Ramblings from an Open Road at 3 AM

Driving south down highway 65 going 65. It’s the middle of the night, or early morning, however you choose to look at it; and I haven’t slept yet because I left Summerfest at 10 in the evening after 9 full days of skydiving. I’m on my way back to Paraclete and I just dropped my friend off at the airport. My social badwidth is maxed out and all of my daily habits have gone out the window and part of me wants to beat myself up for that but I can’t. I dropped everything else in my life to skydive more than I ever have in a 9 day span and connect with friends from all over and it was well worth it! The entire week I got to do a lot of firsts and learned so much from some of the best skydivers in the industry. Summerfest is basically an adult camp for skydivers. It merges the festival vibe of my past, except during the day we jump and in the evenings, there is entertainment, activities, theme nights, or music. I reminisce about what it was like to spend my University summers traveling and car camping with friends as I hopped from music festival to music festival, and my thoughts drift once again to the comparisons between the subcultures of scuba divers and skydivers too- whether it be the industry or the types of people both sports attract. I feel blessed for my experiences. Every experience brought me lessons, people, and newfound direction or inspiration. I feel positively lit up with the courage that I continuously find to push myself into new places that make this journey everything it has been. It dawns on me that a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to attend a skydiving “boogie” (festival for skydivers) without partaking in more of the party than the skydiving and then I smile to myself for the gifts I consciously and continuously give myself by taking care of me. At 33 years old I am starting to look back through the cycles of my life and see the parallels that got me here. I can identify my own patterns and triggers. Every time I am faced with triggers now I ask myself, “what wound is this revealing to me?” This year I learned how to identify people’s projections and now I no longer assume anything has to do with me and I cannot tell you how freeing this realization has been! My thoughts drift from Thailand to Mexico to Indonesia… from sailing yachts to boat crews, from this little van I now call home to the many places I’ve called “home” this last decade. I think of the friends that made bigger impacts on my life and choices than they think (and I realize I should tell them that). I think of the friendships that made up my whole world for brief moments in time and I tear up and then smile when I acknowledge how good I’ve gotten at goodbyes.

The moon is still on the eastern horizon lighting up my drivers side window as the hum of the highway rolls on. My body feels exhausted but my soul feels so full. I’m trying to process my experience and I feel the urge to keep driving even thought it may be a wiser choice to pull over at this point. But my head is too full of emotions and I feel like I’m swimming in experiences, soaking up the life I’ve gotten to live and the humans who have inspired me to live it. My senior quote said, “I believe in the pure randomness of it all, and I love that no one escapes, and that it can happen to anyone at anytime- pain, confusion, happiness… even love” and that quote still hits me in the most vulnerable of human moments… where I sometimes think I’m alone for a second, and then I am reminded again that I’m not. I want to mourn for all the people who don’t feel they have anyone that truly understands them, who wants to accept them for who they are. I have humbly learned that if we want the best for people we should just support them and love the fuck out of them and then see what happens. It’s all we really need and we cause pain every time we try to project what we think is best onto another. I think about the human capacity to love and give and receive love. Then I think of all the things we call love but aren’t… about how our love can be so conditional… “I love you IF” and then I smile knowing love isn’t conditional because if it is then it isn’t love. I think about relationships, or as a light in my life calls them- relationSHAPES. About the shape we assume in another’s life and then continue to show up as, long after we’ve morphed into something else. It can be terrible… the way we fall short of loving each other, in the way we pretend like we don’t deal with all if it too, carry all of it in different ways… all the stuff that isn’t ours… and how we let it define us. Sometimes we forget that relationships take many different shapes, and loving people isn’t going to be easy. Allowing all shapes and giving space for transformation allows us to blossom into the best kinds of people.

I cringe at all the places I looked for love in, coming back to the hands that hurt me and asking for healing. Have you ever begged to be loved better? Have you ever watched yourself transform into someone you didn’t recognize trying to fit into a box that will only suffocate you? Have you ever woken up and said, “how is this my life?” The word “stuck” lingers on my tongue and my mouth feels dry. It has always made me irritated when people use the word and that’s a projection of my own- I, more than most I think, dread feeling stuck. I have never wanted to be tied down to anything. The pursuit of freedom has lead me to keep moving and I don’t question stopping because I am not stuck. I am not a tree. So maybe I am a bit cynical of the people that complain about being stuck when they made choices that got them stuck and refuse to do the work to get “un-stuck”… I have spent too much time now wandering and listening to people’s stories to know that we have far more control than we think we do over our lives. I feel like people are full of excuses. The happiest people I ever met had the least possessions and obligations, they live minimal lifestyles either by choice or by circumstance but they don’t always need to be entertained. The happiest people I know are out their living their lives without comparing them to others. The happiest people I know have crawled out of dark places and allowed me to see the resilience of my own spirit when I felt like my body wasn’t my own.

My hand feels sweaty on the steering wheel and my thoughts drift to the sweetness that I have held and experienced. “When you travel overseas it really makes you appreciate being an American”… the words many have echoed to me over the years and that most of the time I choose to ignore. For the most part I disagree. My thoughts drift to the simplicity of life in what we would call “developing countries” and I think about the daily rituals of the people there. Watching the Thais carry offerings outside every morning to their immaculately built mini temples and adorning the stone carvings with flowers and incense. I would watch them kneel and pray and I would think about how my country lacks such devotion and connection to spirit. The monks would walk the street barefoot and people would weave out of the way. Touching a monk is considered offensive. Then I think about how lucky I am to be born when I was, under a crescent moon just like tonight’s, in a time where I have the luxury and privilege of living my life the way I desire. My heart feels heavy in my chest when I think of the hardships that many endured and sacrificed so that I could travel freely about the world as a woman, feeling safe amongst it’s people. I haven’t traveled anywhere without seeing the pangs of colonization reflected back by it’s landscapes. Life would’ve been so much simpler if we had all kept to ourselves and it baffles me the violence and war that plagued our world and stripped us of culture, nature, traditions and simplicity. Capitalism. Globalization. Colonization. Genocide. We really have everything we need on this planet but for some reason we’re still fighting over resources… For some reason we continue to deny our shared humanity. I feel the guilt and pain of my ancestors as I stand on different continents with such an ease of spirit as I travel… and then I am reminded that they sacrificed to build a world that would be better, realizing they’d never get to see it. I wonder if it came down to it if I’d be a hero. I mean, we all want to think we will but we don’t really know how we will respond to life until we’re in that moment. “Humans!” I think to myself and then I sigh. I’ve been looking for a rest stop for over an hour but my brain races on anyways and I just keep vibing on the fact that I’ll find one when the time is right.

My mind jumps to Chantal, my boss in Thailand for almost 3 years. Her and her husband owned the dive shop I worked at and grew up at. I say “grew up” because if it wasn’t for Kevan and Chantal, I wouldn’t be the instructor I am today. They pushed me, they challenged me, and they made me a better woman. They taught me to take responsibility, to be assertive… I remember Chantal looked at me once and told me I had a problem with female authority figures. I wanted to be defensive and if I remember correctly, I was. But she was right. It has taken me my adult life to trust the depth of female friendships and to not feel threatened by women with more authority than me. I spent most of my life joking that I got on better with men than women and striving to not be “like other girls”. How insulting! To separate myself from other women! I learned so much from the women in my life and especially from the women I’ve met overseas. It has given me a perspective on masculinity and femininity that I didn’t possess before. I own my feminine nature now, instead of denying it. I revel in wanting to be held in my depths and no longer hold back my urge to be expressive about how I feel. I think of all the women who never got to speak up, or chase their dreams, or reach their fullest potential. I think about the way I’ve not honored other women and the gifts they had for me because I wasn’t ready to be seen in my fullness yet. I laugh at how my purpose has become so much about uplifting women now (coincidentally) and I see my life pan out… I see the way my healing has given me the tools to help others heal. I love how we can find our purpose from our pain- because the journey back to ourselves, back to our human-ness is really what this life is about. Isn’t it?

It’s probably not the right time to think about one’s life purpose but then again there isn’t really a better place to think about how to leave the world better than an open highway at 3 am. I start to cry at my ability to meet myself wherever I am. I thank myself for this body and this human experience and this hunger to meet the world that has driven me since I was young. My dad always told me that the world was my oyster, and I think I heard it so often that it became my mantra. He really made me feel like I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. He used to say, “little miss magic- whatcha gonna be?” As we sang along to Jimmy Buffett and I allowed my head to fill up with dreams. I think little girls need to know that they can dream before the world tries to tell them they cannot. I believed so strongly in the possibility of the world- it was instilled in me. And that belief became my mantra. It allowed me to leap when the opportunity presented itself and it allowed me to just as easily walk away when it no longer felt right. I guess I’ve always been blessed with an abundance mindset, and maybe that’s why I don’t feel scarcity so greatly. I do believe we have a dharma to walk and I think we have forgotten that life is meant to be lived but also served. I think our experiences shape us into the humans we’re meant to be but we cannot let the pain live with us forever. Our pain becomes our purpose or it stagnates us into that stuck place we dread. And at the thick of all of it is a choice to heal or a choice to suffer. Sometimes I miss how naive that little girl was but then I feel thankful to see the world more clearly than I ever have.

I think about how fear has been my biggest teacher… about how people always tell me how brave I am to travel solo, or skydive, or scuba dive or cave dive. “Aren’t you scared!?” They always exclaim, as if it’s an emotion I haven’t experienced. It seems like such a silly question to me. I mean, yea… of course! Aren’t you classified as a psychopath if you don’t experience fear? We act like fear is a bad thing and we strive for comfort instead. I don’t know where we learned that though, I think fear comes from so many variables and we can ease it by understanding them… but I also acknowledge that life is uncertain and I don’t want to let fear dictate my life. If I hadn’t been willing to to face my fears I wouldn’t be sitting here crying in gratitude for all the face down moments I’ve experienced… hands to my knees… fetal position on the floor… desperation… to want to make sense of this life we’re given and do it in a way that doesn’t make me feel like my spirit is shattering under the weight of the life I’m not living. I want to continue to seek the things that make my soul whisper, “this” and I want to stay a little longer in the places that make me feel at “home”. Ufffff…. my mind feels heavy and I feel emotional and now I’m sobbing as I watch the lights from the road flicker under my tears. Sometimes the water flows at the most symbolic of moments, and as I squint at the road the time reads 4:44 and I stop crying and I start laughing. It’s these little moments of sweetness that make me want to fill up pages of words and continue to be brave when I feel small.

The last week and a half has given me a “reset” that I didn’t know I needed. I realize that I love scuba diving and skydiving for the same reason… because when you’re doing those things, nothing else matters. When I enter a decorated and open room that glitters with stalagtites after hours through a cave system, exploring a new area- there is a sense of wonder that comes with it- the ah ha moment of being somewhere and seeing something so few have. It is the ultimate lesson in mindfulness. When I fly around in the sky with my friends with my parachute on, I’m not thinking about the shitty day I had or the people I’ve lost, I’m just right there, in that moment. And, in those moments, you feel infinite. As soon as I take that first breath from my regulator under water, and the surface starts to disappear, I am fully present in my body and not the stimulation of the world. Every time I resist stepping on my mat, I have a moment in my practice where I want to cry because I finally find my way back into my body and my own energy after absorbing so much of the world’s. It’s THESE moments that assure me that I will be okay. And sometimes that’s all we need- a reminder that we always have been, and we always will be okay. Sometimes we only need to remember that fear is a constant, but that we cannot let it stop us from changing our own lives for the better. No one ever sat on their death bed wishing they’d NOT done anything, I think. So I guess I will continue to allow myself to do what I want and what calls me, because that’s what I want for everyone else.

I see a rest stop ahead and I feel relief. I realize that I have so much to process from this experience and I know that more realizations are coming. I allow myself to pull over and lazily move everything around as I get ready to sleep. Weary-eyed. The connections from this experience overwhelm me as I lay down and I take one look around my van and smile one last time before my eyes close at a rest stop somewhere outside Indianapolis.

When letting go is what is kind.

Six months ago I was packing up my house in Playa and moving in with my partner at the time because of Covid and the lockdown that was happening in Mexico. It seemed like the right move (optimism despite a rough year), but 2 weeks in we called it quits and I flew back to the States a month later. It wasn’t a bad breakup but it was a relationship we spent the last year fighting for and couldn’t come to any new conclusions… the more we tried the less it made sense… we couldn’t fit ourselves into a relationship we had outgrown any longer. So, we made the tough choice to walk away & even though it was painful, we did it with kindness in the end… as much as we could stiffen in the difficult moments anyways. We had moved back in together but the uncertainty of the world and our individual needs pulled us apart. Holding on felt too hard when we couldn’t even be there for each other anymore. The kindest thing we did for ourselves and each other was to let go, but it wasn’t easy.

I loved and learned more in those 4 years but also got shown my worst side… so I could heal, so I could get sober, and he was a part of all of that. He opened the door to my darkness and he is where the real shadow work began so saying bye to him felt like letting go of someone that knew my past and had played an active role in watching me heal, and it felt like a loss that still feels hard to describe… because 6 months later the love still exists. Love doesn’t just go away, it isn’t conditional— and I learned that sometimes… the most loving thing we can do, is let another go, no matter how much we love them. You can love someone so much and still know that person isn’t good for you. I learned this year that love isn’t enough; and for someone that believes in love in all moments, it felt heartbreaking. But moving in this new understanding now, allows me to start asking myself what I want for my future (and what that looks like for me). I’m still learning what that is… and how it feels in this new world… but the lessons keep coming and I’m thankful to be seeing so much clearer now than I was.

After leaving V (my ex) in Mexico and returning to the States, I had no idea what life was going to look like for me in the US and I felt a lot of uncertainty returning given current world affairs. Honestly I felt safer overseas! But the smart choice in that moment was to move back and my incentive for doing so was the freedom I’d have to live in my van, work on and build my online business and start to focus on the passion projects I’ve been wanting the time to birth. It seemed like I was being pulled back across the border & it felt like the universe was going to help me sort it out, plus… tourism in Mexico meant my future as a dive instructor was a bit unstable. The waves of change brought me back and 3 days after arriving my home state of Minnesota witnessed the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD and well… I think we all know what’s happened since then…

The protests and political division in my home country also brought about an incredible amount of tension within my own family and my personal life. This heartbreak felt suffocating and hasn’t since been reconciled. I grew up with an incredibly privileged lifestyle and a family who was supportive of my lifestyle and dreams, despite the fact that our paths and beliefs became more and more different as I got older. Somewhere along the line, our family curse of sweeping things under the rug came to a head and we haven’t found a way to open the line of communication since. The world is full of division right now, especially amongst families. I’ve always thought we could find common ground on other things, but I’m having a hard time disagreeing over human rights or the rights of women and other marginalized peoples. Losing my partner and adventure buddy of 4 years on top of my family shortly after felt like the rug being ripped out from under me. At the same time I was mourning the loss of my lover I was grieving with my nation and my Black brothers and sisters and then my family… it felt like bricks… It isn’t that we believe differently, I’m not 5 years old! Unfortunately, things were said and done that will take time to heal and will forever change our relationship. My sobriety and my healing has led me on a path of radical honesty and acceptance within my own life and I ask the same of the people I love. I don’t think this is unreasonable. Right now a lot is being asked of us that we’ve never experienced before and if you’re struggling with those you love, stand in love and stand in what you value. As long as you do those two things, you will never regret being true to yourself.

I know none of this is easy & I have it easy easier than most. I recognize my privilege in this world and the more I’ve moved about it and traveled the last 8 years, the more I’ve realized that all humans deserve access to food, water, education and healthcare. This realization shocked me because I never saw human rights as something someone should have to “realize”, and I was ashamed at the things my privilege (and the narrative I was taught) simply hadn’t allowed me to see. When I discuss my privilege I’m not just talking about class privilege but also white privilege, the privilege to be able bodied, to have a University degree, + to be heterosexual (passing). Understand, I’m a girl from a small Minnesota town and a well to do Republican family— speaking out against the narrative that has allowed me so much privilege is hurting the people that have given me everything in this world. To them it feels like an attack on a lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the option of living if it wasn’t for the privilege I was raised in… and the opportunities it gave me over others. Speaking out and voting against a system that disproportionately benefits me seems like a smack in the face to the people who gave it to me… it feels unappreciative and entitled. But dismantling the system that works in my favor is exactly the work that needs to be done because I believe and have seen that there are better ways. I don’t have the answers and I don’t claim to, but I believe in communities and people as a whole to do better, and be better. I believe that by lifting others, we all rise. I believe that how a first world country treats it’s poorest citizens says a lot about that country and it’s morality. I believe in having the difficult conversations and confronting the ways in which our activism may fall short on extending to all peoples. I am so thankful for the education I was given that has allowed me to confront my own privilege and the access I have ((my autonomy and ability to move about the world)).

I think if we don’t use our privilege to open up space to others with less than we aren’t actively engaging in the world; and I intend to use mine to make the world a better place. Having these conversations for the last 14 years since my degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and traveling extensively has given me a lens vastly different than the one I grew up with. Despite my relationship with my family now, they raised a strong, independent and educated woman who happens to believe fundamentally and morally different things than them… and no matter what, I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I have the balls to do what I do, if it wasn’t for them and the safety net my privilege has provided. I am still uncovering more layers of healing that need to be done but I can only take responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life, I’m standing in opposition to my family and although it doesn’t seem like much can be done right now, I have faith in the future. I think we can always find common ground as humans, even if that means creating new boundaries so there can be a relationship. I think this sentiment goes for everyone… letting go and boundaries have been my two biggest lessons this year and I acknowledge that my healing here isn’t linear.

I’m not going to lie, the last 6 months have been really hard on my heart. They have tested my values, my voice, my convictions, and my integrity. I have been challenged more than ever before and I am so thankful to have sobriety, self development, and a level head through it all. Because of this, I feel fortunate… fortunate that the universe has given me these tough times when I have the tools to move through them. I feel fortunate to have invested in my own health and sobriety and to have a strong community of supportive friends and coworkers behind me. I feel fortunate to have the space and privilege in this world to stop and reflect on my place and impact within it. I feel fortunate. Period. Even though there are days the grief creeps up on me, I remind myself that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I remind myself that I am blessed to live the life I do and I pick myself back up, even if it takes me awhile.

In these moments of turbulence that has been 2020 I am being faced with the opportunity to stay small and comfortable for fear of being difficult, or to use my voice and my platform in a positive way. I choose the latter. We are all being pushed into uncomfortable situations and instead of fighting them why don’t we ask ourselves where the resistance comes from and start looking inside. I keep asking myself over and over, “what is the most loving thing I can do here”, and then I do that… and “loving” doesn’t always mean easy… it means what is kind, what is in alignment, what is in our best interest. & sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go…

converting to the #vanlife

I’ve been wanting an old VW van for years now. Two summers ago I started looking online a bit more seriously but of course it was still just out of curiosity. I had been entertaining the idea of having one so that when I came back to the US to visit I would have something to live in and travel in. Flash forward to March and I get a message saying that my dad and a buddy of his had purchased a mint condition ’83 Westy from Colorado. My dad’s friend Peter mostly wanted it for tailgating U of M football games seasonally and my dad just thought it was a fun thing to have. I almost lost my mind when I got the photos and saw the new purchase! Since I now had free reign to use it as long as Peter wasn’t needing it I decided that I would drive her around when I came back towards the end of the summer.

I found out about 2 months before I got back stateside that it was a manual. Something my father failed to mention in the beginning, surely on purpose because there is no way he could forget that I still couldn’t drive one because he tried to teach me when I was 15. He came home from work one day and said, “meet me in the car in 10 minutes”. When I opened the driver’s side door he was sitting in the passenger seat with a full face snowmobile helmet on. Haha, really funny Dad! I probably stalled it about 5 times just leaving the driveway and about 8 miles down the road stalled it out on a left hand turn, got stuck in the middle of the road, panicked when the cars lined up, and bailed into the backseat in a fit of tears and stubborn teenage hormones. Dad had to get out of the car, walk around to the drivers seat, the whole while wearing that ridiculous helmet and waving at the traffic apologetically. I refused to ever try again because it was “too hard” and I “wanted an automatic”. Today I would kill for that Subaru Outback, but 15 year old me thought differently.

So what’s a girl to do when she gets her dream van at the age of 28 but it happens to be a manual? Well put her pride away, laugh, and get behind the wheel obviously! Then naturally a week later take it across the country to Burning Man in Nevada! Nothing forces you to learn quickly like a cross country roadtrip! So I’m back in the States, finally stumbled across some BM tickets, and now have 3 days until I embark. My boyfriend taught me how to drive a 6 speed jeep deep in the jungle of Mexico, so I was a little bit familiar and knew the basics already. But nothing had prepared me for this old lady! She’s a finicky 4 speed with gears that can be very tricky to drive, let alone find! As my father told me, “if you can drive this thing, you can drive anything”. I have spent the last few days practicing on hills, taking mom to lunch, driving to friend’s houses, and just generally driving around trying to get comfortable. I’ve learned that I tend to drop the clutch much too fast, which has gotten some laughs and cheers when pulling out of busy gas stations with 2 hops and a peel out before we start rolling. I’ve been laughing uncontrollably when I have to wave people around me because I can’t find first gear and it’s still revving itself in neutral. Oops!

I spent yesterday driving around with a girlfriend who knows how to drive a stick and learned living in a busy city. It was raining out and we spent the whole day doing laps through town and parking in my parents or my brother’s driveways. We would just hang out in the van, laugh, and talk about all the things we could do to it. I’ve got a solid list going to get her Burning Man ready and it all hit me yesterday how absolutely amazing and in love with the van I am. I’m still trying to come up with a name for her but we are convinced it’ll come when ready! I’m doing the drive out by myself and since I don’t want to drive at night, and am trying to avoid the majority of mountains (although I will have to cross the Rockies at some point, regardless) I’m feeling comfortable with my planning and giving myself ample time to get to Reno where I’ll pick up my buddy from the airport. I have friends along the way to stay with and can pull over and sleep in the bed anytime I need to. It’s beginning to feel like home and I haven’t stopped smiling for the last 2 days!

Today we take the first big haul 45 minutes out of town to Brainerd, MN to stock up at Fleet Farm and Home Depot. The girls have been helping me come up with a list of “van necessities” along with totes to get organized. So we are going shopping and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way in stop and go traffic as I maneuver the van around town less than flawlessly. Wish me luck!

Since I’ve been back in the States I stopped in San Diego for 5 days to visit my sister then flew back into Minneapolis where my parents picked me up and we spent 5 days in northern Wisconsin at the cabin on Lake Superior. It was such a nice way to unwind. Now I’ve been back in my hometown for the past 10 days catching up with family and friends and now packing for Burning Man. It’s gonna be an adventure, I’ll tell you that much! Don’t forget to follow me on instagram @theramblingmermaid and snapchat at smilelotsplz. I will keep you up to date on all the funny things that are going on, as well as my progress on the van! Much love.