hey gang — hope you dig this inspiring convo with my friend Nisey. grateful to her for speaking so openly about life, choices, and the crew. <3
Hosted a talk with my crew about the misogyny within us 2 months ago. How we unintentionally hold up norms we on-paper don’t support. How we can decide to stop holding up these norms, to be more accountable, to check ourselves, to ask questions like, “Is this cool with you?” Instead of, “Just tell me if you got an issue.” How these two paths are very different.
People got excited. Shared love and gratitude. People got defensive and dismissive. We brought all our stuff into a heaping, not-super-organized, pile and gave it a go. It went aight. It was amazing. It was really hard.
I didn’t come up with the idea, it was brought to me and I went with it. This feels important to note, as I wasn’t noticing what others were. I was intentionally/unintentionally hiding from this truth. When it was brought to my attention I initially got defensive too.
This mirrored a work situation where I recently stood up to some toxic boys club shit. As difficult as it’s been, it’s showing me things get easier over time. In this particular situation, we still need to work together to some extent. And in the case of my crew, we still need each other as friends. We still rely on each other for so much support. We’re still buds. This is just a new place to grow.
Rotating from feeling defeated to properly challenged. Repping for growth.
Sitting in the fire.
At work, I got banned from dude’s building in Phoenix and don’t get polite exclamation point-layered emails back from him and his team when I need stuff from them. Stuff I’m OK losing.
Sitting in the fire.
With crew, wondering where I stand with some of my fav peeps. Trusting in myself to move forward. Stuff I’m scared of losing.
I wrote about how the only problem with the response is expecting a response. I want to believe that and embody it. Be able to rep and walk away. Not be a fixer, but a liver and truth-teller.
I can pretend I’m just here as a conduit spreading this message. “Don’t shoot the messenger.” But I am a representative, the messenger, the problem, and sitting at the table of folks working to make change. I’m repping me. I’m repping how I am as a tall, lanky, privileged white man.
If we’re so down to be who we are with action, how are we acting?
Could replace “we” with “I” any day of the week.
If I’m so down to be who I am with action, how am I acting?
“Talking bout you ain’t scared of nothing, why you so afraid to change?”—Vursatyl, Double-Up
Trying to get that this is my role as a white man in the crew. I initially wrote that sentence as “I get that this is my role…” And that’s just not true. I want it to be. Sometimes it is. And other times I feel like, “Do I really need to go through this?” LOL, yes.
Why is talking about building inclusivity looked at as less fun?
In Buddhism, we look at stuff as more in the middle, not super hype or super not hype, just stuff. I love laughing with the crew. I also love chatting about our mental health, our roles, how we can improve, what we’re doing to be more us. This part is exciting to me. And I know that you can fully joke during these conversations too. I hear leaders in movement spaces do it all the time. They have a ton of practice so they’re able to add humor. Like when you’ve got your job so dialed you can crack jokes during the busiest rush. They acknowledge we’re not going to fix this tonight, or this week, or probably even in our lifetimes. So we can do some work and we can laugh. We can have some food, share some art, and enjoy our moments.
I hope this means we can recognize it’s OK to work on this stuff, to be openly imperfect, and laugh about it all in the same convo.
next stunts > past fronts
“come to no end that is not
— Diane Di Prima, Revolutionary Letter #100, Reality is No Obstacle
As much as I love and support change, the gravity of this change feels like grief. Where the parts that are opening up aren’t fully clear, there’s fear. On the newer path, looking back at what was—more fear. Space for longing. Who and what’s next? And excitement. Knowing I get to rep for me. All of us on our own slow transition from Zev Love X to DOOM.
If we allow them to, our defaults drop when we move to a new place. We can be exactly who we intend. When we start a new job with folks we don’t know.
Can’t we do the same when we wake up in the morning? Don’t we always have these powers?
The opposite of putting on a front, we can ditch the front we’ve been wearing. That was unintentionally put on us by folks to make things easier for them. Staying the same is desirable. Change is at first batted down, eventually witnessed, and rarely encouraged.
Our heartbeat actions moving from clarity to being clouded by fear and back.
We get tired of existing in what was. We move forward. We lay low. We step up. We speak up. We’re going to miss folks and things and activities. Some that were awesome and some less so. What are we willing to lose?
Here with the privilege to do almost anything. I can change jobs. Get what I need to create. Road trip. Bike. Run. Eat great food.
I can enter change at its slowest and most impactful pace. The type of change that’s actually surprising. When a friend we don’t see for a bit learned a new language, moved, got sober, or found a new way to express their art. They’ve learned to weld. Ditched a toxic job. Taken an internship or volunteer gig towards something they’ve always wanted to do. They left a space no longer accepting of their greatness.
Thinking harshness doesn’t exist is harder than living with it.
Expecting a response is the only problem with the response.
To compete VS ourselves and continue.
This was originally shared on my newsletter — here’s a link to sign up
During a test run for our monthly WTV show DREAMS, my bud Willie and I got to talking about tapping into that nervous feeling you get when you’re doing something you’re excited about.
He called it “Riding the Serpent.” Moving towards what we’re scared of and ready to ride it through whatever is giving us these vibes. If we trust we’re doing something we love and growing, we can at least hope the anxiety will be worth it.
I immediately wrote “Ride the Serpent” on my whiteboard and it’s been so cool to apply it to more parts of life. From this show, to writing and sharing work, to my paid work in film and hosting film events and Q&As. Just did one for 350 folks (my biggest audience yet) and nailed it— my “Ride the Serpent” reminder just off-camera.
Our serpent isn’t in the way—it is the way. It’s showing us a path. Spotlighting our fears and inviting us to ride past them. Not saying they won’t be back again, but cruising into these fears can teach us we’re capable of so much more than we might think.
Riding the serpent meant switching up the DREAMS show format from a maté-fueled Party Boy Seminar™️ of my fav jams on blast to an herbal tea reading and conversation with friends. The idea came from nerding out hard on Tara Brach’s hundreds of talks thanks to a tip from my therapist. Tara’s website is epic. It has the vibe of a pre-YouTube archive from the early 2000’s hosting years of talks and mediations—super highly recommend!
Tara just sits and speaks to the camera. She brings decades of research, personal stories, and is always explaining cartoons about therapy and life. It’s very dry in some senses, really just her and a camera, but it works. She owns it.
I know I’m nowhere near Tara’s level but I decided to give this format a try. I was expectedly hella nervous but knew I needed to ride my serpent past at least the first episode or two to get more comfy (turns out the serpent is still lurking around 4-5 episodes in). It might seem like ndb since I’ve performed a bit of music over the years but the truth is sitting quietly, and staring into the camera saying, “Hi everyone, welcome, I’m Nick,” is so much harder!
For the first show in this new format, I prepared some notes to share and tried to holler out people who showed up in the chat. I did a few readings from current hype/art books on my shelf and it for sure felt like one of the more awkward hours of my life. I eventually ran out of things to say and asked if anyone wanted to call in to chat. My friend Tom called and spoke to what he was up to. Something about the call coming in felt good—it came up naturally and I was completely out of other ideas. After the call I wrapped things up, walking back inside thinking, “What just happened?”
I try not to be too hard on myself but definitely questioned ever doing something like that again. At the same time, I was proud. I got through one of the more awkward hours of on-camera performance of my life and I knew that if a next time were to exist it would be easier (Can’t get published without getting rejected). All props due to my crew for sitting through it with me.
A couple of minutes after the show I got a text from Willie saying he dug the show and really appreciated hearing our friend’s voice. He said it was powerful to connect with friends like this during the pandemic. To top it off he shared some art he thought we could try to add for future episodes if I was going to do it again.
I totally flipped out. Riding the serpent of supreme awkwardness lead me to this text and even an offer to join up for the next episode from a brilliant artist-friend who I wouldn’t have thought to bug about helping out in the first place. It was as if this was the goal I couldn’t see when I dove in.
Now we’re 5-6 episodes deep with Willie producing and running the video, placing me into ridiculously dope scenes no other human could dream up. And it’s getting easier! And also harder! The serpent ride chills and gets hectic on repeat.
My lesson is getting past the initial trip of WTF just happened, and landing on the other side OK. Not hurt. Not in danger. Ego bruises heal and if growth is the goal, moving on. Things I relearn pretty much every episode.
Massive thanks to this dope, nonjudgmental, forever-serpent-riding, accepting, and supportive crew.
This post was originally sent over email last week. Here’s a link to subscribe if you want to.
Been thinking about the concept of ideas vs goals in terms of how we can feel good all-round about what we’re doing and accomplishing.
The goal might be success, completing a project, accolades, joy… where the idea is the why. The reason you’re making this art or taking this job or doing whatever it is you’re hyped about.
The idea represents a love for the process as we never really know what the outcome or end goal might look like anyways.
In The Listening Book, W.A. Mathieu writes about older students claiming it’s taking them too long to learn the basics of playing piano. In his words,
“There’s no ought to know, there is only uncovering ourselves.”
Maybe this removes all the reasons we feel like we’re not learning enough or doing enough. That we’re not enough. If we’re enjoying the process (the why), we won’t have room to be frustrated or legitimatize inevitable wack self-deprecating feelings. We can even forget to be hard on ourselves because we should be at some magical other level by now.
Big ole red flag for me here with learning Spanish. I’ve been taking classes and meeting up to speak with friends and language groups for a couple of years now, so I can get pretty bummed when I feel like I can’t hold down a conversation with my neighbor Jesus across the back fence.
But when I’m listening to Jesus, my friend Ernesto, or my teacher Luz speak and actually understanding them, I feel amazing. In these moments, what I don’t know doesn’t cloud the space. It’s what I do know, what I’m doing that get’s the louder mic. It reminds me of the many convos I’ve had with Jesus—and while they weren’t perfect— they were alright. Something I can be hyped about.
My end goal with Spanish remains a big question mark. I don’t claim to have any idea what I hope to accomplish besides continuing to learn and improve how I can communicate with my community.
We know from experience end goals will always shift, so maybe it’s all about enjoying and trusting in the process. We can listen deeply and learn which direction to pivot—learning what our hearts are really after. We’re unlocking the discovery in us to move at our pace of learning and growth. Any results here will probably be pretty rad.
This brave bird comes down from the tree to alert everybody else up top
It chirps every second or so like a smoke detector with a low battery
An Abert’s Towee
“There’s a cat and a dude down here y’all!”
Brave enough to land a couple of feet from Violet Fontaine and I
The cat stays melting in the sun
The bird circles us continuing its constant chirp
What a badass
Like those little birds who chase the hawks away
They must feel untouchable
Dunking on safety all day every day
Biked to the park to kick it with my friend Ernesto one day last spring. He and I created an awesome friendship through what started as an English/Spanish trade.
We catch up about anything and everything and have lots of time to go deep with around 2-hours a week carved out to chat, more time than I spend with any other friends or fam besides my wife sin duda (“no question” in Spanish 💫)
He is just about the nicest and most humble person I’ve ever met, and until recently was working in Tucson as a post-doc researcher on projects related to the DNA makeup of mushrooms and how they can be useful in other ways (something like that). Sorry if I butchered that, Ernesto!
We talk about 90’s NBA (Godzilla VS Barkley, etc), maté, food, and mostly just life in general. He always asks how my mom and dad are every time we chat (they’ve never met). His wife is a ridiculously dope artist and they are just an incredible rad combo to get to be around.
This spring day’s convo started like any other. We caught up in general for 20-minutes or so until he said: “Tengo noticias” (I have news). He shared that he and his wife are moving to Italy in a couple of months! Just the most humble dude ever hanging on to this news and not leading with it (my brain can’t compute!)—love learning from his humility and chill.
It’s been a tough decision for them for all the hardest reasons: jobs, money, family, and accepting joy. The “safe” route would be staying in Tucson for 2 more years at a job he doesn’t like, stacking more $, then making the move. Another “safe” option moving back to Argentina and planning a move to Italy sometime in the distant future.
They know it will be harder to make the move if they go back home first, given they’ve already downsized and are mentally ready to go now. So they decided to follow their hearts and leave for Italy in a couple of months!
Maybe this plan is even safer?
He’s super wise and laughs about supposed safety. Is it not safer, and healthier (mental health = physical health) to make the move and be happy? He can be very direct as I’ve noticed with other folks not from the U.S., only partially jokingly explaining if they stayed they’d just have to spend all the extra money they’re saving on therapy anyways. So maybe it’s safer for their long-term health to do what feels like the most heartbeat decision right now.
Some basic safety does exist for them in Italy. She is a citizen so they can both work. So this stuff is not not a part of the decision, it’s just not the only part of the decision.
Their plan involves borrowing some money from family in case they need a bit of cushion. They are openly accepting this offer and I’d argue this as another huge diss to regular, individualistic barriers we put in front of making dope moves. We tend to feel like we need to do things all ourselves but why wait? Pride? The money is there. It’s being offered. Why say no when you really want to say yes.
He talked about it being their duty to accept this offer. To enjoy life, to put egos in check, and accept help. What a diss it would be to the millions of folks dealing with life’s challenges around the globe for someone with the ability to live a dream to deny it!
Why let something as insignificant as money interrupt changing your life? I use insignificant in comparison to things like dreams, love, potential, our paths, art; as in this case, food will be on the table either way. They’re both super capable hustlers and will no doubt find work soon. I’ve offered to help them get some groceries if they need them, and I’m sure you have friends who would do this for you too.
To me, that is real wealth, and I felt this when our good bud B-Hill in Detroit took me and my friend in during a cross-country road trip. Things were getting a bit more challenging on the road. We woke up in NOLA realizing we weren’t accomplishing as much as we hoped—stuck in a cycle of sleeping in the van, sleeping at couch surfing spots, spending our money making our hosts breakfasts, spending our money meeting people at bars, and feeling kinda burnt out.
So we made the call up to Detroit and he offered us a parking spot at his house. We did the drive in a couple of days and knew we were close when we hit the first Tim Hortons in Ohio. My friend did the ordering and we ate mini donuts like chips for the last couple of hours of the trip.
We pulled up in his driveway and the first thing we did after a few minutes of hugs and laughs was take an all-expense-paid trip to the grocery store. We filled the cart like a family moving into a new home, excited to live and cook together. It felt so normal at the time, and in hindsight, it’s been one of my favorite examples of the power of crew—of what’s really real y’all. What safety and collective love and trust can look like against all the pressures of individualism and capitalism.
He stocked his fridge, put us up in bedrooms, let us set up in his studio, and we arguably accomplished much more staying in one space with fam than we had staying in rando parking lots around the Southern USA. We put aside the “safety” of our ego, pride, and plans and it 100% worked out for the better. We gave ourselves up to the creW.
adriene marie brown speaks to crew support on one of the earlier episodes of the Octavias Parabales podcast. She talks about all of the houses she has access to across the world and explains how her home in Detroit is on this list too. She and her crew all know where to find the hidden keys, access food, money, car keys. Everything they might need to survive.
Where buying a house can seem like and usually is one of the most individualistic things we do, I abso love this idea and feel like it’s a further playing out of the power of crew I witnessed in Detroit. And these are pro-ass humans—so I don’t imagine there’s constantly a friend sleeping on their couch, using their car, and eating their food. It’s a backstop and safety precaution for situations we never thought we’d actually see pre-2020.
Y’all down? Our spare key is under Bojuska (if you know, you know). Where’s yours?
Isn’t it all the same in the end (and in the morning)?
Sis with lots of cash is probably safe, fed, and housed. Odds are they’re having a coffee sometime after waking up. Folks with less money or those who are open to relying on crew or fam when needed are probably safe, fed, and housed. Also having coffees before navigating their day. Both are doing what they need to do to survive. Both may even be pretty happy. This is absolutely OK.
Alternative safety so often has the smaller voice and is looked at as wrong, lazy, unjust, and trivial. This focus on dreams and joy VS basic capitalism doesn’t need to be seen as lesser. We can follow our path, accept help, offer help, enjoy life, and still live and die just the same as any Scrooge McDuck MF in a pool of cash.
In Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott writes, “If you want to know about how god feels about money, look at whom she gives it to.” Lots of great folks, but lots of wack folks. All paths come with their own sets of issues. Shoutout to repping our path beyond pleasing capitalism.
If it is the same in the end (coffee, life, death)—why not try joy?
Having a coffee in Italy on slightly lower funds than sipping one in Tucson. Excited about the possibility of new work VS the inevitability of work you’re not psyched about.
What do we want to be thinking about while walking the dog, driving, eating, waking up? What choices are we making for safety and security and what do these words mean to us? What’s the safest thing to do right now in terms of health (mental and physical)?
How could any safety and security that doesn’t contribute to better health really exist? Is there an amount of money we could lose in tandem to improved health that would be concerning?
A quick update: my friends made it to Italy and have been there for about a month. It’s not easy, but they found a really dope little house in a small town that’s a short train ride from a beautiful beach and both of their jobs. And my dude Ernesto still even has time for a weekly chat (which totally caught me off guard)! Dang they’re dope and isn’t it just the coolest to witness friends living their dreams?