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radical self reliance.

August 20, 2011

as you know, i am going to burning man. for the past week i had nightmares about it, and then all of a sudden they stopped, and now there is only just this immense feeling of rightness – that this rite of passage, as it is so aptly called this year, is going to really be a rite of passage. good or bad. tears or no. whatever. whatever happens happens.


i don’t know. it feels like it is all connected, my writing and the inroads i’ve made there, and subsequently the inroads i’ve made into my own self, as i push my writing, as i push my personal life, as i push myself this whole year and especially how i have pushed myself this summer. i’ve been doing so much thinking about the idea of self, and self reliance, and the ability to either become brave, or to access a long-forgotten bravery within.


i used to be the kind of hip-cocked sassy that kids usually are. as i grew older, i went through a tough few years of being the “outcast” at elementary school, and so there i became even more outspoken in direct defiance to the “clique” (that is actually what they called themselves, and what they were called) and i guess that could be counted as a form of bravery. in high school, i felt like i had nothing to lose – a new start, a new time period – and so i always was just myself – loud, brash, excited. i found leadership classes and discovered a good niche. undergraduate brought on iterations of heartbreak – mainly at the hands of one person (we interacted with each other in a bad way, and many of those interactions have now set a baseline for how i act in subsequent relationships or partnerships) but i still had a strong core of good people around me and i had fun.

but something about this city, this degree, this amount of hard introspection that i have done with this piece of writing – all of these things, perhaps, have changed me. or have at least threatened to bury the brave part of me, the part that never gave a shit about what other people thought, the part that didn’t bend or bow to the should haves.

too often, we give in to what we think should happen. the shoulds of society – the things that are imparted onto us by family or friends – however well-meaning – by the general public, by literature or cosmopolitan magazines or novels or television or radio or pop culture. we hold ourselves to a standard that is made for us but not by us.


this summer has been very important to me. i expanded myself in so many ways that i threatened to stretch myself thin and yet somehow did not. i started to see somebody and i started to loosen up my type-a mainstays when it came to sex and to affection. i started to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my thesis and therefore my degree, something that terrified me and also thrilled me. still does. i started to see what it was like to live, truly, on my own, as an adult, planning meals and getting up at 545 every morning. there was no way i could sleep through an alarm like i used to do at home. there would have been no one else to wake me up, to make sure that i was being responsible and on time. i started to understand how important my family was to me. i become homesick, so homesick that i cried and that i wanted to pick up and leave and go back to a family that loved me and the city that i understood and learned to thrive in.


and then – i started to like vancouver – really, truly like the city that i had been living in for the past two years. (as of september). i still have harsh things to say about vancouver. and it’s not the city that i am going to live in for the rest of my life. but somehow, within the proper light of a good, sunny day, the city is held in a glittering and wonderful stasis, soft and comforting and established on sacred land.

and i started to shed the shoulds. i had never before realised how strong the “should” was in our culture. you should have a boyfriend, no matter how strong you are on your own. you should want to spend your nights entwined with somebody, no matter how much of a restless sleeper you are you. you should want to be fairly complacent toward academic authority, even if you are worried about how your future is going to pan out. you should be always kind and self-serving and patient and turn the other cheek, even if you are sometimes tired or bullied or weary or fed up. you should respect your elders, even if you need to stand up for yourself. you should.

no more should.


this summer has been about making my own rules. a phrase that has been so thrashed to death that even typing it sounds rote and cliche. but there is no other way to put it. that is what it is. to strike down the idea of the should and forge my own new path, busting through the shoulds of work life and friend life and love life and sex life and academic life and personal life. it’s hard. it’s not easy. i always thought i was a brave person at heart but sometimes, now, i wonder what i really am. i wonder where that little hip-cocked sass-brat went.

it calls to mind what goals are. what goals i have. and i think that i will say this. that i want to be happy. and i want my love to be revealed to me. those sound more like wishes, and they always say you shouldn’t say your wishes out loud because they won’t come true. that doesn’t make sense to me. i think that wishes are stronger when they are said out loud. maybe first murmured and then spoken into an ear and then finally bellowed, maybe, in a moment of elation or pique or excitement or fear.

and it makes me think that choosing to go to burning man was a very good idea. because one of the principles of burning man is radical self reliance and this was the thing that stood out most to me. it won’t always be fun, in the desert. i get overwhelmed by lots of sensory input. i don’t always like people touching me. i become cranky without food or a good night’s sleep.


but that is why i have to go now. to prevent myself from being ossified in those ways – no touch, too many boundaries, an adherence and reverence to the should-dos and should-haves.

let’s see what love i find.

self reliance means wearing a brimmed hat and a particle respirator for dust storms.

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