When we don't share our experiences they become powerful stories that fester in our minds, keeping us from the truth. It’s been over a year since I’ve written and released a post. A lot’s happened; I figure it's about time I fill you. I’ve had a bad bout of writers block that I finally pushed through it after a week exploring the beaches of Oahu. It was my first break in about a year, and I needed the time for reflection. As I said, a lot’s happened. Might as well get started and pick up where we left off…
In my last post here (see below), I let you know that I made it there and back from Mexico, and I broke my pinky promise that I’d be sharing more pics and stories soon. Please forgive me. Genius Loci was undoubtedly a great time, and rumor has it this year was even more epic. Last year, I convinced Eduardo and Henry to let me come snap photos as I was building my portfolio and freelance clientele. I had recently launched OWL Venice around this time, and planned to try and sell the oil cleansing face care products I make. (Pre broth days.) That plan was a great marketing lesson, as I learned selling beauty products at an outdoor adventure festival wasn't the best place to catch the attention of potential consumers. So I may not have sold many bottles of face wash, but I did meet some of my closet comrades and fellow Venicians while in Baja.
I came back from Genius Loci and fell into a relationship with a guy I had met prior to leaving. He was strong, sweet, and so supportive of me and my visions, at a time where I wasn’t seeing them very clearly myself. When I came back from Mexico with an idea for a reinvented backpacking backpack and he pulled out his notebook to draw what I was attempting to articulate, my heart melted a little bit. O, how he listened! He loved me unconditionally, and receiving that strengthened my own capacity to love immensely. The relationship progressed very quickly, L bombs were dropped before the feelings were fully realized, and we started living together almost immediately- a decision that was both confusing and convenient. I learned a lot from this gentle giant over a few short months. He was attentive and patient, and with him I felt safe and joyful. In a lot of ways it was the healthiest relationship I’d ever been in. I wasn’t concerned with future thinking, convinced this was a summer fling- too sweet to not turn sour. Instead, I clung to my independence.
I continued to travel solo, and joined the Xanadu Life for a backpacking trip in Catalina last July. Heidi caught wind of what I was doing with OWL Venice and invited me to lead a playshop on the adventure. I taught the benefits of oil cleansing and how to make you homemade sunscreen with all natural ingredients. It was one of my first times sharing my products and my knowledge with a group outside of my friend circle, and it inspired me to keep going, though I had no idea where I was headed. I also met some of my favorite humans to date on that adventure, which feels important to note. I came back reinspired to do big things with OWL Venice, though I struggled to find focus between traveling, enjoying the summer months, and working on various freelance projects.
I took off again a couple weeks later for Connecticut to visit with my family. My significant other stayed behind and held down the fort, we now shared. (NBD, Mom and Dad.) I didn’t feel a strong longing for him to join me, I was happy on my own, and secretly wondered if this was reason for concern. In the past, my relationships felt much more passionate, but the reality was I just moved beyond codependent tendencies. It was a good thing, but it felt foreign and unsettling, as transformation often does.
After I got back from Connecticut, and before I had much chance to settle back into my life in LA, I was asked to work as a vegan chef for a camp at Burning Man. I’d been hearing about Burning Man for years and had always wanted to go. The first time I’d hear about Burning man was back in 2009 when I started my first business in Chicago. One of my mentors, Tom Laporte, was one of the original founders. We met for coffee back in 2009 and he offered me sound business advice as we reviewed my plans to bring 11 bands down to Texas for SXSW. He told me it sounded like a great opportunity for the bands, but questioned if it would do great things for my Chicago-centric brand. I didn’t listen. I invested $6K (everything I had and more, plus my sanity too) into the event, many of the bands were recognized and went on to do great things, but I had none of them signed on contracts so it eventually led to the demise of my business. Turns out Tom was right. Thankfully, that crumble catapulted me all the way out west to California, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anyways… back to Burning Man. I was offered $1000 to come do some light prep work at a vegan camp and enjoy the festival. I couldn’t believe my luck! I left for Burning Man feeling excited, hopeful, and secure in my career and my relationship. In fact, the entire trip up there, I gushed to my friend Christina about my blossoming love as she opened up to me about uncertainties about hers. (Guess who’s still secure in their relationship?) As far as my career, my freelance clientele was growing and supporting a life of freedom and travel!
I joke now that there was life before and after Burning Man, but it’s very true and took some time before I truly saw the humor. Almost immediately upon arrival, I realized I had no clue what I’d gotten myself into. The camp was surrounded by $50k+ in RVs and for those who chose to 'rough it', there were lotus tents complete with clothing racks and portable A/C units. I was privy to the lotus living, though my tent didn’t come with a clothing rack or A/C. I soon discovered light prep work meant working 15+ hour days crammed in the back of a cube truck with 2 other people, cooking for 80+. And when I say cooking- I mean making vegan sushi and chia eggs from scratch… It was undoubtedly the worst working conditions I’d ever been exposed to, serving some of the most entitled people I’d ever met in my life.
Two days in, I’d barely seen the festival grounds, too busy feeding drunken billionaires organic vegan food. I was in survival mode. One of the guys from the crew who worked with the Art Department and set up the camp, started popping into the kitchen and cheering me up. He’d come help with breakfast dishes, leave me little notes in the dust that coated the refrigerator before he left to explore for the day, and come back with polaroids to show me. I lived vicariously through his adventures, and his laugh seemed to shake the life back into me when I felt like giving up. When I finished up work, we’d explore together and eventually collapse into deep starlit conversations. Under these conditions, I gave this new love a lot more power than it deserved and I started questioning my relationship I’d left behind in LA. Since I’d convinced myself it was only temporary before it ever really began, I had my list of ‘why it won’t work’ ready to go, and I came home and put a quick end to it. My friend warned me to take some time to think, but I acted impulsively- to no one’s surprise. I told my ex I’d met someone and wanted the freedom to explore it further. At the time I considered my actions respectful, but in hindsight, can see how they could also be perceived as pretty cruel.
I lived in my new fairytale for a couple of weeks. I started working Art Department jobs with Mr. Burn, and thought surely it was kismet. In reality, I simply discovered newfound focus in the distraction I created. Still flying high on love and wanderlust, I went off into the desert with some friends I’d met at Genius Loci in Mexico who also work Art Department, and brought the new beau. The first night there he fell asleep upon arrival. I stayed up to enjoy the desert skies with friends and when a big red moon started peeking out of the mountain tops in the distance I went to wake him up to see this magnificent spectacle. He responded with frustration, and in that moment, my world came crashing down and reality caught wind of me. My heart sunk and shattered before my tears wet the desert sand that night. I saw clearly in that moment how my ex would’ve responded much differently, and I knew I’d made a mistake. All at once, I wanted to take back the last 3 weeks; I wanted my old life back. I wondered how I’d ever let myself walk away from it to begin with. It felt like a tsunami came without warning, flooded my chest walls, and I was drowning. I made it through the rest of the weekend without confrontation, hiding my truth and letting it stir up a tornado inside of me. Every time Mr. Burn so much as glanced in my direction, I’d give curt responses, wince in silence and tie up knots in my stomach. As we drove back to LA, I’ve never felt more ill, my entire body demanding I change course.
We made it back to LA and I told Mr. Burn I needed some space and wasn’t ready to jump into a new relationship, and begged my ex to take me back. Being the strong man that he is, he denied my request and I spent my birthday in tears, wishing I could change his mind, unable to accept that it was out of my control. I was forced to take a deep look at myself and how I created a reality that left me feeling reckless and alone. It was time to take responsibility. Luckily, I’d invited a friend of mine to crash on my couch as he got his bearings after making the move from Chicago. I had a friend of mine help me transition years prior, and wanted to pay it forward. Little did I know how much that company would help me pull myself out of my depressed stupor over the coming months. As much as I wanted to sulk in bed and let things work themselves out, having company in a tight space, pushed me out of my cocoon and back into the world to sort my shit out.
Soon after I broke my own heart, I flew off to the midwest to visit Chicago and celebrate a dear friend’s wedding in St. Louis. Looking back, I remember feeling like I was walking through a cloud of regret I didn’t know how to escape. There I was attempting to be present in celebrating love and happiness, feeling lifeless and unloveable. I buried myself under scarves and jackets on the 6 hour bus ride from St. Louis to Chicago, so hung over and utterly miserable, I didn’t want to allow the world around me to acknowledge my existence. Hidden away, writing hopeless apologies to my ex, I wished I could reverse time as trudging forward felt terrifying. I felt regret, guilt, and heartbreak like I hadn't felt in a long time.
Next, I hopped on a plane again and flew back East to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in the Outer Banks. Gratitude proved a difficult practice when I felt I’d lost everything. My ex was supposed to join me on that trip to meet my family; we’d booked the tickets 10 days before I left for Burning Man. The trip felt like a torturous reminder of my undoings. I came back quite aware I’d hit a low point and it was time to start putting myself back together.
Plagued with anxiety, on top of a week of unconscious over-consuming, I felt miserable not only emotionally and spiritually, but physically now too. It’s usually the physical manifestation of imbalance that will jolt me into a state of action. I decided to go on a cleanse of sorts and cut dairy and gluten from my diet. After about 2 weeks, I noticed I was feeling a bit better with more energy. As my system cleared, I noticed that every time I took a sip of alcohol my face would get red and I felt instantly congested. I had an epiphany that I might actually be intolerant to alcohol, which meant I’d been poisoning myself for nearly a decade. I somehow found this comforting, as it showed this wasn’t something new, but an old program of self-sabatoge I’d been repeating. I decided to cut out alcohol too.
Not more than two weeks later, I loaded up my backpack and hopped on a ferry, ready for another weekend in Catalina with The Xanadu Life. Five months since the last trip and it felt like all I’d done was take my life, put it through the garbage disposal, and here I was on the other end in a familiar place, but not a clue where I wanted to go. I was much more recluse on this trip in comparison to the last when I felt radiant and loved, making lots of new friends- instead kept to myself. I did reach out to Ayurvedic specialist (and now-close-friend and client), Talia, who taught a workshop on eating for your dosha that sparked my interest. I asked her to read my tongue and she confirmed some things I probably already knew. She told me I had leaky gut and that an imbalance in my heart and mind, led to an imbalance in my belly and estimated it would take 6 months to a year to repair the damage that had been done. I wasn’t surprised in the least as I’d recently had the revelation I’d been poisoning myself for years, and self-sabotaging since likely always. Speaking the truth out loud validated what I’d been experiencing, and it was what I needed to break the pattern of behavior and finally take control over my own well being. I went back to LA, committed to healing my body, starting with my gut.
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(TO BE CONTINUED... Next up- find out how I fell into the the bone broth biz, and all the juicy details on the quick growth & expansion of OWL Venice.)