Someone Else’s Dreams

There’s a girl I follow on Facebook, and read her blog. I’ve known her since she was a little girl (she’s 6 1/2 years younger than me). In the last few years she’s spent the majority of her time in foreign countries, traveling alone. Backpacking through South America for a year, riding her bike from Canada to Mexico on the west coast, and now, cycling through India, before going on to cycle most of Asia. A lithe 20 year old, bent on seeing the world. She’s off having grand adventures and I admit, I get a bit jealous.

Every time I see a new post from Shirine. I start to think how amazing what she is doing is and how not quite as amazing what I’m doing is. It’s amazing how simple and compact she’s made her life. I feel I’ve opted for (comparative) extravagance, instead of real simplicity and the power that comes from trusting other people, and yourself implicitly, having only an outline of a plan and just living life each day. Making your way through life just doing the things you love and nothing that doesn’t get you to that end goal. I’m inspired by her and wish I could do that.

Bird above the Daintree River, Australia

And then I remember that I’ve heard very similar things from people who follow my adventures. And I realize that what I’m doing is it’s own kind of amazing. A rockstar sang me happy birthday. I travelled Australia by myself. I moved alone to Europe… twice. So it makes me happy to think that maybe others think of my adventures the way I think of Shirine’s. Happy because, in a way, we’re all able to find someone to be inspired by.

I started googling cycling blogs, thinking maybe a small trip around Oregon, or across the US. So I could take a chance and strip life down to the bare essentials. As I sat in a hostel in Cairns, a tropical storm blowing outside, thousands of miles from home thinking how much more interesting my life would be if.. if what? I followed her dreams? I’m astounded by this young woman who lives so simply. I want to find that inner tranquility that allows me to let go of the material and the pandering of the media and simply live. Live simply. But as the night and storm rolled on it hit me: the nitty gritty of what she wants is not what I want.

As much as biking through a foreign land for a year sounds like an amazing escape, it is just that, an idea, an escape. It wouldn’t be a way of life for me, as it is for her, for me it would be running and pretending to be someone else (albeit someone awesome). So as I sat on my my bed in a hostel in Cairns, reveling in my decision to upgrade to a single room for the week and wishing it wasn’t the middle of the night at home so I could call and talk to someone about just what things I should look at. I’m looking at my life wondering, what can I let go? What can I cut out to get down to the essence of who I am? What things can I give away, what things do I still need to live the life I want?

The things that made up the core of my life settled around me. Those ideas echoing through me as I continued on. friends. new opportunities. saying yes. dance. new places. kindred souls. honesty. art. being present. photography. good food. writing.

following my dreams.
and making sure they’re mine,
and not someone else’s.


The Person I Want(ed) to Be

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

Dance on the beach at Cape Tribulation, Australia

It’s such a simple thought.

Of course the way we spend each day is the way we spend our lives. Most of us look at a future someday as say I want to be the kind of person who… fill in your own blank. And then we continue on the way we are, not changing to actually be the kind of person who… We continue to imagine that one mystical day, in a far off, but maybe not so far off future, we will be that person

And it’s funny how I imagined
That I could be that person now
But that’s not what I want
But that’s what I wanted
And I’d be giving up somehow
How strange to see
That I don’t wanna be the person that I want to be

– from In My Mind by Amanda Palmer

We want to be a type of person in the future at some point, but as we grow we change who we are and who we want to be evolves as well. The things that are important to us morph and change. By the time we reach a point in our lives where we thought we would a certain kind of person doing certain kinds of things we realize that sometimes we’re trying to force ourselves into an idea of the ideal that no longer resonates.

Every time I dance my heart opens up and I feel whole. I feel like there is nothing better than continuing to dance until my body says no more. I want to be the kind of person who spends their life dancing, making a difference through dance. So I dance.
I sacrifice other things, travel, social opportunities, sleep. But I dance.

In the words of Amanda Palmer, fuck yes, I’m exactly the person that I want to be.

Maybe not exactly, but I’m the kind of person who is working to do all the things that I want, the things that matter. Realizing what things are really just something I’d like to say I do, and realizing the things that actually matter to me. And I think that is exactly who I want to be. I don’t want to be the same person for the next fifty years. I know that I want to be eighty and still dancing. I want them to take me aside like they did with Martha Graham and quietly ask me to not dance as much anymore. Maybe by then I’ll have wisdom to impart on a new generation of the people who move and shake society. I want to be the kind of person who is always striving to do the things that make me happy and letting go of the things that don’t. To be the kind of person who is strong enough to pick which emotions I spend my energy on and letting go of the ones that don’t give me something back. So that in that eventual someday, the way in which I spent my days is how I wanted to spend my life.

holding onto an idea tangles it

I’m right in the middle of my mid-twenties and part of me looks at my contemporaries with their jobs right out of college, a stable life, a large group of friends in one city. Part of me looks at them and wishes with every fiber that I had that.

But then again, I’m in my midst of my mid-twenties and I look at my contemporaries and am glad that I haven’t settled into a routine; my life is full of unpredictability and my friends are on nearly every content.

Not much better than this on a saturday afternoon. <3 #dance

Then it comes that being glad that I don’t know where this life is going or what exactly I’m doing next, I have a very complicated set of decisions to make. Where do I want to be? What do I want to be doing? How soon can I make this happen? What will this set me up for next?

The answers to those questions determine the arc of my next adventure. Where it starts and what paths I might come across. Each decision is a step on the path that takes us past some paths and closer to other paths. No matter which paths we take they keep going. Some days it’s good to simply look at what is directly in front of you, and not worry about what’s obscured around the next bend.

So on days I dance I see this –>
an empty studio, filled with music and people paying more attention to how they move and what their body is doing than most people do in an entire week. When you dance you have yourself and the shoes on your feet. Negotiating any move is a constant series of minute adjustments that require a concentration that never leaves the room. It’s a concentration so self-aware that everything around you narrows in to focus. It stretches and condenses to form a tunnel with clear steps. For an hour, or two, or three life makes sense.

To dance well you have to clear your mind of everything else outside of the moment you are in. Whatever struggles you face are immediate and often within yourself. When you dance you are the master of your body. The intense focus needed is a wild river that washes all other thought downstream, waiting to be picked up later. After your mind has been cleared, you can see everything from before approaching, but you have a moment, or maybe an hour before it gets to you. You can make an attempt at sorting through and organising your thoughts. Sometimes ideas become untangled and instead of problems lying on the banks you find solutions.

That isn’t to say that because I dance I have it all figured out, or that dance will give this gift of (temporary) clarity to everyone. Most likely there is something in each of our lives that allows us to let the world slip away and pick it back up again when we’re through. I believe it’s extremely important that people find a way to express themselves, release all the complicated emotion that builds up and completely immerse themselves in something. I dance; it allows me to gather around me a sense of self-awareness that I can use to negotiate the unconventional path I’ve chosen. Unconventional in that I’m not looking for a career and I’m less concerned about accruing economic capital than someone with student loans of this side should be. After a sense of necessity and responsibility, whimsy takes over. I move from place to place, using seemingly magical means, like the internet, to keep in contact and keep organised. I’m never in one place too long, not really, not compared to those around me. I do what makes me happy, as often as I can. Knowing what those things are and acting upon that knowledge may be the most unconventional thing that I do.

paths, life and a few instructions

I’ve been meaning to write for a few days, but in my post-dissertation state I haven’t found the words I wanted to say. So I waited. It seems strange to look back and think that I’ve completed my MA and have my life spread out before me, that I don’t quite know which path I’ll choose next and for the first time in my life this doesn’t scare me.

Having a solid plan with articulated goals and knowing my next step has been something that has defined me for a very long time. Working my way through school it was very easy to keep up this façade of surety. A was of course followed by B and C. Jumping off that track and into the world not knowing where I was going terrified me. I gave it a trial run in France and went running back to school to get my masters. I stuck to what I knew, but kept on exploring. On our first day our professors joked that the course would sometimes feel a bit like soul-searching that more than half of us would end up crying in a tutorial and several of us might even completely change what we set out to do. Naïve, we laughed.

I’m not afraid to be the first to admit that the program felt more like a personal journey than school at times – but when you’re working on creating a business centred around who you are as a person it becomes very hard to ignore what being that person means. There was an entire tutorial I spent crying and I know for a fact that I spent a lot of time growing. I knew where I was and what I was doing wasn’t working for me, so I removed myself from the situation. This summer, when I was supposed to be knee deep in research I took a month for myself and relocated to Copenhagen to dance. The decision meant much more to me than I thought it would.

By summer I had found solid ground beneath my feet again and by the time I came back from Copenhagen something had shifted inside me. I knew early on this spring that I was on the edge of something life changing. Instead of one massive smack-in-the-face instant where I realised something a series of tiny ticks like a cog slowly turning started up. By the time I returned to London the future wasn’t an impending problem to be solved or something to be feared. Still sometimes it’s nice to have some instructions, and as my life seems so surreal sometimes, this seems apt:

(my favorite author reading his poem Instructions)

2 years on

For all my intentions to make Wednesday a day away from the world it didn’t happen. Life keeps moving on and I’m learning that’s the lesson to be learned by so many experiences. My plan had been to curl up with some cookies, milk and a viewing of Far and Away – despite the bad accents. In memory of my mom who had passed away two years ago to the day.

I found myself instead confronted with every aspect of my life, everything that’s going right and that I’m making happen. During class I presented my theories on social media to what I can only describe as a very interested audience. After that my roommate and I ran all over south London sorting out papers and money for our flat that we move into next week. During my two hours of down time I opened up an email from CB full of links to silly YouTube videos. Then i rushed off to rehearsal, where even though things weren’t perfect we finished and filmed our dance. I have the feeling this is just the first of many Dead Dog Dance projects.
I’ve been noticing things lately. A love of healthy food, choosing water over soda… I just ate a bran muffin. I have a thing for this long thing cardigans that I’m pretty sure I made fun of my mother for wearing. I stay up late and get up early. I like the move Far and Away (as a child I thought it boring). Community and communication are very important to what I do. I’ve stopped caring what other people think of me. Happiness has little to do with money and everything to do with who is in your life. I like sweet potato and things like lentils and bulgur wheat. I prefer dark breads to white bread. I don’t mind the laugh lines that are showing up, and I see her smile on my face.

I think there’s more of my mom in me now than before, or than I was willing to admit. I wanted to write this yesterday, and I did, but it never left my head. Life doesn’t go as planned, but it does go on. And sometimes, even in the bittersweet and painful times, the beauty and wonder shines through.