Recently, I had the pleasure of escaping on a two week long road trip with my sister as she drove from Boston to San Francisco. Along the ride, I hiked through Colorado, read many a memoir, climbed peaks in Utah, watched Drag Race in the Castro, reunited with dear friends, spent quality time with my sisters, and even took a few booty pics (lawlz).
Being on the road can be tough, but traveling plays a vital role in growth, reflection, perspective, and survival. It can be easy to get wrapped up in aspects of identity that we cling to in order to define or limit ourselves; staying in one place for too long is exactly what makes this issue stick. Still, when we hit the open road with nothing but a few good books and an open mind, we give ourselves permission to evolve. We also recall and enhance aspects of our identity that may have become lost along the way.
In my case, I had forgotten how much I loved to write, listen, and observe. Rediscovering this about myself gave me the opportunity to put passion back into practice. I decided to write a short collection of reviews on the four (RADICAL) books that I read throughout the adventure. Reflecting in this way encourages me to refocus and rediscover more passions in the future, while also tending to them in the present; I hope it does the same for you!
Betty White’s iconic optimism shines through her memoir, If You Ask Me. She admits that she has to remind herself (at times, by sheer mental force even) to choose and admire the bright side of every situation. This is a lesson that we all know, but White’s life and writings provide a masterclass in the potential and success of this teaching. Ultimately, White advocates for identifying and following through with individual passions; life without passion is empty and meaningless.
Sarah Silverman juggles a narrative full of depression, anxiety, and bed wetting while still maintaining a delicate balance of biting satire. A comic tries not to take herself too seriously, but when Sarah does, the reader relates to her struggles just long enough before she drops a joke upon them like a water balloon full of piss. All of this ties into a wonderful takeaway that she provides, “make it a treat.” Here, Sarah teaches us to take our strongest loves and addictions (often one in the same) and to insist to make those things a treat; through this, we remember not to identify solely through such outlets.
Gloria Steinem’s most recent memoir, My Life on the Road (perhaps my favorite read during this trip) highlights the author's rich, feminist experience and evokes deep reflection. Nomadic lifestyles are a running theme in this work, and Steinem draws parallels between her life of travel, Native American culture, and feminist values. Her final chapter, a heartfelt dedication to her great friend, the late Wilma Mankiller, is a touching and powerful conclusion on these parallels.
Steinem’s perspective is always inviting. Her wisdom is provided via complex anecdotes which end with short mantras and tactful advice. This simultaneously allows the reader to listen to her narrative, but gives room to pause and ponder how these simple morals can be applied to our own stories. From the National Women’s conference of 1977, to the present consequences of disregarding sexual assault, Steinem offers a feminist history that few textbooks can provide. Her advocacy for oral history reminds us that the person who has experienced something is always more an expert than the expert. This emphasis on listening highlights Gloria’s pinnacle of advocacy: Feminism is about creating talking circles, not hierarchies.
I was inspired to read André Aciman’s Call me by your Name after seeing the film with my sisters in Colorado. Homoerotic subtext and the nuances of intimacy are subjects that are close to my heart; needless to say, I was smitten upon watching this movie. While Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer masterfully exude such subtext via longing glances, dialogue ripe with rich evocation, and specific points of view portrayed clearly (even in moments of silence), the novel subverts this subtext not only by making it dominant, but, relentless. Being inside Elio’s mind is exhaustingly beautiful. In the novel, the reader witnesses the specifics of every brooding question, contradictory emotion, and erotic fantasy.
Both the novel and film teach the importance of emotional intelligence via self love in order to not only identify our feelings, but to thrive on them; both the good and the bad. Is it better to speak or to die? Elio and Oliver often ponder this question. The answer lies in finding the ability to speak to yourself, as not to die from the sorrow of silence. Elio and Oliver’s circumstances may have not always permitted them to speak, but, by calling each other by their own names, they practice radical self-love while also celebrating their feelings for one another.
I'll treasure this road trip and what it taught me for the rest of my life. Reigniting passion via the thrill of new locations can make all the difference in a brighter tomorrow. A big thank you to my Sisters: To Brittany for inviting me along this exciting journey, and to Nicole for opening up your home and taking us on some astounding hikes through Colorado. Yay, love!