The corn fields were eery. Every stalk looked exactly the same. I couldn’t put my finger on what felt so creepy until our tour guide pointed it out.
“Butterflies, bugs, animals all stay away from GMO crops,” he announced. “That’s why you don’t see any sign of life in these fields.”
I was attending a food conference in Iowa. Part of our tour was visiting farms and meeting with ranchers and farmers. It was incredibly enlightening to speak with them and learn about their own frustrations about our food system.
I’m grateful I was able to learn this crucial information while standing in a corn field talking to people *living* it rather than from a book or in a classroom.
I wasn’t just flying between Seattle and New York in my post-JCC years. Because I was rent-free and still pulling in cash, I was able to attend conferences all over the country.
Des Moines, Iowa
New Orleans, Louisiana
San Francisco, California
New York, New York
As you may have figured out by now: if I have an excuse to travel, I’m going to do it!
I don’t know why I didn’t record of these trips on social media. I was on Facebook at that time. I guess I was still pretty shy then.
However, I’m relieved that Facebook existed then. Because I met some amazing colleagues at these conferences and I’m able to stay in touch with them now!
In New Orleans, we danced to some of the best music I’ve ever heard live in my life. Even the smallest bars, had these incredibly talented bands.
We ate local cuisine.
We discussed strategies for improving our food system.
We networked with people we’d only ever met online.
We met locals working in the Movement.
We attended workshops and learned from each other.
We were hopeful. We were determined. We believed we could make a difference.
I was honored to speak at several of these conferences and held cooking workshops for participants.
I’d dream of becoming a public speaker my entire life. I also really, really wanted to become a writer. But that didn’t come as easily. It’s still hard for me to believe that I AM a writer.
I was really bad for a really long time (I really was). I’ve literally spent DECADES working on it.
But my public speaking voice? That was all luck.
Maybe when I was being born, someone said “this girl is so fucked in the health department, let’s give her the gift of speaking so she can at least advocate for herself!"
This is why it’s so important to me that I use this voice to fight for others.
Trapped inside this disabled body, I feel so fortunate to have it.
This gift, my strange cancer story, the fact that I’m not working or responsible for dependents - all of this feels like I’m supposed to use this opportunity to help.
No matter how tired I am or how much pain I’m in, I can still use this voice by tapping out messages with my thumbs or recording videos in the corner of my bedroom.
And I also have this extraordinary community that helps me amplify these important messages!
Though, I must admit: it's not easy putting my life on the Internet.
I think a lot of people *dream* of being known on the Internet. Being a youtube *star* sounds fun and appealing.
But it’s actually really scary. It makes me feel super vulnerable! I haven't been attacked much by trolls but it's bound to happen. It feels uncomfortable and strange to have so many details about my life open to the public. To share my medical case with it's embarrassing details...I can't explain how difficult that is for me. It's so, so hard.
For others, they can share their swanky digs, cutting edge fashion, or their picture perfect food photos and they “hit it big.”
I sucked at that. The only thing that *works* for me is when I’m being a thousand percent honest about what’s happening to me, my feelings - both sad and happy, my health issues, and sharing unflattering, untouched photos.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a blessing that I don’t know how to edit photos or videos. It keeps me real. Literally.
The Internet has created so many problems in our society. That’s for sure.
But for someone like me, it's been life saving.
Even though I constantly wake up panicking because I’m remembering the cringe-worthy thing I posted the day before, I keep at it.
I don't feel I have a choice.
Not only am I hopeful that people will be able to help with my medical case.
But really it's because my life is all about survival now. I know it's hard for able-bodied people to see this.
For a LOT of us medically fragile people now it’s all about survival.
We already have to work every day to survive in our bodies. And now we also have to worry about surviving this administration.
No matter how scared I get to post something, I do it anyway.
No matter how much I wish I could carry on talking about food, I talk about scary shit instead.
No matter how much I want to bury my head in the sand about what’s happening in our country, I CAN NOT AFFORD TO.
I WAS GIFTED THIS VOICE.
There is a reason why fascists countries shut down press first.
Because voices of dissent are powerful.
And now? My life depends on pushing it out further into the world.
If I'm in a position to help others, then I must.
Without my work in the food world, I don't know if I'd know where to start now.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to speak around the country back then. The experience, the practice, all of it, has given me so much insight into how to develop my ACA videos, how to hone my messages.
All those years of my food activism and workaholic habits are now informing my advocacy work that means life or death for so many.
I’m sorry I don’t have better stories from the conferences! This time was such a blur in my life. And my memory isn’t as sharp as it was in previous years. I was older. I moved too fast. I didn’t rest enough or eat right so the memories didn't lock in as well.
I’m so grateful I was able to travel around the country during this time. I’m so glad I got to meet so many of you dedicated activists around the country. And learn from you still.
I really hope I get to do it again soon….
PHOTO #25. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth