demystifying my version of “van-life”

All credit goes to Jake Marquez: give him a follow at https://www.instagram.com/arqetype.media/

I thought I would take the time today to tell the story of my van, Rosie.

I think it’s pretty easy to make a lot of assumptions about people who are attempting van-life, as Instagram and Pinterest are completely saturated with overly-filtered imagery of the most beautiful vans you’ve ever seen. Gorgeous sprinters with perfectly built interiors that look like hyper-modern, hyper-chic tiny homes, super complicated electrical & plumbing set-ups, and seemingly endless outdoor gear and other expensive utilities. It can be a lot to digest, particularly if van-life is something that interests you. I know that when I was looking for inspiration, the money signs kept wracking up in my brain.

How the hell can I afford to do this?

One thing I realized while doing the research was that the majority of these fancy Sprinter vans cost upwards of $50,000, some built out, some not. Some of the more high-end vans can cost around $200,000. With my $40,000 of debt, I knew that would be an impossibility for me (shout-out to me for buying a $25,000 car when I returned from my trip to South East Asia: anyone in the market for a 2016 RAV4 Hybrid?)

I had no money to speak of, and that $40,000 of debt was more like $45,000 thanks to me being belligerent with my money and accruing credit card debt on top of my student loans and car payments.

I literally spent the last $2,000 I had to buy Rosie, completely draining my savings and putting me farther into debt.

That $2,000 was meant to pay off some of my credit card debt, but I was desperate to get a van. I was desperate because something deep inside of me told me it was something I had to do, and had to do soon. I had wanted to buy a van and try this lifestyle out since I was 19 or 20, but I never pulled the trigger. I allowed myself to be incapacitated by resistance for so many years. I wasn’t living consciously, and I wasn’t taking the initiative to really live at all.

On a date, I uttered the words, “I just feel like a lot of my life has been out of my control.” I wanted to throw up when those words came out. What a waste. What a waste! And, what a lie that was. I hadn’t had the brevity, the courage, the balls to take control of my life. That was my problem, and with that realization, I knew something big had to shift. I needed to focus on being alive, really alive. I was over sleepwalking. I was over pretending that life was something that just happened to us, and I decided I was going to take action.

Cue meeting Jake. That’s the type of person who will make you feel alive.

Now, with his encouragement, I felt empowered. When I talked about wanting to do it, he would say, “You have to do it. If you don’t, it will eat you alive.” A sentiment I had thought, too, now echoed through his voice.

I knew, in my bones, that if I hesitated and waited, my 20’s could fade into memory more quickly than I could conceive of. I was already almost 24. When you feel strongly that you will regret not doing something, you have to follow that impulse and do it. Regretting things you have done is something that can only come from hindsight (it’s also pointless, and should only be met with action). If you have the foresight that you’ll be riddled with regret about neglecting to do a thing, you’d have to be pretty complacent and cowardly to not do that thing. That’s the universe, the god inside of you, giving you such a clear sign.

I looked at a couple of vans, one being a beater for $5,000 that could barely make it to 35 mph and didn’t have seat-belts. The pickings were bare, and I began to get pretty discouraged, until I saw a little ad for a 1991 Chevy Bonaventure.

The second I saw her, with her old-lady brown and light pink exterior paint, pink curtains and seats, maroon carpet, and old-school wood paneling, I knew I had to have her. $2,000! What a steal! She runs, and runs well. Only 125,000 miles and a new engine with only 50,000 miles on it. Insane.

To me, this was incredible. I had found it: finally! A van I could see myself fixing up and slowly making the transition into van-life (still not quite there yet, by the way). I didn’t bother telling my dad what I had found because I knew what he would think: he’d already made it pretty clear that he wouldn’t support his daughter “living in a van down by the river.” I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw my mom: surely she’d be supportive. When I told my her about it, however, she was absolutely furious. I could not stop crying when I told her, going from absolute giddy-excitedness to total depression in the matter of seconds. She said “absolutely not” and proceeded to tell me all of the reasons that it was unsafe, not something that “smart people do”, and it would be a gigantic mistake. I felt horribly misunderstood and alone. I could literally feel myself getting smaller as the tears escaped me. It felt like I was shrinking into this dark oblivion, where mankind truly was an island (I’ve always been dramatic). My ego was screaming, “Why does no one understand me?” All the while though, and I can thank my dad for this stubbornness, the whole time she was arguing with me (a plea to her daughter to not take unnecessary risks in life: an understandable plea from a mother) I was thinking to myself, “I’m going to show everyone that I can do this.” Always obstinate, I’ve never liked being told what to do. “I’m going to do this no matter what anyone says.” Eventually my mom lamented, after a lot crying and emotional attempts at explaining from me, and she said, “I can’t stop you from doing this.”

So the next morning, I bought Rosie.

(By the way, and this is very important, my mom has completely changed her tune since I bought the van, and has been totally supportive and wonderful about it since then. My dad went from being pretty angry (“You’ve always done whatever the f*ck you want, so I’m not surprised you didn’t care what we thought.”) to joking with me about it, and they both helped me get a very important feature of my van for my birthday, so that’s a good sign. I’m only sharing this to explain the resistance that I had faced.)

This was March 10th. I signed the papers, gave a wad of cash (all the money I had) to a random person, and drove off. The job I had had me working 8 days on and 6 days off, so I dropped Rosie off at my boyfriend’s house, and went straight to work.

In the next coming days, I wouldn’t even have a chance to think about the van. COVID-19 was announced as a pandemic the day after buying her, and fear quickly ensued.

When I bought the van, I had no idea that would be my last shift at work. I had just sunk all of my money into something, and I had no job, and no job prospects to speak of. I was completely overcome with anxiety: I was keeping something huge from my parents, I felt totally alone and alien in the world, and I had no money. It took me a couple of weeks, but finally I admitted to my parents what I had done. I could, at least, eliminate that stressor from my psyche.

The alienation I felt eventually subsided, and that is 100% due to the fact that I accepted something fundamental that I think everyone needs to accept: You are never going to be accepted by everyone. Period. People are going to judge you, people are going to not understand you, people are going to make fun of you, but that has nothing to do with you. That comes from within them, and their triggers. It has nothing to do with you.

Accepting yourself, aligning yourself with your path, being authentic, and following your truth are some of the most important things to do in this life. And with these, you will begin to honor other people’s paths, not take things personally, and not be so judgmental of others choices.

The universe brought me this van at the exact, right time. I had been manifesting this life of traveling around in a van, and now I have that. I have it also, in part because of what is going on in the world. It feels weird to be grateful at all for a pandemic, but in this way, I am. I’ve had the time to invest into a future that I had been praying for, that seemed far off even when I first bought Rosie. Now, it just feels like life.

All in all, and with the help of Jake (and the profoundly important birthday gift from my parents, which is a Whynter fridge), Rosie has cost around $5,000 to get fully outfitted. That means solar, storage, fridge, cooking/camping utensils, emergency tools (hydraulic jack) and recently we added a solar shower, following Kombilife’s video: https://kombilife.com/diy-road-shower-for-van-life/

Our version of the Kombilife solar shower!

Our solar set-up is from GoalZero, which requires a lot of cost up-front as compared to other “DIY cheap van hacks” all over the internet (~$1200 for 2 panels, one 50 watts and the other 100 watts, and the battery and cables), but it’s perfect for us because we don’t know anything about engineering. It’s so simple and easy to manage, so if you’re looking at these “simple” videos online about wiring up your van and are feeling super overwhelmed, you’re not alone! Don’t be discouraged if you’re dumb like us, just buy the GoalZero Solar Kits. It will make your life a lot easier. And, fun fact, we’re both powering our laptops using the solar set-up right at this very moment!

Jake working on creative projects, pretending to not notice me taking his picture.

Here’s the link to the solar kit we bought: https://www.backcountry.com/goal-zero-yeti-400-lithium-boulder-50-solar-kit?s=a

GoalZero solar panels + hacky roof-rack attachment system that works just fine!

Our fridge is a Whynter 65 Quart Portable Refrigerator. Most of these “cheap and easy!” van-lifers are using a Dometic fridge, which is twice as expensive as Whynter for whatever reason, but I did the research to decide to go with the cheaper option, which was still around $500. These fridges ain’t cheap, but they are wonderful for soda water drinking carnivores like Jake and me.

Installing all of this stuff has been really fun for us, as I said, we are not engineers. We didn’t know shit, and now we know some shit, but not much. It’s been a great experience of challenging our abilities, getting super sunburnt, and figuring things out as we go.

My final, longwinded point is: if you are drawn to buying a van to live in, it doesn’t have to be the most beautiful Sprinter van in existence. It can be a cheap, old van with broken door handles and quirky wood paneling. If you have zero technical skills, do research, and watch Youtube videos until you find a way to do things that makes sense to you. If your loved ones don’t support you getting a van, understand that that resistance is the universe’s way of telling you to be strong, and persist. And also understand, that they will come around eventually (especially once they see how happy you are following your path), and if they don’t, you don’t need anyone’s acceptance anyway. You only need your own.

Be resolute in what you want, set those intentions, and take action. The universe will reward your bravery.

(un)burdened by sex

This past week I completed my 24th cycle around the sun, and with it, I feel myself truly upon the journey of my own becoming, of my own oneness with myself. This embodies many faces, many guises, and many angles: one of them being my sexuality.

I want to avoid projecting my personal insecurities about this topic (and the nude imagery of myself that is attached) by immediately going on the defensive. Even just the thought, “I’m twenty-four years old, I’m an adult, I can do whatever I want,” feels contrived, regardless of the truth of it. It sounds like the voice of an inner child who needs to be accepted, and needs to make excuses to rationalize her actions rather than just being. I no longer wish to embody that space. I can, however, acknowledge her fears and trepidations, and brush her hair from her face and tell her everything is going to be okay. Growth is inherently uncomfortable.

So, let’s talk about sex: specifically, the deliberate and forceful repression of the wholly natural and human engagement of sex. Where does this come from? Why do I worry that naked imagery of myself is going to instantaneously trigger people? Furthermore, why do I care?

I believe it is due to repression. This repression knows no gender: we are all sexually repressed in Western culture. Whether it’s through outright brainwashing through our religious or academic systems, or simply through cultural norms and folkways, we are told emphatically that our sexuality is something to be buried yet also sacrosanct through the maintaining of chastity. 

In the lecture “Eros and the Eschaton” that Terence McKenna gave in 1994, he, rather succinctly, says of sexuality, “they’d make it illegal if they but could figure out how. It’s the one drug they can’t tear from our grip, so they lay a guilt trip about it.” We’re made to believe that we are ungodly if we masturbate, we are dirty if we have many lovers, and we are tainted if we don’t sign a contract with someone before allowing them to commune with us in the way that we have been (without such boundaries and stipulations) for hundreds of thousands of years.

Evolutionarily speaking, this repression makes zero sense. We create this illusion that everyone is innately virginal, but this is obviously a lie. Sex is a human need, not a want or a desire: a need. Of course people have sex, of course everyone has sex. It is imbedded in our DNA as a tool of socialization.

This repression has dangerous and unhealthy implications. There is ample research to suggest that a big proponent of rape culture is due to sexual repression, or simply the lack of education about sex. Rape culture deserves a whole blog post, so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but in my own personal experiences of sexual abuse and assault, it has come from men who otherwise are not necessarily predatory. There is something within them, be it a lack of understanding about sex and how to respect women, or an underlying trauma, that is influencing their behaviors toward women. This is something that can be resolved. Some of these men likely didn’t even realize how traumatic their actions were toward me, and maybe never will.

I don’t believe that enough men are taught how to be reciprocal and healthy lovers, and I don’t believe that women are taught to ask for more respect or demand reciprocity. Which is why I don’t want to indict us as individuals. We weren’t given the proper tools to be healthy lovers. I was never sat down to have a candid conversation about sex and what to expect when it came to sex. It’s an awkward conversation to have with a young person, but I could have been spared a lot of trauma had someone talked to me about it like an adult, and not a child who “shouldn’t be having sex at all.”

Teenagers have sex, and they need guidance from parents and other trusted adults: period. I learned all by myself, with men who were learning all by themselves, as well. We learn through porn, through movies, through media that is inaccurate and that transforms the narrative into that sex is something women give and men receive. Of course, both parties suffer from this illusory narrative. Men miss out on the emotional intimacy aspect of sex, and women miss out on the pleasure.

(I would like to throw in the caveat here that I am talking generally about heterosexual intimate relationships. As I lean more “straight” on the Kinsey scale, I find it apropos for me to only speak of sex through the lens in which I embody. It is not meant to be exclusive in any manner.)

Anyway, I learned through trial and error what was okay with me, and what respect I demanded. It took a long time for me to even demand good sex. My conditioning was entirely wired toward the pleasure of the man, and not the communion of sharing a pleasurable experience together. I was conditioned to be polite rather than direct, and I experienced an embarrassing amount of mediocre sex because of that. I didn’t question this conditioning for a very long time.

I also experienced a great deal of psychological trauma through my sexual development. Most of my post-pubescent existence surrounding sex has caused me to disproportionately value my sex-appeal. I sought sex as a means of defining my self-worth. I know I’m not alone in this. This is a sickly mindset wherein I could never win: my attractiveness and (not to be overly graphic) collection of holes was my only asset. My personality didn’t count, and I was burdensome without my service of sex.

Is this disturbing to you? Good, it should be! It is disturbing to think of sex in this manner, and to reiterate, I am not alone in this. Many women have developed a similar mindset. It is wrong, and it is a lie. I gave men credence and ownership of my body, because that was the only currency through which I could acquire love or validation. Whether the men who abused me did so intentionally or not, I allowed it to happen. I came from a place of ignorance and lack of understanding, but still, I stayed. I didn’t love myself enough to question the value of the experiences I was having, or to demand better treatment.

(This may come across as victim-blaming, but refuse to acknowledge myself as a victim. I am a person whom which unfortunate things have happened, but I am healing, learning, and growing, and I can accept my part in my experiences without denying my own agency. What I lacked was knowledge and experience and self-love, not agency.)

When I flash forward to today, however, I have transformed the narrative of my sexuality entirely. Hence, these artful nude photographs that I am sharing on the internet. My sexuality is something that belongs to me now, and I can do whatever I want with that. Whether these photos bother you, concern you, turn you on, or are simply artistic images of the female form, it doesn’t matter to me. Anyone’s reaction to this is not my responsibility. I am a sexual, sensual creature, and I’m not going to pretend to be otherwise.

The female form is beautiful and divine. Femininity in sex is an incredibly enigmatic thing. Why do so many ancient cultures revere the vagina, making art to immortalize its importance? And why do so many cultures aim to stifle it, destroy it, and violently disconnect it from pleasure? Because it is powerful.

As Terence McKenna affirms, sex is the one drug we have that no one can take away from us. Let’s embrace it as the powerful, emotional, spiritual, natural, human act that it is. Let’s not cheapen it by not educating our children about it. Be graphic: give detail. Don’t shy away from the conversation because it is uncomfortable. Discomfort offers the greatest lessons for everyone involved. It is not corrosive or irresponsible to engage in, given the proper tools and understanding. It is a beautiful thing. It creates life and incapsulates love.

We can unlearn the shame associated societally with sex. We can unlearn these cultural “regulations” that cause us so much misery and sexual maladaptation. We can unlearn the narrative of giver and receiver. We will all be better off for it.

My sexuality is a facet of my value, not the entirety, and I want to celebrate that. When I didn’t love myself and used my sexiness transactionally, I was filled with shame. I no longer feel that way. I feel beautiful and whole without the need to feel attractive to other people. I feel attractive to me.

embracing complexity

There’s a poem by Rumi that I would like to share with you all.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.”

What Rumi is saying here is that when viewing the world through true nuance, there is almost nothing to say, as all is nearly incomprehensible. Without the weight of opinion or the heaviness of ideas of right or wrong, we can exist in what is simply known as life.

Now, this isn’t to say that suddenly with nuance there is nothing to talk about. Quite the contrary! There are things to talk about from every angle imaginable, transcending beyond bias and individuation, beyond ego and past experience.

This universe, this solar system, this world, ourselves exist in an ever transient spectrum of nuance and complexity.

Isn’t that brilliant? Conventional religious thought, particularly Judeo-Christian paradigms seek to provide the seeker with an answer. Alternatively, you’ll find fastidious believers in any subset of belief: in capitalism, in whatever diet you may have, in politics, in spirituality, in conspiracy, in whatever belief system that a person may find themselves involved in. We all have our truths and our paths, but wouldn’t it be beautiful to step outside of that from time to time? Expand your gaze from your two eyes and see everything through the kaleidoscope of multiplicity. What do you think you might discover? What have you been holding yourself back from learning, perhaps totally unconsciously?

My challenge to everyone is to live with an open heart, and an open mind to all possibilities.

To be clear: I’m certainly no perfect example of this. I hold deeply onto belief systems, and often it is incredibly difficult for me to get out of my own frame of reference, but I am always open to new information and the acceptance that I was wrong. I’ve found myself to be wrong about an abundance of things recently, and that’s why I am wanting to share this poem and this wonderful insight with everyone. It’s okay to be wrong, because with wrongness brings the realization of complexity and the brilliance of non-knowing.

This is something we can revel in! It takes so much pressure off if you can embody this perspective. To hold onto your convictions, but not too tightly. To be willing to let go when things don’t suit you. To access your true-self: a being that is ever changing, ever evolving, ever glowing and radiant. To live without judgment because everything is in an ebb and flow, including yourself. To be curious, open, and seek to understand rather than to be “right”.

Above all, be curious, ask questions, and be open to changing your tune.

Clinging onto a single belief, making assumptions based in your perception, basing your entire identity in any ideology, or even just consistently asserting that you are “right” castrates your ability to perceive the magnificent complexity of the world. Be okay with being wrong, be okay with changing your mind, be okay with partaking on a new path or journey. Life isn’t a straight line, and in all of human history, we have yet to discover all of the answers. Perhaps because there is no single answer. Perhaps there are so many answers and our monkey brain doesn’t have the ability to conceive of the truth.

Or perhaps it’s because everything just simply is.

on becoming (okay with myself)

This is going to be a bit of a messy mind dump.

I’ve never quite felt like I fit in anywhere. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this predilection toward misfits, oddities, and things that go against the grain. Always passionate, always opinionated, always obstinate, always full of ideologies and fantasies and imagination. Always screaming in indignation for the things that I dislike about the world, and a shuddering grief over all that I can’t change. My brain is, and has always been (for the most part) a complex framework of ideas, stories, malnourished plans for societal and personal betterment, a battle of overwhelming negative thoughts toward myself, and recently, a spiritual frenzy of pleasure, excitement, drive, and self-love. An empathic chaos of sorts has followed me around throughout my life, causing me to scarcely be able to fixate on any given point.

This isn’t meant to be a sort of boasting about my “free-spiritedness”: it has actually caused me a great deal of distress in my life.

My dad has always said I have to “skin my knees on everything” to learn. He’s been frustrated by my indecisiveness and my lack of direction (or perhaps it’s more accurate to state that I have too many directions: each one less stable than the last). I’ve confounded a lot of people in my life with my airiness and ability to change direction with a subtle nudge of the wind, and I know it’s been hard for a lot of my loved ones to keep up. It’s hard on me, and I’ve also confounded myself in this process, allbeit for the opposite reasons.

I’ve recently discovered that I’ve been tremendously disingenuous with myself throughout my life.

Rarely have I felt understood, and often I have felt alone and strange, like some alien who walks around among people but isn’t really sure how to do it properly. There’s always been something uneasy within me: a restlessness, a paranoia, a desire for something more. Unfortunately, I placed a stable acceptance on a higher pedestal than I have placed my true, authentic self.

I think this is a fairly typical occurrence, particularly for those who have less secure attachment styles. I’ve found myself to be a burden to everyone in my proximity my entire life, so it makes sense that I chose a more agreeable predisposition for myself. I’ll go keep some beliefs to myself, I’ll get my degree, find a job to settle into, I’ll do what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll rage against the societal machine in my head, and scream my miseries into the void of my own subconscious, but I won’t do anything to change direction.

I was afraid to rock the boat and potentially disappoint people with my ideas for my future, though secretly I was hatching plans to find post-grad work on pot farms and live in a van and be a vagabond writer hippie-person. I truly had no plan to use my degree at all at this time of my life, I just knew I could miss out on opportunities if I didn’t have it. In the process of this duality of being, I was profoundly depressed, drinking too much to cope with my life, and feeling deeply dissatisfied with my existence. Suicidal ideations were no stranger to me. Thoughts of dropping out crossed my mind more times than I can count, but I was so concerned about what people would think of me, and feeling so guilty about the wasted money and potential, so I buried them deep inside of myself and didn’t even allow it to be a consideration.

My last semester of college was the apex of my anxiety, due in part to the toxic relationship I was in, and significant personal traumas during the preceding months, but also due to my own doubts about the significance of my life and a horrible lack of love for myself. Who am I? What do I want from life? Are my intentions pure? Am I making a terrible mistake choosing the path that I am? Is all of this depression and struggle worth it?

I felt weak, cowardly, spiritually depleted, numb, and supremely inauthentic.

How much of my life have I spent doing things just because I wanted to follow some arbitrary set of rules? Even while getting my degree, I knew that I would finagle it into something abstract and off the beaten path (still trying to figure that out). I’ve been terrified by the idea of settling down into any one career, getting married, and having children for many, many years. It’s just not like me, and every year I get older, the less that lifestyle appeals to me*. I’ve only gotten more restless as time has gone on, until now.

My path is billowing before me, a ripe peach just waiting for me to take it. It’s always been there, but I’ve just tried to fit it into the molds of a conventional world. I’m learning to finesse my past into the practices of my present, and acknowledge that there may be little conventionality to my life from here on out.

And I have had resistance, and a lot of it. Most of the resistance I’ve experienced from the last few years was from within (my own doubts, my own insecurities, my own inabilities and sheer lack of confidence), but now I find it more from without. I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that my path may make people uncomfortable, may disappoint, may not be what people wanted for me. But I’m learning to accept the truth that, despite how much I want to please the people in my life who want a different life for me, it’s not my responsibility to be that person and live that life.

My responsibility is to be true to me: to work on bettering myself through my health, lifestyle, and spirituality.

And the cleaner I can keep my side of the street, the more I can do for others. The more full my cup is, the more I can share. The clearer my path, the easier it will be for other people to settle into their own paths without fear of judgement.

I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned through hardship. I am so grateful for my education, and I can’t wait to see the opportunities that may arise from it (MSW when I’m 30, perhaps? Internships with MAPS?). I am so grateful for having a rich life full of lessons, difficulty, and mind-blowing beauty and revelation. I am so grateful for all of the people in my life, whether they affirm my path or not. Everything feels clearer than ever before, and the tranquility I feel from my own knowing and honoring of my truth is worth everything.

When you have literally had times where you’d rather be dead than alive, it really makes the times when you feel the most alive shine brighter, fuller, and more profoundly. When you have hated yourself as deeply as I have, loving yourself feels really exquisite. I am riding the waves, and for the most part, everything feels just right.

Of all the things that I could be, I am happy, I am healthy, and I feel more aligned within myself than I ever have. I feel calm, I feel peace, and I feel love for myself. 

Hopefully, that’s enough. 

*My lack of interest in having this type of lifestyle is not an indictment of anyone who chooses that lifestyle. I just know myself, and I know that I would be unhappy in that world. Everyone should be consciously honoring their path, whatever that looks like. I know my own truth, and that is all.

a manifold existence

Our temporal beings, situated upon a 3-dimensional plane with supposed rules and binaries, black and white fissures of “fact”, dimmed and dulled out processions of reality subjugated by civilization suggest a fallacy of truths and equal and opposite untruths. You can’t be happy and sad at the same time, or can you? Can you be equally present and disengaged? Can you be both liberal and conservative? Why have we placed ourselves within so many neatly built boxes? Why do we cage our individual potential?

Can we allow the darkest times of our lives to be our most valued teachers? Can pain bring us distress, but also awakening? Of course it can, and we have all seen these dualities in our lives. Life exists somewhere within the shades of “gray”. This is not a new concept. But I think we can take it a step further.

What I would like to suggest is that we look at our lives as complexly colorful and radiant manifolds of experience.

Imagine you are looking into a kaleidoscope. You may see the same image repeated in a cascading chrysanthemum of color and light, but if you look closely, you see the images are not carbon copies of each other, they have their own distinct changes in hue or light exposure, but they are all technically the same image: just in a multitude of variants.

I believe that if we allow ourselves to complexify our emotional and spiritual selves, we can access a plenitude of lessons and untapped trains of thought.

The trick is, we have to actually pay attention to it.

This is a fairly obvious concept, yet it feels very poignant and profound to me. Too often in my life have I found myself deeply entrenched in an ideal, and with that I have subsequently found myself encumbered by the blinders I myself put on. I am this, so that can’t be true or correct. I am that, so this must be a lie.

It’s all divisive and robustly uninspired. COVID-19 is either a thing we must endure, or a thing that can bring about profound change in ourselves. We have to allow ourselves to view it as both, or many things. It is a killer, but also a teacher; it is natural, borne of unnatural circumstances; it is insidious, and yet not necessarily malevolent. If we view this as nothing but a hindrance, or an evil, we miss out on the many things about it for which we can be grateful.

Does a binary make you feel comfortable, or do you feel constrained, suffocated, and pigeonholed? I know my answer to that question, as I am deeply skeptical of our simplified pathways of thinking within the civilization we live. I don’t want to blindly follow any absolute authority, or a singular avenue of truth, no matter how much it may conform to what I would like to believe.

How many facets can you expand upon within yourself? How many truths about you can be true at one time? Look within yourself, and listen to what your body tells you about your state of being: without judgement. Are you lazy, driven, existential, inspired, tired, motivated, triggered, energized, drained, exuberant, depressive, anxious, and calm like me at this moment? How complex is the spectrum of your being? How would you delineate your manifoldness? How beautiful is it to have so much complexity?

And the singular truth to this manifold existence is that while many truths exist at one time, there is, paradoxically, no single truth at all.

Let’s free ourselves from the constraints of singularities and revel in the kaleidoscopic mess of our own individual realities.

We limit ourselves when we decide that one thing is true. We have to severely handicap ourselves and force ourselves to deny any other truths exist. We delimb our capacity to learn, and our beautiful capacity to feel. What a terribly boring way of being.

Don’t incapacitate yourself: liberate yourself by deepening the perception of your many, brilliant facets, multiplicities, and contradictions.

thoughts on the pandemic

How many nights so far have I stared upon the ceiling asking, “What have we done?” “How did we get here?” “Why this?” “Why now?”

A few weeks ago, I spent the majority of my conscious time manifesting and planning my future endeavors: traveling, dedicating my life to learning and art and connection, honing my craft and focusing on my spiritual practices. My dreams and goals were birthed from an idyllic, hazy, infatuated afterglow of my own making: not of this labyrinthian societal collapse of sorts.

I’d made vague plans; clarifying and conferring with the universe to not be so rigid with anything. I had made plans with the intention that things would change, things would shift, and I would have to adapt. I had found comfort in the ambiguity and looked forward to the eventual lessons of “letting go” and relinquishing some level of power to the universe, but I knew there were things within my human control.

It’s humbling to be reminded of the fragile concept of “control”.

Even simple things that were within my control aren’t anymore. My routines have all been disrupted: no more gym, no more skiing, no more visiting loved ones, and even my job feels up in the air despite my bosses’ best efforts.

The grocery stores are mad: shelves empty, frenzied energies of the people you pass by, sure to leave 6 feet of clearance between each other. I don’t breathe around people anymore: I anxiously hold my breath and keep my distance. Am I sick? Are any of us sick yet? It’s impossible to know, unless I wait and wait and wait for the hammer to fall: wait for the unbearable guilt and imagining, the paranoia and distress. Who did I give it to? Who did they give it to after me? Are we all sick?

The government is shutting everything down, my job and future plans are in a complete state of uncertainty and limbo: everything is put on pause. Will it ever really “unpause” though? Will we return to the state of normalcy of a few months ago? I don’t know about you, or anyone else, but I hope not.

Mother Nature has officially sent her warning shot to us all.

What we do following this pandemic will solidify our fate as a species. She’s giving us a small taste of her power, and shown us how truly fallible and fragile we all are. Capitalism? Weak. Governments? Barely holding onto any semblance of stability and order. This plague was borne of a system that is unnatural, unsustainable, and erroneously out of control.

This is pure consequence disguised in mystery: a minor cosmic response to the human saga of our absolute raping and ravaging of the earth. We have scarred and scabbed and picked at these open sores on the earth for far too long: over-populating, polluting, and destroying the only home we’ve ever known. We’ve all speculated that this type of reckoning would come, but how? When? In what form? This is our answer.

This reckoning is a cleansing. Mother Nature is attempting to bring some level of balance back to a world that we have altered through our intellect and lack of foresight. It’s horrible, it’s loss, it’s trauma: but it isn’t cruel. This is the natural order of things in any species that gets too big and unruly: we just collectively (wrongly) assume that we’re immune to the natural order of things because we have taken it upon ourselves to control so many aspects of existence. We’ve set up systems to replace the way that we get food, the way that we get information, the way we survive. It’s easy to get lost in the monotony and not pay attention to our frailty when it’s the only thing we’ve ever known. We’ve had a few things in recent history shake up our conceptions of authority over our lives: but nothing quite like this.

We set ourselves up for this failure, and we have to figure out how to get out of it. We have to keep the momentum going and apply it to every aspect of our humanity. This has been going on for far too long, and Mother Nature has had enough of our parasitism.

This cleansing is more than biological: it is also spiritual.

Everybody has the ability to glean lessons from this pandemic, this experience, this upheaval. We all just have to be awake for them. For me, the universe is teaching me to let go and be brave in the face of powerlessness. It is showing me that we can’t go on like this anymore. It is teaching me continue to pay attention to synchronicities, and to be even more considerate to my fellow human. And I am learning that we all have a chance to rise up from this, and be better than we were before.

We don’t have to return to ourselves exactly as we were: we can come out of this stronger, more resolute, more resilient, more energized, more motivated toward self-improvement and actualization. We can use this as a call to action on every front imaginable.

If you are miserable in your life, now is the chance to mobilize. If you had dreams and goals that seemed crazy, everything is crazy right now: so go on and do it. If you have felt compelled to make a difference in this world, whatever the scale, now’s the time to work toward it. If you want to hold onto some level of control in your world, it might be the perfect time for you to adjust your diet, meditate, pick up fasting, start getting outside every day: whatever feels like a step toward a healthier life. Truly, whatever it is, we are being given an opportunity: a silver-lining.

We can all collectively wake up.

We’ve now finally seen the fragility of the world our ancestors built for us: let’s come out of this, unify, and build a better one.

My name is Maren: a manifesto

I’ve been locked into this idea for a long time that somehow my life was only minimally within my control. These dreams and aspirations I’ve held onto throughout life for something bigger, something greater and more beautiful, were only dreams at the end of the day. I felt different– discontented and dissatisfied with the mundanity of conventional life, but still: it was out of my control to change it. Life would be work with a series of momentary escapes, and that’s the best I could hope for.

Recently, I have decided: fuck that shit.

So here I write a public manifesto, a rambling list of intentions and ideals and prayers to the universe about the path in which I want to be on, remain on, and exist on.

Firstly, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Maren. I’m almost 24 years old, a university graduate, a writer, a poet, a traveler, a reader, a piteous and painful overthinker (also often an exquisite and idealistic overthinker) aspiring psychonaut, healer, therapist, artist, lover, learner, INFP.

I want to open a dialogue about the imperfections of life and humanness. There’s too much “positive vibes only” in modern life and not enough space for true human emotion. Separating from your ego, acknowledging your inner child, engaging with your darkness and learning to understand yourself, all the ugly and all the radiance, are all messy and painful processes, and there aren’t enough people talking about the rawness of that experience.

Writing is a healing tool: I’m holding space for myself here, so anyone who reads can also hold space for me. I’ve got a lot of shit I need to work out and process, as do most people. Maybe we can find some camaraderie in the fuckery, or at least a virtual shoulder upon which to cry, kiss, and laugh.

I’ve struggled off and on with depression and anxiety most of my life, and in the past months I have done a complete overhaul on my mental, physical, and spiritual health. In this blog I may write about exercise regimens that work for me, simple recipes for healthy food that even the worst cook can prepare (me), coping tools and internal mechanisms to help reduce feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and hopelessness, and using psychedelics as soulful medicine, and explorations into other spiritual and creative outlets.

I want to write about being misunderstood and being authentic regardless. I want to write about these mythologized narratives about life that I’ve believed and subsequently unbelieved. I want to write about my experience of this terrifying and incredible world in which we live. I want to write about sex and love, and loveless sex. I want to write about letting go, and holding on. I want to write about loss, grief, joy, exuberance, and abundance. I want to write about these things that I need to heal, and maybe that can help someone else heal too.