The energy in Byron is irreplaceable. It has created so many great revelations for me…not necessarily good ones, but ones that will only be repaired if they are faced head on. I’ll pre-warn you that this post may jump around, be spacey, make no sense at all, or make me look like a terrible person…but I know that there is a bit of learning in it for everyone if you’re willing to take a gander.
My introduction to Byron Bay went a little like this…
Arrived at 6pm Sunday, just missing the monthly markets, to be greeted by my friend Anna that I met in Noosa. We stocked up on flavored tuna and headed to the beach where there was to be a drum circle. Drum circle there wasn`t but new found friends there were. Frederic is the only name I remember. Upon meeting him he asked `what is your sport?’ Admittedly a bit put off by his insinuation that perhaps I was butch I asked why he would ask that when he replied ‘those are the legs of a strong woman, an athlete’. And I looked down and read the graffiti ‘lose the ego, this is Byron Bay’ and instantly I knew Byron would be a place of realizing some uncomfortable insecurities about myself. He told us there wouldn’t be a drum circle because they were tired from the market, but invited us to a party with their friends. Following suit with my ‘say ‘yes’ when you would normally say ‘no’’ mantra for my travels, we went. For some reason Frederic requested that Anna drive…initially he said it was because there was loads of cocaine in the back seat…we weren’t really sure if he was joking, but we took the risk anyway. We went to the hostel bar at the Arts Factory then headed to the northern part of Byron “the industrial” place. Where we entered a house that smelled of curry, chai, and a hint of B.O. which was showing independent films projected on one wall and through a door we saw dancing. We entered what looked like a room for spiritual dance and found that as well as a nude woman being painted, many adults in costumes dancing with eyes closed, and communal painting canvases. All of this being recorded attentively by several video cameras, one in particular a mother filming her 11 year old daughter as she interacted with the unique ‘live art party’. I will never know if my company that night was high on drugs or life, but either way the energy let my little worries float away for an evening.
A day, maybe two, later…I’ve really lost track…I had a conversation with Anna about friends that was enlightening in both good and not as good ways. I realized that travelling has brought me together with people I ordinarily wouldn’t associate with back home…not because they are a world away, but because I have become so judgemental that without realizing, I am very picky with who I associate myself with at home. I could argue this as a positive…I am after all a master at bullshit…but let’s be honest, those who I hold near and dear are those who know my crazy and love me more for it, so who am I to judge. Without realizing how problematic, even rude it is… The first questions I ask most people at home are “What do you do?” “How old are you/how long have you been doing that”…so I can instantly judge whether or not that person is successful enough to be ‘worth my time’…when clearly with that mentality I really wasn’t worth theirs. When I’ve been travelling, it’s taken me weeks to find out what some people do for work at home. It’s like we all have the commonality of not working at the moment because we prioritized travel, and for whatever reason we chose Australia, and that is a reason to be friends. I have spent nights becoming friends with 18-45 year olds, self-employed hippies to business men, book worms to bar stars…We often have very little in common…but that’s not our focus. And as people who have chosen to open our minds, to travel, to throw ourselves in uncomfortable situations with the hope of learning and coming out even a little better off in the end, we accept and learn from traits we don’t share. I look at the collection of people I’ve met…and to somewhat of a bittersweet realization see that I wouldn’t have given most of them a time of day had I met them while in the midst of the career grind I call home.
As I vented about my [actually irrelevant in the grand scheme of things] problems to my friends Anna and Danny whilst walking along Byron’s beach to the most easterly point in Australia to watch the sunset, Danny said, “Forget the plan and just be your crazy self”. Sometimes I really like the slight language barrier (he’s Italian) as it can hyper-simplify concepts. Quite an interesting piece of advice though, as so often in our social or romantic lives we create plans [maybe its just me] to make sure we fit into the status quo and act socially acceptable…or ‘not crazy’. Society has created a picture that women are crazy because they are over emotional and vulnerable creatures that act on our emotions. As a woman who has always been super career focused and determined to play on even playing ground with the men, I’ve found myself attempting to ‘act like a man’ in any emotional situation. I’ve grown up seeing crying as weak, making fun of over-clingy girls with my guy friends, and being on a mission to be the one that cares the least in the relationship. As a few [now realized to be] poor decisions would teach me…that’s not necessarily always a good thing. I may have been burned badly in the past for expressing feelings, but just as I don’t want to be generalized as the negative stigma of a girl, I suppose I can’t do the same generalizing about men. So all of that abstract out loud [in print] thinking to rationalize the oh so simple statement by my new found friend in Byron bay. Forget the plan, be your crazy self. Sooner or later it’s going to come out. Planning to keep it hidden is only wasting your own time impressing people who don’t [and may not like] know who you really are. And really…why is any given trait impressive…I am such an advocate for being opinionated, but I’ve come to realize half of my opinions [these beliefs I think make me strong, independent and unique] are opinions I’ve adopted to impress somebody…and tried to live out for so long that I almost genuinely believe they are true.
That can sound a bit depressing, but as I quoted Liz Gilbert in my blog prior to my departure, it is these [sometimes disturbing] realizations of self that lead us to the answers we want…and I will say, that I’m sure they aren’t answers we want…because once you let go and open your mind, you see that there were questions you didn’t even know needed to be posed. It goes with ‘say yes when you would normally say no’. If you plan a whole trip, if you only stick to what you know, you will only ever know what you do right now. I know not everyone’s heads are as busy as mine…but that’s a boring and terrifying thought to anyone. I would have never agreed to get in the car with Frederic and his friends…but my choice to say yes granted me the most unique experience to date in Australia.
On a sunnier note, I have also realized who my real friends are…who I can tell every embarrassing, perhaps shameful, or totally inexcusable things I’ve done, and who will make sure I still feel amazing. Those who know the crazy inside and out and love it anyway. The people that even met under the circumstance of judgmental pre-friend screening, are legitimately good people. For that I give myself some credit. So to those of you, you know who you are, thank you…for being one of my most prized accomplishments; because without you to share life with –and of course family—what does the job, house, and handbag mean anyway? I feel honoured to say that when asked who my best friend is I struggle to come up with a single name, as [although it’s only a handful] I have a good group of people that I would trust with my life…that I run to, to share my triumphs, tears, and biggest of dreams. I look at my post about the wedding theory…it still has merit…but I’d say I’ve moved on to the crazy theory. Whoever has seen it all, full blown Anika craziness….and is still around….they can come throw some rice in my perfectly coiffed hair and eat well-planned poorly executed catering…because they will be willing to listen to me complain about it later. …and there’s still a week left in Byron.