A few months ago, I did a thing.
I gathered up all of my possessions, tossed the big ones into storage, packed the small ones into my Nissan Rogue, and left. I waved goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles, its polluted pink sunsets and palm tree horizons, and the late nights dancing in Venice Beach bars. It was an idea I had considered for months, and with some tiny bursts of encouragement, transformed into action.
I built a bed in my car and lived in that. I camped in National Parks and bathed in lakes. I wrote poems and ate canned black beans mixed with pico de gallo. The experience of both worlds, living in Los Angeles and among the stars, introduced me to new flavors of loneliness. Despite the overwhelmingly high population of the city, I felt alone, even when I drove down a congested highway, or slept next to another warm body. I can’t explain where this came from, but I felt as though I was consistently by myself, perhaps on a new mental plane, or wandering a path that was only true in rumors. That was both scary and endearing.
On the road loneliness felt like warm mud. I liked the sense of isolation that washed over me as I looked onto the red horizon, counting the dust molecules as they lofted across the windshield and Iron and Wine’s “Lovesong of the Buzzard” tumbled out of my speakers. Yeah, I met folks. An older gent in a coffeeshop took one look at me and said, "you're a libra, aren't ya?" (I am.) I sang campfire songs with a team of high schoolers in quiet Lake Wallowa. I wasn't a hermit. Still, I knew I was on my own, really, truly. Out of the loneliness grew independence, and from that, bravery.
I feel as though bravery is similar to a muscle, something we need to exercise and feed. When I graduated college, my bravery muscle was weak. I felt like I was only safe if I had control over the unknown, which we all learn, is impossible. I wanted to know where I should work, what I should be “doing with my life,” what I should believe in, who I should love, etc…It was exhausting!
I asked myself the same questions that came from middle school guidance counselors, “what are you passionate about?” and I couldn't figure that out. I was passionate about drinking wine in hotel room plastic cups, holding hands, laughter, and buttering a maple scone. But in order to translate the beauty of my passions, I need a tool. I needed words.
In this time of melancholic loneliness and unrest, language was like a friendly pup. It was always there, always loving. Putting pen to paper (or hand to keyboard) was the only way I could understand the swarm of feelings fluttering in my heart and the pounding voices that took hold of my brain reigns. Magic came with words, these little utensils that had been there for me since I was a small child and traced my starfish hand across the pages of a Richard Scary book.
Writing. Communication, as honest as I could make it.
I made this blog and wondered what it should be. I worked a few jobs, here and there. I made gluten-free macaroni, picked up dry cleaning, and played "Strawberry Factory." I worked at concert venues, with start-ups, and on reality TV sets. I ate a mountain of peanut butter sandwiches, I poured lattes, and cappuccinos, and americanos, and cold brew, and tea.
On my road trip, I took a month-long break in Portland, and at the end of the month, found I wasn't ready to leave. I stayed and ate roasted sweet potatoes and drank white wine while watching children climb plastic houses, their parents with pints of beer. They shared news of the family’s plans for a fire pit. I imagined one day owning a fire pit, and worked, worked, worked. I road my bike on the weekends and fetched lunches during the week. I wrote a play, a few poems, and on a napkin.
I went to a wedding where a dance turned into an upward spiral of butterfly-filled text messages and spontaneous weekend visits.
I wrote about that, too.
I stayed up until midnight copying scripts and writing scripts and editing scripts and wondering why my scripts were not good and what was good and how I could be better, and if ambition leads to negative self talking, is it worth having?
I wondered if the method used in Whiplash was practical.
I wondered if I was soft. And then I thought about how soft a homemade marshmallow is, and when I went home for Christmas, I ate them in hot chocolate and my mother and I laughed.
I watched one of my dogs die in my mother’s arms while I held my younger dog, who stared at the Christmas tree, and thought “I am glad to be soft.”
I swapped writing at night for two (sometimes three) hour phone conversations and told myself that life, when lived, made me very happy.
I looked at this picture and immediately wanted to cheers its creator with a tall and frothy beer.
I decided never to ask my writing to be solely responsible for my income. She smiled when I said that, and now we play on the swings and bake bread and drink wine on the floor. I believe in unconditional love because it exists with her.
I fell in love with Portland and I fell in love with a man not in Portland and I left Portland to move back to smoggy Los Angeles, with its polluted pink sunsets and palm tree horizons, and late night walks alongside the jasmine trees. The desert land.
Los Angeles had an unusual winter, lots of rain. Did you know that all that rain made for a very lush spring? Just the other week we went to the Antelope Poppy Reserve, where we brought a blanket and a bottle of champagne and grapes and little sandwich wraps. I watched this man pop the champagne in a field of flowers while my friend’s dog ran and the poppies licked my ankles and the bubbles sprang from the glass.
Before I went to Los Angeles, I went to another beach, Flamenco. I was running through the shallow part of the surf, my feet on white sand and the clearness of the water so perfect I could see the white grains on the painted red of my toes. At one point, when I just so happened to be looking down, I saw a sand dollar. It was sitting in the water, inarguably visible and perfect. The beach was popular, so it couldn’t have been there long. I took it home with me, and in less than 36 hours, broke it in my hands. I was sad, very sad, but used this as a reminder that nature is fragile, and I am strong. I keep the pieces in a box to remind me of the importance of benignity. I kept the box with me when I drove from Portland back to Los Angeles, waving goodbye (if that, even) to a different range of mountains.
In these weeks, I got a job. Earned, I should say, because it did not come easy, but required work and commitment, and will surely require more work and commitment, but it will be of the writing kind, and for that, I am very, very, very grateful.
I found that the desert, with its complicated romanticism and history of love and death and life, is a good home for now. I like walking on clear nights to get tacos and margaritas, I like loving, I like showing this small child the wind chimes, I like knowing that the world is big.
Perhaps I am writing all this to remind others that writing is fun, and life, unexpected. I spent the last three years planning and fretting, only to realize that most things, the best things, arrive out of nowhere. Life can not be "figured out," only explored, whether you are in one city or ten. There is adventure in our brains and our hearts as much as there is in the physical world. There is delight in our bodies, the earth, conversation. I hope now, three years into the post-grad and still learning, I can remember that words can exist for pleasure and laughs and insanity and graham cracker kisses and magnolias.
I can’t see much, but I can see that.