February 23, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Traveling Around the Country in a Lemon RV. ~ Alison Sher

2. Indigogo 2

“To achieve anything, you must be prepared to dabble on the brink of disaster.”

 ~ Sterling Moss, a famous Formula One racing driver

Our RV caught fire two weeks ago, after breaking down 12 separate times on the road. It’s not quite a race car. It peaks at 50 mph as the steering wheel shakes. It is our home, mode of transportation and the vehicle that makes this whole dangerous mission possible.

Individuation is the pseudo-scientific term coined by Carl Jung about the process of growing, despite constant challenges, to form a stable, intentional identity. Individuation is a lifelong pursuit, but when in their 20s, it is what was the highest functioning adults will set out to do.

For some, circumstance stands in the way of embarking on the journey toward this kind of growth. Joblessness, underemployment… A feeling of worthlessness ensues and erodes their sense of purpose because they need an outside force to assign them one.

For others, it’s a selfish kind of addiction to liberation interwoven with being aimless, the effervescent adrenaline rush attained by living 100 percent for the coming and going of experience, while relying on the charity of others. There’s a zen in not wanting to accomplish much, about being goal-deficient. However, if work equals the energy expended to change one’s external environment, this attitude doesn’t integrate well into our system of economics. You have to do something—or surrender to poverty, to homelessness, to turning to mush.

Then there are people like me who have about four or five far-fetched dreams flurrying around their imagination at any given moment. Visions too vibrant and grandiose to ever surrender, despite their complete impracticality. We are the people whose bylines read: killer whale cruelty activist, metal smith, entrepreneur, spelunker, blogger by day, trapeze artist by night. Our resumes (without expert tailoring) resemble the mind of a schizophrenic.

I’ve been traveling around the country with a few other females in a vehicle that is anything but stable, studying the concept of individuation in members of my generation. My hope is that by narrowing myself to down to one monumental aspiration, by the end of it all, the stable one will be me.

The paradox is that if civilization thrives on anything, it’s individual certainty confronting an indefinite future. Risk is what makes a person a hero. Risk is what crumbles so many. The ability to act with confidence in spite of it, is what launches social movements, entrepreneurship, technological innovation, art projects that may fail miserably or succeed.

The curiosity innate in humans to venture into the unknown, to go out into the woods, find a stick and a rock and turn them into an ax, was the original work of man. It is how we got here to have houses and creature comforts like ice makers and stoves. The ability to take risks to make discoveries and build empires is what women have fought for, against their own biology and the patriarchy for the liberty to seize.

All people stand at the forefront of their lives facing the same dilemma: how will I get by and get fed while keeping a roof over this head for a duration spanning upwards of a 100 years. As we make moves toward finding and re-finding that answer in a society that has only made this process more complex, we individuate as we differentiate from each other.

Hippie. Punk.

LA Fake Boob Blonde.

Insipid Corporate A**hole.

Delusional and Impoverished Artist.

Evil Chef. Dirty Farmer.

Which stereotype will you be? I chose hero.

If people were mere animals without self-consciousness, an eye for aesthetic nor the insistent desire for meaning above all else, perhaps this pursuit wouldn’t be such a struggle. Yet, humans cannot all bloom where we are planted. Like the barophilic fish that thrives under pressure and therefore retreats to the bottom of the ocean floor, we seek an environment where we belong, someone or some activity to devote our days to.

The blessing of commitment is that it forces us into consistency. It ignites a resolve that’s stronger than all doubts and all fears and all thoughts that make us want to jump ship into tepid waters far more comfortable than the rocking boat we’ve taken out a loan to build. That consistency creates our identity, as the stress of fortitude refines us into who we ultimately decide we will be, if our locus of control stems from within.

As we wait for the mechanic from Craigslist to arrive in the dark night to the industrial neighborhood in Camarillo, CA, where AAA has towed us to salvage what can be of this 1978 automotive we purchased from the same website, I think: disaster.

Yet, I know the smoke rising off the engine that became so thick we could not see through the windshield will not mark the death of this vessel. For if it goes, so will the piece of myself for which I have abandoned all else to finally say yes to. The journey is not done and the calamity is a mere consequence of the quest to achieve the only success worth knowing—to walk this planet in full recognition of the person you feel destined to be here as, to integrate spirit and ego into one embodied, distinctive being.

Risk. Disaster. Throw money at the problem. Adapt. Grow. Repeat.

Our uniqueness is not just a concept from the enlightenment. It is the product of self-direction despite duress.


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Editorial Assistant: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Alison Sher

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