TL;DR—open to FWB situationships where we meet up in fun places around the world, you give me hugs and tell me your life story, and when we separate I relentlessly send you memes, the occasional song, or interesting articles that remind me of you.
I've always loved romance. When MySpace was a popular way to spend time, I'd decorate my profile with sparkling GIF quotes, black and white stock-images of a couple's intimate embrace, and self-proclamations of being a "hopeless romantic" 🥴. Now looking back I wonder, what did I really know about love at twelve? I cringe fondly at this cheesy young version throwing herself into that digital space: a little virtual window where I shared my most intimate emotions and explored expressing who I was openly (and in some ways, for the first time). Despite how public it was, there wasn't an algorithm that surfaced my content to "people who you might know" automatically. Somehow it felt less vulnerable if someone might see me by chance. The format wasn't set up for direct engagement. There isn't a fear of rejection if you're just shouting into the internet void with no built in reaction tools. I was able to straddle the line of anonymity and being witnessed. Amusingly, I'm realizing as I write this, the whole expression of myself within social media then (and probably even now) was a bid for love.
Exploring love and loneliness through life, I'm finding that love isn't simply commitment, and loneliness isn't necessarily from solitude or the absence of physical companionship. This plays out in every story of an unhappy marriage, or the heavy stillness of loneliness in a crowded room. Feeling fulfilled in love is feeling seen and understood. So the little romantic in me went after that fulfillment for years. There were ups and downs like in anyone's romantic journey, but after several years of serial monogamy, in 2023 I paused the search for romance and sought fulfillment in single-dom. This has led to conversations like this:
As the kind of gal who parties by asking you about pivotal life moments or for your take on modern day colonialism—mezcalita in hand—I've learned that casual to me is not always casual for other people.
I've had moments of casual encounters in between the periods of long term relationships. None were very fulfilling, or we'd immediately jump into a relationship (and thus, the monogamy cycle continues). I didn't understand what I was missing in these moments because 1) I'm not in a space where I want to be committed to someone, and 2) I've become less insecure and possessive with age. However, I'd observe close friends enjoying the freedom and fun of dating multiple people casually—so I knew it was possible! To unwrap why I couldn't enjoy it, I had to define what being casual is and what love is (since I seem to be so obsessed with finding it).
The way I was approaching casual, was by withholding my full engagement. I didn't want to be inappropriately invested in something casual. To do so would be embarrassing (or so it seemed from social expectations). I didn't want to share pieces of myself with someone uninterested in receiving me or sharing themselves. I thought giving attention and care (read: love) freely in casual was wrong. Withholding meant restricting enthusiasm. This is what was unfulfilling. I was conflating casual with indifference; intimacy with expectation or commitment. What I'm realizing is that even if I know there isn't a romantic future with someone, I still love learning the ins-and-outs of who they are and what makes them human. I love making people feel seen and cared about, and this doesn't have to be thrown out for the sake of casual, so long as I don't have an expectation of monogamy or anything in return. There can still be playfulness, intimacy, and respect within the container of casual.
Over the last year I've spent more time giving myself the energy that I put into my relationships. I think I was so pressed to receive care and attention from another person, I overlooked that I could fill my own cup. Turns out there's an abundance of that energy to fill my own cup and more. Now, I see offering love less like an exchange and more like a regenerative gift. I don't need to withhold in order to feel safe or avoid embarrassment from rejection. I'm not embarrassed to care anymore. It's my prerogative to decide if I have the space to offer it (or not). Not everyone has to receive it just because I offer it, and that's also totally okay.
For better or for worse, there's a projection in cis-het relationships that women are trying to trap men into monogamy and commitment. We make jokes about it, there are names like "gold-digger" and "pussy-whipped" to demonize it, and stories about women getting pregnant to salvage (or cement) a relationship. I suspect that receiving affection or attention might feel like a trap into monogamy. On the flipside, it would be unsurprising if people felt exposing their full selves or investing time in being present was deserving of some longterm commitment. No one other than the people I was engaging with can verify if it was out of self-preservation or general indifference, but I felt many also withheld themselves. I've had a hard time finding fulfilling dynamics that are both intimate and casual as a result.
No one is entitled to anything from anyone else other than a foundation of transparency to make choices for themselves, but I find authenticity and vulnerability alluring. At first it was frustrating to drive and initiate conversations that went straight into the brick wall I was talking to. I really want to love and get along with everyone, but it's unrealistic. I'm learning to not force things and finding gratitude in knowing right away if someone isn't the right fit. The power in knowing yourself and what you want is a great filter for life. These days catch and release of the proverbial romantic fish comes a lot easier because I know I can fill my own tank. Either way, I'll always choose to love freely.
This morning, I realized it has been three months since I became homeless.
Circumstances led me to move around a lot growing up. Always the new kid, always making new friends. It is/was sad losing connections with the friends from each place but I was still in elementary school so it was easier to let go and look ahead. My sense of attachment to a home didn't really exist. Eventually I ended up in the Valley - a suburb of LA notorious for pornography and girls like the Kardashians.
The Valley isn't really all that bad. It's lined with palm trees and wide streets with two-story tract homes. I get nostalgia looking back on hot summer days, lurking like lions with neighborhood kids in the tall grassy savannah that was an abandoned lot across the street from my house. I learned how to swim here, spent quiet nights lamenting my teenage angst on rooftops, and threw parties when my parents weren't around. But with all of these memories, it still never really felt like home, or what I thought home was supposed to feel like. It always seemed like I was the odd person out in groups of friends. I floated around in social circles just enough before I started feeling uncomfortable. This was probably the fault of my own insecurities (#teenagelife) more than anything else, but it just didn't feel right.
Enter: San Francisco.
After high school I left Los Angeles and went further up the coast to find myself in the Bay Area. College can be such a formative experience because you're removed from relationships that you make out of circumstance (growing up in the same area, being in the same school, etc.) and are surrounded by people who, for the most part, are there for similar interests. You have the opportunity to figure out what you do and do not like and have more freedom with who you spend time with. I spent the next seven years connecting with incredible people who were involved in the arts, who value progress, who prioritize brunch and waiting in really long lines (jk, sorta, not really). I love San Francisco: its smelly streets, its eclectic businesses, the graffiti on the walls. For me, San Francisco was late night dancing at F8 and early morning sunrises on the balcony. It was drinking wine with Nicole while watching (edit: sleeping through) Chewing Gum, drawing butts with Sonia, and crafting with Lizzie. I finally felt at home. Then...
Enter: Remote Year.
A gnawing emptiness had grown in my gut. In true quarter-life crisis form, I quit my jobs and moved out of my apartment to #findmyself2017. Being in a rut deserves its own dedicated reflection piece, so we'll fast forward to driving through the Olympic National Forest with Tyler one day and then hopping on a plane to Croatia two weeks later.
No lease, no apartment, no physical home-- again. Context: I joined a company called Remote Year, which had doubled their Admissions Team in a matter of weeks. All of the new hires threw ourselves into an unknown environment days after signing our contracts.
It was toward the second leg of our time in Croatia during a balmy evening sunset when I was sitting with another RY newb, Connor, while he played guitar.
"All of my friends back home are telling me how brave I am, how they wouldn't be able to do what we did. Did you have to think about this?"
"Not at all."
Apparently, it takes a certain kind of psycho to leave everything behind at the drop of a hat. We were all that kind of psycho. Even though these psychos come from all different backgrounds, have different stories and friends, we smashed into each other's realities and connected on impact. I love them and all their psycho-ness (translate: openness). Each person is uniquely and brilliantly him/herself, acting as one crucial piece to the Admissions family puzzle. I've never felt so at home without being "at home." Then, it smacked me in the face as I tripped running downstairs. Getting up from the cold, granite landing, reaching for my phone to report about my idiocy with my fellow psychos, I realized: home isn't where you are, or a physical place at all. Home is a state of being. Home is the warm comfort of being surrounded by your people, the freedom of being yourself, and being present in that feeling to enjoy it. I'm such a friggin' ding dong because I've always heard the phrase, "home is where the heart is," but it's an entirely different story experiencing it. These people have my heart. Being with them is being at home. In San Francisco I was comfortable, but my purpose was missing. It took taking a step off the ledge to find the home I was looking for (har har get it, step, falling, stairs, ha, okay).
This morning, I realized it has been three months since I first found my home.
The Barney-mobile. Bugslayer. JUCY Van.
Our chariot/shelter for the road trip was a Dodge Grand Caravan converted into a campervan. Bakpak Dave (aka BakPak Travel Guide) helped us secure this bright, lime green/purple "Trailblazer" for a pretty legit rate- his whole thing is "no hidden costs"- so it's fixed going through him vs. the RV company directly, and it came with a bonus set of bedding ($50 savings, woo) that I used the entire trip. Since I was floating around homelessly until I leave the country, I didn't have bedding to carry with me.
We probably would've preferred the "Mavericks," which is an artsy Ford E-150 convert from Escape Campervans. Surprise! Don't book things last minute. The early bird gets the Mavericks.
BM = for burners/festival goers
So now for the nitty gritty...
Like most ideas, it all started with a $5 margarita at one of my favorite San Francisco dive bars, Uptown. I was sitting with two of the best folks and hashing out plans for the ultimate Southwest road trip. But also like most ideas, life got in the way (breakups, workaholism, etc.) and my dream died... UNTIL NOW, fast forward two years: a good pal of mine coincidentally had enough of his job and decided to quit at the same time I burned out from mine! So naturally, I tricked him into spending two weeks straight with me. After a month of sort of hashing plans out, we hit the road in the Barney-mobile (Jucy Van).
Tyler and I are parks and rec people. We majored in it, he worked for the National Parks System, we like trees. My funemployment plans included seeing as many national parks as possible before running off to Southeast Asia (because who knows when we wake up one day and we're watering plants with Gatorade, or the world is on fire). We decided to even out the trip by soaking up some forest and ending in the desert, so it transitioned from the ultimate Southwest road trip, to an aggressive Pacific Northwest/Rocky Mountain escapade. We had more of an overview of where we wanted to go, instead of secured plans. It would be hard and stressful to commit to destinations.
PROTIP: NPS offers an "America the Beautiful" annual pass for $80, that allows one car/two person entrance to any national parks. Some places were $20pp, so it's worth it if you're visiting more than one spot!
*underlined are places we actually made it to*
Crater Lake, Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs, Portland, John Day Fossil Beds/Painted Hills, Agate Beach
Olympic National Park, Seattle, Puget Sound
Hells Canyon and (the inescapable) Snake River, Shoshone Falls, Boise, Craters of the Moon
Yellowstone, Grand Teton,
Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Havasu Falls
Antelope Canyon (you need to book a tour for this), Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend
BACK 2 CALI
Joshua Tree, Salvation Mountain, home
NEVADA (substituted for CA destinations)
Las Vegas, Hoover Dam