seek to find in different ways about myself when I leave New York. Like the author, I’m tired of the cycles. This time, the past must stay buried. I’m ready for new encounters and new loves.
Thanks, Kelly =)
I may eyeroll about fashion magazines, but that’s not because I don’t appreciate fashion — I do, I am just selective about who I allow to advise me on it.
At the top of my list, however, is my good friend Amira Marion. I’ve known her since my senior year of high school when I moved from Florida to Michigan, and she has taught me 90% of what I know about fashion. Her kind of style can rarely be found in a mall (except for when the stuff she designs ends up there), but rather in thrift shops. Name brands matter, but not as much as fabric, and nothing matters as much as a perfect fit. She taught me that all fashion rules are myths (eg: you should never wear black and brown together), to embrace my natural waistline, and that everything essentially comes down to confidence.
Today she came over and helped me pack up my closet. In only two hours, we went through every item and decided whether it should be donated, sold to Beacon’s Closet (a thrift store in Williamsburg that selectively buys quality/unique clothes), sold in her personal online vintage store, put into storage, or taken with me. It’s great to have a friend who studied under Tim Gunn in times like this. Now I’m all set with a minimal travel wardrobe suited for business meetings and lying on a beach in Thailand.
Packing up my things from piles into bags, I folded all my storage items with care, remembering the times I’ve worn them in NYC. I thought about how exciting it’s going to be to take them out in a year or so and rediscover forgotten items. But I couldn’t help but feel the sad sense of not knowing when the next time I would see these things again will be.
And these are just clothes. I am doing everything I can to not think about the fact that I’m going to have to go through this with actual people. This is why I’m on the fence about having any kind of goodbye party. It’s not even goodbye, it’s just “see ya later,” but if I had a goodbye party I’d just get drunk and cry the whole time, and who wants to go to that. Not me, no thank you.
Anyways, I’m leaving soon, very soon. If you want to see me, come to Bushwick to cowork/eat/drink and meet my new parakeet, Twitter. In some kind of freakishly weird twist of fate, he flew into my apartment on Saturday and he’s pretty happy hanging out with me. I don’t know what I’m going to do with him yet, but it will involve a loving home, so if anyone has any ideas let me know. Twitter, we’ll make it work <3
It’s 2:23 am and I won’t sleep until I finish the essay I’m working on. This is getting me there.
I just deleted everything I wrote. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
I’m launching something big soon. Stay tuned.