A Letter of Compassion & a Call to Action for the Passionate Young Folks

(This letter was inspired in part by some conversations with amazing, lovely younger folks at WDS last weekend and a post from a young artist that I stumbled onto today)

On the streets in Eugene, O.R.

Dearest Young Soul,

Your passion moves me. Your fuel makes me smile. And your deep, intense desires for change and revolution inspire me. You give me hope, where once I feared the future days to come and the difficult work ahead of us, as a country and a community of engaged citizens, I now hold close the knowledge that my vision for a better society can be supported by the passion and the intelligence of your generation.

And this is the premise for what I’m about to say. I say this with love and with your future in mind.

You Must Live Your Fucking Life.

First.

Now.

Period.

The topics that we touch on, here in the cloud, are coming at you from our experience of living our lives. We are talking of deep issues- topics that have been debated throughout the existence of communications between men- philosophy, spirituality, the Source, Flow, and the Divine- to influence the lives of others and shed an additional light onto this journey we are all traveling through- this journey of life.

But we come at these topics with LIFE EXPERIENCE behind our words. We have a filter that was built by living within the world. We did not grow up with cloud communities or internet based income business models. We lived our lives within the very fabrics of humanity that we now write about. We have a strong filter to process such intense topics that can truly be life-altering.

And these intense dialogues can be very destructive if you have no grounding or life experience to put such information into context. Yes, some of you have lived intensely difficult childhoods, and my heart breaks for you and what you have already experienced. But a journey through the world from an adult perspective is necessary to process such powerful information and put the knowledge to good use.

I know this, because I tried to embrace the power of some intense spiritual and eastern philosophy at the ripe old age of 21 and I had a tiny little nervous breakdown. It wasn’t pretty and didn’t last for too long, but the power of the words and the intensity of the message shattered my past and left me disillusioned and questioning every truth I had ever been told. And I wasn’t prepared for that line of thought. Nor did I have an online community- we didn’t even have email then. And I simply couldn’t navigate those waters with the community I lived within or my spiritual upbringing to that point in life.

And now, as I return to such topics and the gravity of the wisdom behind them, I have the life experience to process them properly and put the knowledge to positive use in my life and more powerfully- in my work. In the past 15 years, I’ve had conversations with wise old philosophers and brilliant day-cooks. I’ve shared whiskey with rusty old cowboys and ridden Harleys through the desert with life-battered fishermen. I’ve shared meals with rebel Maoist commanders and I’ve listened to a stranger tell me the story of his beloved wife dying in his arms. I’ve served martinis to historic journalists and poured whiskeys for mafia bosses. I’ve photographed drug-raids with police departments and worn bullet-proof vests to go produce my art. I’ve had my entire world shattered with the sudden death of my father and I’ve thrown myself down mountains on skis fast enough to touch my own death- repeatedly- just to feel the exhilaration of walking foolishly close to my own mortality.

I’ve drank enough whiskey to kill a small horse on nights where I truly didn’t know how I would get through the next day and I’ve walked into and away from men who I allowed to crush my creativity and my divine beauty because of my lack of self confidence and the fear of being alone. I’ve won the top awards in the nation for my documentary work and I’ve stood bewildered and clueless about how to pay next months rent with my art. I’ve been a Division I collegiate soccer player on scholarship and I’ve had my physical mobility taken away for over a year due to foolish wake-boarding antics. I’ve walked through the depths of my own dark and twisty places and I’ve soared to heights that only touching a higher source can generate.

I understand Flow because I’ve been working and creating within it for over 20 years. I can appreciate the passion and the intensity that working with the Flow can produce because I began working within it at the age of 15 and understood what it actually was at the age of 21. Once I understood it, I could then grasp and embrace Flow when it occurred. And now, after 15 years of exposure to the philosophy behind the concept, I know what I must do to reach such a state and how I can incorporate Flow in my life’s work. I didn’t read about Flow on a website one day and say, “Wow, that sounds cool, maybe I’ll do that for a while.” I did it, was exposed to the philosophy and psychology behind Flow and then I was able to incorporate it into my passion work- because I had experience.

And those who are talking about such intense topics online are able to do so because of a long and passionate devotion to embodying the concept or belief and structuring many years of work around that passion.

When we speak of unconventional lives in the cloud, most of us are working to help show others that there is another way to live. Many of the folks talking of this concept are speaking from a place of self-experience. They understand the destructive nature of conformity because they embraced it themselves and became disillusioned. And rightfully so. And others, like yours truly, just never bought into the conventional life to begin with. But I still had jobs- lots of them. I speak of unconvention because I have always been that way- it’s my normal. But it might not be yours- and that’s ok.

This does not mean that you, as a young person, should not get a job. Honestly, as a business owner, I would never hire a person- especially in a freelance capacity- with no job experience. Any job experience is necessary. Jobs play a role in our growth through adulthood. Working with people, interacting with the public, experiencing the pressure and the joy of accomplishing certain work tasks are necessary for your growth and your journey into your own path through entrepreneurship, should you choose to travel that route.

I have worked over 20 years in the restaurant industry and held a ridiculous amount of jobs throughout my 20s. I am even a certified pool operator, for Christ’s sake. That’s right, for several summers at the beach, I worked for a friend and cleaned pools for a living. And I enjoyed it! I was the Vacuum Bitch every Saturday and Sunday because the work was physical and mindless and I could slip into my own planning and plotting for my photography business while I made money vacuuming pools. I cleaned windows and power-washed houses for the same reason one summer. I’ve been a sea kayak tour guide, a ski repair tech and worked at an ATV tour business. Hell, I was the snow reporter on the radio at a ski resort every morning one winter.

And I wouldn’t trade those times for anything. That knowledge, those stories, the insane people I met on a daily basis- it all has a tangible value and role in who I am today. My life would have a gaping void had I not held those jobs. My writing would be hollow and pointless if I hadn’t led an insanely random and intense life. You wouldn’t bother reading this blog if I hadn’t tossed myself into all of those situations.

If I die tomorrow- it’s with no regrets. Because I chose, at the ripe old age of 21, to lead the most intense and interesting life I could possibly live. I knew that I had to experience it all, that I had to live every moment to its absolute fullest- because anything less would just be a waste of time.

And that life included the “conventional” things we shy away from in the cloud. That life has included jobs, academics, structure, adherence and some conformity. But I always knew at my core that as long as these jobs placed me closer to my ability to step into the Flow and allowed me to always walk towards my passion of photography, then I would do what was necessary.

My intention is not to preach or to say, “look at all I’ve done.” I realized recently that my past has not been placed on this site too often. And that past is rich with so many lessons to learn. We come to the cloud sometimes and see a person in their present state and we may berate ourselves because we are not at that stage of success or life yet. But, that person before you has bussed tables, sweated bullets in manual labor jobs, panicked when looking at an empty bank account and felt the sorrows and joys of life. The person who stands before you does so because of the peaks and valleys they fought their way through- using any means they knew how- in order to shine before you today. Never forget that little fact.

So, dearest young person, please, please PLEASE, embrace every opportunity to enter the world that comes your way, no matter what the cloud is saying. Step away from our “How Tos” and our “Be Location Independent” rhetoric and do what you HAVE TO DO in order to grow into your fabulous adult self.

Please, PLEASE, GO LIVE IN THE WORLD!

Go taste the bitterness of defeat and the delicious sweetness of victory. Please, PLEASE, go get that job as a barista and smile at every person who crosses your path. Be open to who the Universe places before you and listen to every person who shares their world with you- even the strangers. They all need your compassion and your understanding- even if you simply listen to them as you serve them a whiskey and they tell you about the death of their son. That person needs you and you need that person. And you will not find him and his story while working from your computer in your kitchen.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE- just enter the world.

Make it your own, embrace everything that is placed before you and walk into your reality with your eyes wide open. This is your time to learn from the world- by BEING IN THE WORLD.

I’m serious here- we have some intense work to do in the coming decades. We have many social ills to rectify, communities to build and peace to spread- and we can not do this if you do not go out into the world and gain the knowledge that can only be had by walking within humanity.

So, this long, loving letter is a call to action for my younger ones- please, go live your life- in the world. Touch humanity in every interaction and every job you encounter. Take the wisdom of the cloud for what it is and where it comes from- and keep it in the back of your mind as you travel through the world.

But you must travel through the world first.

And, if you get lost or confused on your journey, turn to us with your questions, your doubts and fears and we will share our wisdom with you and help you travel forward with love and intention. That’s why we are here. Travel forward in the world with the knowledge that we exist and will help bring you back down to reality when it all becomes too much or too overwhelming for you to process.

With love and peace,

ps- please pass this along to the young folks (and the old folks) and let’s just all go be in the world, however it suits us. And leave your thoughts below or on the Twitter @crystaldstreet Thanks!

Comments

  1. says

    I luckily found your site through a link on Twitter, and thank GOD I did. This is the best article/letter I’ve read in so long. Recently I’ve been going through a bit of an ‘online crisis’. The whole ‘lifestyle movement’ that I’ve become a part of has begun to disillusion me. My life became too ‘online’. I was reading, but never DOING. And I became bored. That’s why for around the past month, I’ve pretty much completely stepped away from that area. I’m rethinking everything about it, and my part within it.

    I’ve been using this time to get out, and get back to collecting experiences like I used to. And I’m so much happier for it.

    Sure, I’m going to carry on with my online work, and would love to continue with the blog as I’ve connected with so many amazing people with it, but this letter you’ve written is perfect for me right now. I’m heading to Spain in a couple of weeks for a month, so that’ll give me some more time to get out there, and reassess exactly what I’m doing; and to get back to living in the moment.

    Anyway, I’m waffling. Thanks so much for these words of wisdom :)

    • says

      Thanks so much for sharing, Rob!

      I struggle with those same aspects of location independent living too. It’s almost as if I have two lives sometimes and if we’re in a place where the community isn’t very strong, the online world tends to play too strong of a role. It looks as though you’ve built a wonderful foundation with your blog and your time in Spain will give you some fabulous re-evaluation and moving forward reflections! I think the online writing space should be left as open and organic as possible, while still maintaining the core vision of your project or work. This allows for the evolution of both your blog and you- and you can than incorporate this evolution in your work and help spread your knowledge of growth in the process.

      Enjoy the trip and the time to reflect! Thanks so much for your comments- it just amazes me to know that this article resonated with you so well and in such a timely manner. Funny how that Universe works. Travel safe!

  2. says

    Excellent and inspiring article. While there is always a desire to do something different or achieve more, there is much which can be learned from your current situation. We should all aim to achieve something beyond ourselves in live, not always hide in our closed shells.

    • says

      Very well said, Robert!! So glad the article resonated with you! And yes, the wisdom to learn from our present moment and to look for something beyond the world we’ve built takes a certain type of understanding and balance- but is something to strive for!

  3. says

    Crystal this was absofuckinglutely sensational!!!

    You’re timing could not be even more perfect. Being relatively new to the cloud I’ve already experienced much of the pressure to achieve, these deep stirrings of comparison and judgement. This pull to appear to be living an extraordinary life, all the time!!! Gasp!

    Being 30 I’d see myself as the halfway point of which you speak. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world, worked countless random jobs, broken hearts and had mine broken, struggled and thrived inside of my art etc etc.

    But felt myself careening a little down this vortex of net driven ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. It’s so relentless. And was suffocating me.

    But there is just no denying that unless you walk your talk, unless you have lived fully in the world, you won’t have the grounded needed to sustain this kind of high-speed, super-intense style of communication. Or whatever it is we’re doing.

    And the cloud has kinda brought all that up for me. It’s been so fantastic to connect with everyone here and see what is possible through the net. But it doesn’t change a thing regarding life experience. How healthy it is to have to get up at 5am and grind out a days work, making someone else more money than you. Laughing with new friends you can physically touch and hear the subtle nuances in their voice as they whisper in your ear.

    Oh it’s beautiful. You just wrote it so well.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • says

      Lovely Mykel!!

      Thanks so much for your kind words! So touched that it resonated so strongly!

      Man, those stirrings, comparisons, judgments- they are tough- particularly for an artist! But what’s even more intense is the lack of physical contact with the actual creator of the content. There is something to be said for having such intense dialogues-as we tend to do here in the cloud- without the actual physical aspects of body language, eye contact and the subtleties of voice. It can leave us slightly disillusioned and with only our own internal voices to pass judgment. And for an artist- that can be a crippling occurrence.

      And could you imagine your music without those moments of life you mentioned- the broken hearts, the struggles, the victories or just the simple fabrics of humanity that we witness as we travel through the world- and then incorporate into our art?

      We live in such a powerful time, when artists, thinkers, writers and creators can connect with one another- shattering all the paradigms of communication from the past several thousand years. I mean, the fact that you and I can communicate using such platforms blows my mind! And for that I am forever grateful! But with that power comes a dark side- that retreat into self- without interaction in the world. We now have the ability to travel through the world- without being present in the moment and without sitting with our actual reality. And I don’t think that’s the healthy upside to our online world.

      And you’re right, there’s nothing to replace the exchange of energy that occurs through physical interaction with others in the world- the flow of love from a hug, the offering of a hand as you step gently through a river, the whispering of something divine and the reflection of your smile in someone’s eyes. Those things, those tiny little human elements, make our lives so insanely delicious! I hope we never lose the desire to seek those in the chasing of our dreams. But I don’t think we will- and hopefully the younger generations won’t lose these nuances of life either.

      Thanks again for your wonderful feedback and lovely honesty! Just keep living fully in the world and your art will continue to reflect this amazing life you lead. And what more could we ask for, really?

  4. says

    Great letter Crystal! I am here with you to answer questions if they are confused or lost on their travels.
    You described a pretty intense personal life, a meandering flow. It made me think when you write about unconventional lives in the cloud and the convential ones we shy away from, also here in the cloud. That’s exactly the reason why your letter fits very well, right at this moment, this day.
    It inspired me to take a photography class (because that is my one and only passion, and I want it to be more than a hobby). It inspired me to enter the world in between my travels. I travel a lot to embrace serendipity, and in between lead the conventional life that you will not read about. But even then there is a special world to enter. Everywhere is illuminated (right, Mark?).
    Thanks for your Flow of inspiration.

    • says

      Emiel, I’m so touched at your reply!!

      That I moved you to action is just fucking fantastic!! I love it!

      Entering the world in between your travels is a tough one- it’s something I struggle with all the time. For when I’m not traveling, the world seems too overwhelming and too structured for me to handle. But handle it we must, so we travel through our day to day trying to embrace the Flow and make those moments beneficial- always moving us towards a time when we can truly merge our visions and our reality.

      And if we’re ever in the same geographical space, please let me know- I love teaching photography! It sends me right into the Flow and brings so much joy! And I can embrace my inner geek and get overly technical- which is so much fun to do! Travel safe and keep kicking ass! And yes, being that support system for the younger ones among us is necessary!

  5. says

    You speak to the sense of agony and urgency so well. The Flow is so wonderful, but it cannot be controlled or owned or held. It feels so good, and dissolves the illusion of our separateness. But it is for inspiration. The test of character comes when you wake up, punch the clock, and smile. Not because you’re faking it, but because you’re finding the vibrancy and heroism in pool vacuuming or (for me) teaching surfing or pruning blood-orange trees.

    A toll booth operator with patience and vision can be a beacon and a hero.

    Thanks for the mini-opic and the panorama.

    :D,
    Mark

    • says

      Thank you so much, Mark!

      There is such a duality in the cloud- its this delicious struggle between the vision we hold for our future and the reality of our day to day. And I guess, we can all hope that through our continued diligence and presence in our reality and our continuance of stepping into the Flow wherever we may find it- however we may find it- we will one day perfectly merge our vision and our reality. And it makes my heart ache when I see those young passionate ones among us pushing too hard to merge the two. Sometimes the push works- and they stand victoriously triumphant, having merged the vision with the reality. But when it doesn’t work, when they feel the push-back from trying too hard, they can be left without a grounding- and no experience to whisper consolations to try again tomorrow.

      And, ironically, there was a favorite toll booth collector that worked the night shift in Richmond, and after a long night of cocktail waitressing in the booming downtown district, I would always pick her booth so I could have a smile some words of wisdom from her on my way home.

      Thanks again and may your vision and your reality always have a delicious duality and a wonderful outcome!