Against the Real World
on navigating an excess of love
Last night, I walked through a human tunnel.
Forming this tunnel were the teenage campers and adult staff of Not Back to School Camp, where I’m now working my 17th season.
As I passed, eyes closed, through the parallel lines of waiting bodies, I received whispers of praise and gratitude. I was told that I’m fun and inspirational. Some of the staff and older campers made hilarious, snarky comments, and I laughed out loud.
At the end of the “Angel Walk” activity, I opened my eyes, took my place in the line, and shared my own appreciations with the passing campers and staff—each with eyes closed, each with smiles wide.
Sometimes, I don’t know what to do with all this love.
I don’t know how to rejoin “the real world.”
Not Back to School Camp is not “the real world.” It’s a little utopia, a temporary community built around connection, acceptance, and fun.
My Unschool Adventures trips are not “the real world.” They are intensive doses of exploration + community + independence, funded by hard-working parents.
Dance weekends are not the real world. Backpacking trips and bicycle tours are not the real world. Traveling to see old friends and discover new ones is not the real world, nor is traveling to reconnect with the mountains, deserts, and cities that have embedded themselves in my soul.
Yet this is the stuff of my life.
I am in love with these communities, these landscapes, these cultures, these explorations, these people.
Each constitutes a part of my heart: an atrium, a ventricle, a valve, an aorta.
I fear I’ve known too much love.
I inhabit an awful lot of unreality.
Nothing comes for free.
Summer camps and weekend gatherings and travel programs demand immense amounts of behind-the-scene labor, orders of magnitude beyond the event itself.
Extended travel requires health and resources and time away from pets, plants, partners, career.
Saying no to parenthood, homeownership, or career-climbing today has consequences for tomorrow.
Every love consumes the oxygen available for others.
To inhabit the real world, must I bank my love in one place, one house, one job, one partner, one family?
Can I have many senses of place, many houses I call home, many labors, many partners, many chosen families?
Can I make life one long summer camp, an unending hike in the mountains, a voyage without destination, an infinite Angel Walk?
Is this delusion, or is this truth?
Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.
—Brian Doyle, Joyas Voladoras
[Reminder: the Kickstarter for Do What You Love and Die Trying ends on August 26th. It’s the only way to get a hard copy.]