Author Archives: Arikia

About Arikia

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Bees!

I’m almost ready to emerge from my writing prison! So close, I can taste it, and it tastes like the entire jar of raw honey I ate over the past week.

oprah-beesH/t Adrienne LaFrance for this GIF excellence.

In related news, I love my @LadyBits! Seriously, I’ve somehow managed to assemble the best group of writers ever. I’ve never been so all-in with a project before, and it’s awesome to see it grow.

Also related, I’m working on one of the craziest feature stories I’ve written to date. I won’t say what it’s about quite yet, but I will tell you that it’s tangentially related to this oldie but goodie: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/i-am-a-cyborg-and-i-want-my-google-implant-already/63806/

Soon, all will be revealed.

soon

On exquisite isolation for literary purposes

Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time alone.

I was the youngest person in my class, and therefore the last person to get my driver’s license in November of my junior year. In high school I kept a hand-written list of phone numbers tacked to my bulletin board. Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons I would go down the list, contemplating the likelihood that each number could provide an escape from my teenage prison. Methodically, I would pick up my translucent, purple cordless phone, hold my breath, and dial.

Occasionally a friend would drive over and pick me up, and we would gleefully attempt all the debauchery we could fathom (which usually amounted to no more than a car ride in search of phantom parties casually mentioned in notes passed by boys desperate to impress us). Most nights though, I would sit alone in my room with my books and my TV/VCR combo and my journals.

It was in these moments of agonizing boredom and loneliness that I began to really process the world. It was also in those times that I allowed my mind to spiral into the pits of despair, taunted by the false certainty that everybody else was out doing something exciting and I was the only girl in the world steeped in isolation. Other factors compounded what some might call “normal teen angst” and at times I resigned into pure hopelessness, unable to anticipate the freedom that I now enjoy, certain that I would be alone forever.

So I wrote, and I poured all my anger toward my oppressors, my disbelief at the lack of justice in the world, my innocent but burning desires into the blank pages that I would hide in the deepest crevices of my 100 square-foot bedroom. My mother would periodically hunt them down and read them, then use their contents as evidence for why I should sit and stew in loneliness for my own protection. “You’re your own worst enemy,” she would say. One day after I discovered this violation I burned an entire journal and buried the ashes in the backyard (since igniting any type of flame, including the stove, was an offense punishable by further imprisonment). “Never write anything you don’t want other people to read,” she would taunt me, dismissing my outrage. Even at age fifteen my insomniac habits were fully-formed and I would stay up all night writing fictional tales of the life I imagined I was supposed to be living at the moment while catering to an imaginary audience of nosy and sadistic adults.

When I left home for college at seventeen, my writing habits stayed with me. I would pour over journals with all the bottled-up intensity of a shaken jar of kombucha, reflecting on my youth and disregarding all lessons of discretion my mother had advised. The only person I cared about reading what I wrote was her because she was the only person with the ability to censor me in the pre-production phase of writing. After a few successful stints with literary pseudonyms, I finally decided to live my life as an open book (which isn’t to say that I don’t have my secrets but they’re only secrets because I haven’t gotten around to writing about them yet).

I never set out to be a writer. It’s always just been something that I’ve compulsively done. But now that I am a writer, I won’t permit those moments of torturous youth to have been in vain. Though I am now surrounded by friends who gladly remedy my slightest twinge of loneliness with the greatest of adventures, I make it a point to isolate myself every now and then, mining that past agony and tapping into it only so much as to benefit my current productivity. It’s taken a while to hone it, and I’m sure I haven’t yet completely, but I’m getting closer. I think that soon I’ll be able to control it entirely, whereas once it controlled me. It’s washing over me now, and it’s divine.

There’s no place like home

My mother always shunned the idea of having a home. “Home is where your stuff is,” she would often say when mocking my childish want to be rooted somewhere. I’ve internalized this idea throughout life, trying to not get too attached to one place. For this reason, I’ve always despised the question “Where are you from?” because it implies a sense of home or having had a home at one point. But after a few years of consciously peeling off all the warped layers of perception from my upbringing, I’m getting a little more comfortable answering this question. If there was a place I’d call “home” irrelevant of the presence of any personal belongings, it would be Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor.

I’m here now, and I am content. Happy, even.

A2Upon arriving in Detroit today, I was picked up from the airport by an old college friend and promptly whisked to Ann Arbor. Matt lived across the hall from me in the dorm freshman year and burned me a Postal Service CD the first week of school. I took him to lunch to thank him before he dropped me at my residence for the next few weeks. I suggested Zingerman’s, the deli that townies are tempted to describe as “overrated” but never do because it really is that good.

While in the grocery part of the deli, I was overrun with the impulse to acquire local honey. It’s something my health-conscious friends in Brooklyn would always suggest, as I am prone to allergies and local honey is rumored to soothe them. But I never went out of my way to get it. It’s not just that I was skeptical about the medicinal claim, but the thought of consuming a biological biproduct of New York City bees made me frown. New York, I love you, but you’re pretty gross sometimes.

Being back amidst the rolling green hills of Ann Arbor felt like a bear hug, but I wanted more. I wanted it in my veins, internalized. So I bought a $15 jar of local honey, provided by the bees of Petoskey wild flower fields. Matt delivered me to my residence for the next two weeks, a townhouse of literary solitude belonging to a dear family friend who so generously offered this haven to me out of the blue. After 10 minutes of sitting and just staring out the window into the yard, watching the little sparrow that landed on the railing of the back stairs, I went into the kitchen and scooped a huge spoonful of local honey.

It hit my mouth like a silver-screen flashback:

MichiganWildFlowers

I was 4 years old, outside during recess at Perry Nursery School, reaching my little arms through a chain-link fence, reaching as far as I could toward the periphery of the sprawling wildflower field on the other side, trying to grasp all the purple flowers I could. There were Queen Ann’s Lace stalks and Black-Eyed Susans too, but they were prevalent on my side of the fence as well. I needed those purple ones to complete my collection, if I could only reach a little further… It was so vivid a memory for an event that occurred 22 years ago. The taste became the intoxicating smell of being there in that moment of childlike determination, totally free.

Being here in this place is exactly what I need right now. Stability, solitude, comfort before I slingshot myself around the globe. Everything is quaint. There is a vegetable garden and a footbridge over a creek in the back yard. Everything inside the house is set up for all the things I might want to do. There’s an exercise ball, and a glass desk with a touch-sensitive lamp; half a bottle of wine, and a robe hanging in the closet with a bird embroidered into the back. Every cleaning product smells of “soothing lavender” and on the bathroom counter is a towel folded and laid out just for me.

I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the fact that this loveliness is my present life, but I am so, so grateful to be here. It feels like home.

Nomad magnets

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.

Finding your inner gazelle

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.

LOLBYEgazelle

One month on the road

Actually Doing the ThingsIt’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.

Falling in friend-love at Burning Man

friendloveI 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.

“Hi.”

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?”

“Totally.”

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.

JohnBMHe 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.”

JohnTgivesI 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.

A happy ending for Twitter the Wonder Budgie

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:

Twitter_Tia

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.)

Twitter_Sunshine

There’s Twitter and Sunshine…

Twitter_Speecy_Splits

And him hanging out with Speedy, pretending he is the kind of the mountain by being higher than everyone else (overcompensation, Twitter?)

Twitter_Sunshine_Speedy

There’s them all playing on their play gym together <3

Totoro

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

The Plan Is There Is No Plan

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!

IMG_20130527_120048

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!

IMG_20130528_002840

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.IMG_20130528_001524

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 :)

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Photo by Carson Linforth Bowley

Second order of business: Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen! A reminder to keep my eye on the finish line: Japan.

IMG_20130528_001907 Third order of business: catching up on sleep.

Over and out.

The most perfect reflection on being single

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 =)