What is there to say about this project? How could I possibly encapsulate all of my feelings into two pages of text? Why don’t I start at the beginning…
This is what I wrote to Pick Up America in my cover letter, which I submitted on November 14, 2010:
“When I first heard about PUA, my first thought was, ‘Wow. Those people are amazing.’ Then, immediately, ‘I could never do that’. I seek sustainability in my personal habits, but never saw myself as an activist. Then, when I heard Davey speak at UC, when my interest was immediately met with such boundless enthusiasm, love, and acceptance, and when with every second my inspiration and passion grew, I realized that I am an activist. I know I am not the only person who has felt like making a difference was not possible. I want to do this for me, but also to continue to communicate that we are all so much more powerful than we realize.”
I closed that letter with, “I can’t remember the last time I was so fired up about something. Please consider me as a Pick Up Artist for 2010.”
Despite my enthusiasm, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I look back on that Lily and hardly recognize her. She had just received a heartbreaking deferment of her Peace Corps service two months before her departure date, after spending a whole year preparing to leave. She had only been camping at music festivals. She had peed outside once in her life. She didn’t know what ticks or poison ivy looked like. She hadn’t picked up a single piece of someone else’s trash.
Man, have I changed. It goes well beyond the superficial changes, like the five ticks a day I picked off my body in Illinois last summer, the poison ivy that covered me in Kansas, and the multiple times a day I casually pee on the ground these days. It even goes beyond the way sustainability now automatically factors into everything I do. Pick Up America created a deep transformation in me. It dramatically expanded who I see myself to be and what I’m capable of creating. It taught me over and over that community is everywhere and that strangers don’t exist. It taught me that life is for exploring, and that every day, even a day full of exhausting manual labor, can be full of playful energy. It gave me faith. I have seen life just work out and what we need just magically appear too many times not to believe. I know the universe will provide for me as long as I stay true to my purpose. There’s a profound sense of peace in that.
Thanks for everything, Pick Up America. I’ve been living in denial and avoiding writing this. I still can’t believe you won’t exist anymore. You are my home. It’s so heartbreaking, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. So, rather than saying something deep and profound in my final blog, I have to let it be known how much I will miss you.
I will miss the way Pick Up America makes the days move easy. The constant chaos that fills our time on the road calms me. I’m never bored. There’s always a way to contribute. There’s always someone there.
I will miss these people who have shared my life with me for years. It’s so sad to think I only have one more week living in the same place as everyone on this trip. It’s a feeling I know from seeing my big sister move away to college, a knowing that nothing will ever be the same. We created this bond with a communal lifestyle most people never experience: being isolated from our communities with a small group of people that is around nearly every second we’re awake. Pick Up Artists, we will be family forever. This isn’t the end.
I will miss the adventure. Last year, I wrote, “We live our lives in between where we’re going and where we’ve been. Everyday we’re somewhere we’ll never be again.” Living this life, I saw places I would have never seen. I slow-traveled through two thirds of the country, including the big skies and perfect solitude of western Kansas, the epic beauty of southern Utah, the bounty of the California valley, the mighty Pacific, so many cities. I will miss constantly living and exploring somewhere new.
I will miss the people we meet on the road and being welcomed so quickly into the lives of “strangers” who now form a community of friends spanning across the country. We always joked that we meet the best people in every town we visit. I will miss receiving gratitude and being of service in a way that inspires people to contribute.
I will miss the magic that envelopes every moment of life on the road.
However, I will not miss living in service. Pick Up America is only the beginning for me. The end of life on the road leaves an emptiness for a new beginning to appear. I have no idea what it will look like (how exciting!), but I know I will be of service somehow.
All my love to PUA.