I watched the documentary 180 Degrees South, which tells the story of a few people taking a 6 month sailing journey down to Patagonia in Chile to climb Corcovado, while learning from the founders of The North Face and Patagonia.
Before I even realized what I was doing, I started Katy Perry: Part of Me, which tells the story of Katy Perry’s music, career, love, and heartbreak by following her year long ‘California Dreams’ tour.
I chuckled at myself for the irony of the two juxtaposed one after the other. I thought to myself, “Seriously, who am I??! Climbing deadly mountains straight into pop music about teenage dreams and fireworks.” Just as I was in the middle of composing some clever tweet about how I’m “so weird” because I somehow managed to absolutely adore both documentaries, I stopped and thought (which, by the way, I should do more often before I tweet things).
Halfway through Part of Me, I realized that the sentiment behind these two seemingly very opposite things weren’t actually opposites at all. I watched Katy fight through whatever was thrown at her to keep her dream alive, to have her words (in the form of songs) heard. A few record labels didn’t believe in her or tired to make her something that she wasn’t, so she left them, or was dropped. She desperately tried to keep a failing marriage alive, but also knew when it was time to cut ties. She has a very distinct picture of what she wanted from herself and for herself. From what I can tell after watching a short 90 minutes of her life, she never strayed from that picture. “Thank you for believing in my weirdness”, she screamed at a crowd at one point during the film. (Just stay with me now, ok?)
I thought back to the previous 2 hours and connected that very drive and passion to Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, founders of Patagonia and The North Face respectively, and their dream to both explore and save the Patagonian wilderness. In the 60’s, they first traveled to the raw wilderness of Patagonia, and their lives were forever changed. They said, “It wasn’t the apex of their lives, it was a turning point.” Both men have explored those mountains extensively and have contributed to preserving the wild in Patagonia to this day, despite push backs from the country of Chile itself, and probably a whole slew of other people who thought they were crazy. Their intense fervor for wilderness and climbing more than overcame the adversity they faced, both physically and mentally.
And I think that’s why I can connect with both situations, because what’s behind their dream, that raw passion that no one could ever imagine ripping from them. I am an extremely passionate person. I am driven by an extraordinary belief in myself to do the things that I feel will make my life more meaningful. I may not always be sure of exactly what that dream is, but that doesn’t keep me from running wildly and blindly towards it.
I resonate with people like Yvon, Doug and Katy because they made something that seemed nearly impossible, come to fruition. I often find myself complaining that people don’t understand me or getting frustrated when I think friends don’t see life the same way I do. I imagine this is the burden of all dreamers and fighters not willing to compromise any part of the person they made themselves to be.
I have worked very hard on the Jess you see today. It’s part of who I am to work on who I am. I have laughed, cried, adventured, wrote, read, climbed, ran, and loved my way through the almost 8 years I’ve “been on my own”. Although some of my hobbies and desires have changed, one thing strings them all together: I want to make something real and true out of the things that excite me.
Because I feel strongly about living life this way, I both intentionally and unintentionally surround myself with people who also want to make their lives look this way. I have friends who are extraordinarily real writers and storytellers (Banana Damage), friends who both climb mountains and love God fervently (In Search of Mountains), friends who are teaching English halfway around the world (The Adventure), and friends who run meaningful nonprofits (Red EarthTrading Co.), and so many more that it would taken me hours to name them all. I have crazy wonderful friends that only further my desire to make reality out of my dreams.
Now, the only thing I have left to figure out is what ‘thing’ I am going to chase. And that thing has changed far too often in the past 8 years for me to even begin to pick one. But, that’s my burden to bear.