A week at the Eugene Whiteaker Hostel in Eugene, Oregon.
(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)
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.
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!
What!! It’s over already??
The third day of World Domination was a pinnacle day for me. After wonderful conversations with new friends and a little Bollywood rhythm, something shifted for me. I believe I finally pushed the trepidation and the uncertainty aside and began to look at both this conference- and quite possibly my life’s work- from the inside out. Sounds odd, but for a person whose entire passion in life is based on observation- looking from the outside in is just my natural tendency.
It’s how I think. This outsiders perspective is how I travel through the world. There are moments of connection and touching the Source- from the inside, but they are not always a conscious decision. Once I’ve traveled deep within a story, then I am looking from the inside out- but in my daily life, I just don’t work that way. This tendency just always seemed natural to me and it has always stood as a natural barrier between me and the world.
This barrier of the outsider became my protection from a world that, at times, has been rather brutal and unforgiving. And even in those moments where this world has been beautiful and awe-inspiring, I still kept that barrier of protection erect out of the fear that this beauty was not mine to enjoy or that if I reveled too much in the essence of such joy- it might be forcibly ripped from my world- before I was ready to release it. I get it, the whole Zen suffering and releasing attachment perspective, but just because I get it doesn’t mean I always embody it.
And Sunday morning, the video that replaced the absence of speaker, Neil Pasricha, just brought all this shit to the surface. The emotions just surged- to the point where I had to go outside and hug a tree to ground myself. (A skill recently showed to me by a dear friend- thanks!) And in that moment, as I sat leaning against a tree wandering if maybe I should have seen a therapist so many years ago amidst all my turmoil, a strong voice just made this one statement, so clear and true that I thought maybe the tree was whispering in my ear.
This sadness is not yours.
Well, hell, that kinda makes sense. And, I stood up, thanked the lovely tree and then went back to dominate the world. And from that point forward, the entire day was this beautiful flowing, organic event and I was open to it all. I was finally looking at something from the inside out- recognizing my discomfort and owning its source.
And I guess that’s all I could ever ask for in a “business conference”. Thanks so much, Chris, for creating such an environment where self-exploration and self-realization could thrive amongst a community who might just be meeting for the first time.
And here’s the last of the documentary photo images and a few notes from the day’s journal. Enjoy and until next year- go step into the Flow and revel in the beauty of where it takes you.
My 5 things of beauty that I noticed this weekend:
A couple sitting the park at sunset
The beagle at the coffee shop with the couple enjoying a Sunday morning coffee and the newspaper
The Third Place I found on Friday morning
Amazing trees in the park
Walking through the city at night
Duality & Flow
Farewell, dear Dominators!! May our paths cross again soon. And until then- go enter your flow and build something inspiring! Ciao!
ps- you can click on the images to download them for free and use them as you wish. The landscapes and city shots are for sale, if you would like to decorate your dwellings.
World Domination has commenced and I’m hiding in the back, lurking in the shadows and wondering about my role in all of this. For a person who is slightly introverted and still making her way through this uncertain world of blogging, such a conference was just simply overwhelming at the beginning.
I found myself wanting to retreat from all the possibilities of such an event. And oddly, everyone looked vaguely familiar, which was a little unsettling at first. It dawned on me later in the day that I was so used to viewing events from the outside, as an observer, that I was uncomfortable and unsure of how to reverse this habitual role.
How do I bridge the distance I’d created as a barrier of protection from something I was still unsure about? How do I rip down the walls of protection that kept me from fully embracing the beauty of such a gathering? How can I feel comfortable enough in my own skin to face my flaws and my triumphs in this odd environment of World Domination?
Here are my notes and images from the day.
“…owning your decisions…”
“…embracing the path you started on…”
“…stop selling and start radiating…”
“…be compassionate with yourself for being lost and not being where you want to be yet…”
“…own the way you want to do business…” ~My notes from Danielle LaPorte’s keynote.
Up next~ Day Three!
I’m a skeptic. I know- newsflash. For someone with a journalism background who loves to dive into a little Chomsky/Zinn sandwich every so often for shits and giggles, this is not news.
And being the eternal skeptic, I approached this past weekend with a little curiosity, a healthy dose of “whatevs” and a large amount of timid reservation.
World domination, really? What does that mean? How do I wrap my brain around all the different types of people at such an event? Entrepreneurs, bloggers, writers, business executives, artists and students all gathering with only one main commonality- the desire to lead an unconventional life.
And dominate the world, of course.
Past seminars and conferences were all rooted in professional photojournalism frameworks; giving me a grounding point and strong common element to every person attending the event. I spoke the language, I understood the industry and I could wander freely in this environment with ease and comfort. Not so at WDS. Everyone spoke a different language- everyone came here from a different place- a place uniquely their own. And the thought made this slightly introverted artist very uncomfortable.
So, instead of talking you through my transformation from skeptic observer to humbled participant, I decided to show you in images and notes from my journal. These images aren’t your normal event coverage photographs. I chose to photograph the event as a participant- not an observer. When emotions are coursing through me at a fast and furious rate- I turn to the camera to express the core of what I’m feeling. No matter how I lie to myself and how I try to bend my perception of reality to fit into the narrative I want or need in that moment, the camera never reflects this internal deception. The camera reflects exactly what I’m feeling- regardless of what I’m thinking.
So, here is my journey through a little World Domination. Enjoy and join me please.
Friday~ Day 1
“It’s strange to meet a group of people who know you only by your work. The daunting reality of this type of meeting is wondering if the person you’ve projected through your work is in alignment with your true self and the energy you send out into the world. I believe mine is- but it truly reinforces the gravity of the work and the responsibility to lead- through interactions, art and engagement” ~ written in my journal while watching the neighborhood wake up and stumble into this coffee shop.
Day one complete. The festivities continue tomorrow with Hipster hunting, giant peach parades and some White Hot passion!
All image are available for use on blogs for free and prints can be made from any image posted here. Simply go to this link (or click on the images) and you’ll be directed to the studio gallery for purchasing. You can also download the image from the website for free.