The first example I can remember was when my friends and I, nineteen at the time, bought a forty foot long school bus. The idea was so absurd and without precedent, that it seemed impossible. It was like being at a zoo, where you know that you're standing two feet away from a fully grown lion, but the invisible glass separating you prevents it from feeling real. We were ready to hand over cash and sign papers, but it seemed impossible that we would actually own this huge bus. It seemed as though some authority figure would appear out of nowhere and say, "Come on guys, this is ridiculous. Go back to school."
We bought the bus, and the world didn't come crashing down on us. In fact, the normalcy of the transaction, handing over cash for a title and some keys, was striking. What seemed like a big deal really wasn't. Buying the bus turned out to be a fantastic decision, despite everyone else thinking it would be otherwise.
We're a species that thrives on patterns, which is mostly a good thing, but it sometimes prevents us from looking outside society's canon of acceptable patterns. We all fantasize about things that we'd like to do, but then accept that they must be bad ideas because others aren't doing them. We mistake things that aren't being done for things that can't be done or shouldn't be done.
That school bus was a huge lesson for me, and not just because of what we had to learn to remodel it into a road trip vehicle. I learned something more fundamental and important, which has largely guided my life since then. My friends and I had an idea, it was derided as crazy by everyone else, but we did it and it worked out perfectly. For the first time I realized that I could do whatever I wanted to do, and it would be okay.
It's a strange feeling, standing on that precipice. Even now I have some nagging voice in the back of my head that says, "is it really okay that you're doing this?" That's how I felt when my friends and I bought our island, when I moved to LA to live with the pickup artists, when I dropped out of school, and when I sold everything to start traveling. Inevitably, though, I push through that feeling of scary unfamiliarity, and am glad I did.
I believe that this process of discovery and blind faith is one of the fundamental joys of the human experience. We're able to combine our curiosity, self-determination, rationality, and confidence into discovery. Our world has such great infrastructure that even the most outlandish ideas are still within the realm of possibility.
One of the saddest things is seeing people who are too afraid to do things they aren't supposed to do. Everyone you talk to has secret ambitions and fantasies, but so few are actually willing to cross the threshold of unfamiliarity and try to make them happen. Most frustrating is that it only takes one time to have this mini-epiphany and realize that you can actually do, or at least attempt to do, anything you want. The second time is ten times easier because the idea that "everyone else knows best" has been shattered.
If you could do anything, what would you be doing? If you aren't doing it, what makes you so sure it can't be done? And even if it might not be possible, what would you lose by trying?
A friend and I made clay bowls and put them up in the Met Museum in New York. The top picture is a group of visitors looking at them. I bet our "art" was the most photographed art in the whole museum while it was up.
Today's my last day in Puerto Rico! Heading to San Francisco now and then Austin soon for SXSW (not speaking or attending this year, just going to Austin).
One of my favorite movies of all time is Road Trip. It's not exactly the pinnacle of cinematography, and the acting isn't going to win any awards, but it does include a couple of my favorite themes:
1. Ditching school
2. Road tripping
My first experience road tripping was when I graduated from high school. Five friends and I took one of those cool vans ("a REAL van.. this was before all that minivan crap") from Texas to Florida, and then all the way up to Maine. I got off in Massachusetts, but the rest of the crew continued on to Chicago and then back South.
I grew up not wanting to eat animal products and feeling like a freak because of it... It seemed wrong, aren't animals living beings, just like us? I am from TN, I knew where animals and animal products came from... Yuck! Why did people want me to eat that stuff? Good for me? It'll make me grow big and strong? Gross, I didn't want to eat it! Was i the only one who felt this way? Was i as crazy as everyone made me feel? Finally at age 6, living in CA I had a conversation on the city bus with a sweet vegetarian hippy lady. She agreed with me, who would want to eat cute little animals, or big animals, any animal... At last, I saw I wasn't the only one! And that day i added a new word to my growing vocabulary, vegetarian (it would still be years before i learned what vegan was) My mom tried being vegetarian for awhile around this time, it was cheaper for a single mother in the early 80's! It was great, while it lasted... Then for the rest of my childhood I had to listen to adults tell me all the reasons I needed to eat animal products to be healthy. I struggled with my weight for a couple of years as I fought eating meat by eating sweets, it was that or not eating at all. Once I hit my teens, I protested meat almost completely, i was a very unhealthy vegetarian. As a teenage girl, attending modeling school, my eating habits ranged from binge eating to starving myself. I tried to keep my fat intake to under 10 grams a day, per the recommendation of one of my instructors... I had a terribly unhealthy diet, and although I was just over 100 lbs and a size 1 i still saw myself as a chubby little girl (never understood the 'too skinny' comments)... Throughout my childhood, I had a health condition that was growing worse and worse. I had come to view the pain I had as a normal part of life, not realizing what a high tolerance of pain i have. By age 15 I started collapsing to the floor occasionally due to pain, my mother dismissed as stress. By age 17, my senior year in high school, I had moved away from home and began seeking medical advice. My condition was becoming debilitating, I collapsed frequently, symptoms and pain increased on a daily basis. I was misdiagnosed for almost a year! My dresser was covered in bottles of medication, for conditions I didn't have. Doctors would be unable to diagnose me, so they'd treat me for a common issue... What the hell??? It was then that I discovered i react to pretty much every prescription med out there, in the worst possible ways... I went from feeling terrible to wishing i was dead at times! i didn't want to leave the bed. i would attempt to go to school and i'd go running from class nauseous from my morning meds, sometimes i'd collapse on my way to the restroom... I missed a lot of school my senior year... I made it through a few days, but i'd usually collapse at least once. Thanks to an amazing counselor I was able to graduate, my teachers weren't always so understanding about my absences. At age 18, fresh out of high school and very frustrated, i had seen countless Drs, been to the ER, clinics, Urgent Care... No one had any idea what was wrong with me, i was very scared as well... At last, i called my aunt and as we talked SHE diagnosed me with endometriosis. Both she and my grandmother had suffered from it. She had multiple miscarriages due to it, both her and my grandmother had to have an emergency hysterectomy performed after the birth of their 2nd child. Although I had all new fears, i also was relived to know what i was facing. I headed to the library (this was pre-internet) and began researching. Everything I read said to avoid animal products. See! I knew I shouldn't be consuming animal products! I had yet to hear the term 'Vegan" at this point. I attempted to clean up my diet and i found a Dr who actually listened to an 18 year old girl who walked in and said I have endometriosis, what can you do about it? Although there was a bit of a chuckle as he asked why i thought this, he listened... He then scheduled a laproscopic surgery immediately. After the surgery, at my follow up appt, I was shown a video of my surgery. He was amazed I had been able to function at all, my condition was advanced to the point of a lady in her late 30's who had gone untreated all her life... The surgery gave me a clean start and I tried hard to eat healthy. My doctor told me I should try to become pregnant as soon as possible, what??? I was 18 and newly married, and so not ready for kids. He informed me if i waited until i was ready, it could be too late and he said no one is ever ready. I was told that i would most likely need a hysterectomy by age 30 and probably would not have children. I have never liked being told i was unable to do something... Within a year i was pregnant and I felt great while pregnant as well as while nursing, my 2nd child was born when my oldest was 2 1/2. I was able to stay pain free for years! When my 2nd son was about 2 1/2 my pain began to return. I considered becoming part of a test study they were doing on endometriosis, so glad I didn't. i once again tried to clean up my diet, it wasn't easy. My husband was a meat eater and we were living in TN, none the less I tried. My health wasn't great, but I was able to cope. I became pregnant again when my second son was 4 (told you I don't like to be told i can't do something!) I did not continue to eat very healthy... I tried and I cooked a lot, i love to cook! But I also loved sweets and comfort foods, i could spend all day baking. Plus i was still in TN, not eating meat = FREAK! I still tried, and I continually tried to educate myself. No one ever seemed to approve, but i knew that I needed to eliminate animal products from my diet to have optimum health... by the time my daughter was 2 1/2 symptoms were returning... When she was 3 i was put on birth control pills, a common treatment which always had ill effects on me... Within a month i had developed a double pulmonary embolism (I had a massive blood clot in the base of each lung!) I was lucky to be alive... The next few months were hell... I became pregnant again within 5 months of the clots, i was suddenly high risk. They wanted me to give myself injections of blood thinners multiple times a day... anyway, back to CA doctors who didn't view me as high risk and a smooth pregnancy (free of meds!)... I knew I had to change something and really get healthy. I went completely vegetarian before my 4th child turned 1. Within 2 years after that i became vegan. Vegetarian wasn't good enough and even going vegan didn't help... 5 years ago i was bed ridden and getting worse all the time, i couldn't even take part in my children's life. on top of that, i had just gone through a divorce after 14 years of marriage, so i was a single mom, bed ridden... life was not looking good... Luckily I had the internet and met the people I needed to meet. i discovered soy duplicated estrogen exactly! Yikes! that was pure poison to my body and i had been consuming high quantities. i hated soy, but like meat, was told i needed it. I cut soy out, went all organic and continued to research... i now eat primarily raw vegan.
My life has changed considerably... i went from bed ridden 5 years ago, to now working sometimes 7 days a week up to 18 hours a day, and have never felt better! I am a single mother of 5, I own an organic vegan cafe, i absolutely love life and look forward to all that the future holds for me! 5 years ago i feared i had seen the best years of my life. I now know they are still yet to come, for life just gets better all the time...