Winter 2015, I recognized it would be a disservice to continue serving youth and inauthentic to ask those I worked with to search edges I was fearful to search myself. What that meant to me is that I answered the Call. I chose to have faith that the communities I wished to serve as Mentor, Guide and soon to be Elder would still be there upon my Return. Having no idea how long I would be “gone”, trusting I would know when the time arrived. I created Queer Odyssey as a vehicle to chart the journey- consisting of tales & visuals of my exploration. A vision that it would evolve beyond my own personal narrative and serve as a road-map, carrying the thread of its origins, the transparency of my own stories- the Queerest Quest (in every sense of the word); a Hero's Journey template for navigating life's challenges- A way, informed by my own experiences, for others to self-design their own Rite of Passage. A simple description of the phases of a rite of passage, if you’re not familiar, follows:
“Embedded in every rite of passage is a blueprint for change. A call for transformation is heralded. (SEVERANCE) Something old is released. A process of deconstruction and eventual reconstruction unfolds. (THRESHOLD) Something new emerges. The integration of that which is new occurs. (INCORPORATION)” – Melissa Michaels, Youth on Fire
My most recent journey (ROP), following my work at Pacific Quest, came with the intention that I desired to explore, move & face some known and unknown fears & assumptions about who I am so that I would truly & authentically serve youth in a deep and meaningful way. Queer Odyssey tells the story of following a path with heart and finding trust in living authentically. From the beginning a dot org (.org), the website & social media identify as an Organization for networking, collaboration & offerings and is always evolving & finding its niche as I continued to travel in 2017 in the waters of the Gulf & Salish Sea, as well as, wintering in Mexico till March 2018. While travelling last year I continued to research, follow and cultivate relationships with organizations that aligned with my hopes for directly working in the field again. This is how I have envisioned it thus far (& I’m ready to lean in). The hope is this work will take place wherever The Call is heard. That I have the opportunity to continue travelling//exploring and incorporate my 'living in the field" experiences. I created Queer Odyssey to document my experience, to utilize these platforms as a foundation to step from Hero's Journey of self to the Return & Incorporation of Belonging. To answer the next Call as Mentor of those walking, and maybe even lost, on the same journey. We can stay found together.
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.” -Rumi
Two years later in the Winter of 2017, I feel a sense of resolve and a readying to step out of the liminal space and direct myself towards concrete markers to devote and partner with others who resonate with me. I believe the combination of the Restoring Youth Rites of Passage: Two-Week Leadership Intensive with Rite of Passage Journeys in June + participating in the Youth on Fire Training in August + the yearlong Radical Movement 101 are the alchemy to bridge what I love – soulfully mentor youth through initiatory experiences, being in nature & movement + dancing, to name a few. In community, with the support and witnessing of my peers, I have no doubt that these experiences will catalyze my unique gifts and satisfy my ancestors' wildest dreams in a deep, joyful and liberating way. I’m excited (& nervous!) to begin building my niche in this work OUT loud and bring what has been an amazing two year journey, with many gifts, to completion through Incorporation with my community.
Committed to filling the need for creating Trans & Non-Binary specific Rites of Passage (ROP), introducing and offering ROP to Organizations already working in the field with our dynamic community, and supporting existing ROP organizations in becoming accessible to Trans & Non-Binary youth, is the vision. Collaborating with Organizations & Individuals committed to educating about and supporting resilience in the intersectionality of our collective. This may look like, added programming in your organization, consulting, guest speaking, project caretaker +++. I strongly desire to support youth, again, and specifically youth populations that include: Transgender, LGBTQ2+, POC, First Nations and those within the Foster or homeless shelters. Preferring to coordinate, collaborate and be led by Youth leaders feels really important in these times.
Since working at Pacific Quest I have intentionally remained off payroll as to step into the possibility of freedom of movement, collaboration & uplifting of more than one organization and voice, and belief in providing for myself through multiple streams & ideas of currency, wealth & value. I believe the combination of my experiences, age and identities offer a unique view to reflect to youth and bear witness and serve. In these fast paced times I offer a slower (not always perfect, but always intentional) way that I have carved out for myself despite and because of the challenges faced. I desire to see what sacredness, art, creativity, movement and tapping into the natural rhythms soul + spirit provides us in these intentional spaces. The reciprocal exchange of being in youth spaces provides me with energy, possibility and humility & fills me with pride, joy and a “mama bear” sense for which I love to show up more consistently and sustainably in my life.
My vocations & how I show up in the world are intrinsically tied together, seeking out experiences as the ideal teacher. My identification as Queer goes beyond gender & sexuality- it is a way of life for me and at times challenging to find reflected back. But, as I have embodied and tested this way over the past couple of years specifically, my resilience has strengthened, my physical pain has reduced and the lessons of faith, trust, belonging and self respecting boundaries have weaved through the fabric of my being; serving as a Guide. As I look 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road, what I instinctually believe will lay a sustainable ground of purpose, honoring my physical well-being & bring joy consistently brings me to this work.
“So what are the rituals that offer youth the deep connections, the challenges, the adventure, the sense of self, the transcendent experiences that they are looking for?” – Melissa Michaels, Youth on Fire
Movement is my medicine, my meditation, my way of being present & self-regulating. The dance has been my refuge & sanctuary. Where I can feel like I belong to something greater. The rhythm, the beats, the lyrics inspire me & uplift me in times of trouble & celebration. A big memory of myself as a youth growing up was me, in my room, walkman on, listening to music. This was my time that I enjoyed and it was also a time when I escaped- a coping skill when things got messy- for better or for worse. I don’t remember dreams much, but I do remember I used to dream in musicals quite frequently- Folks expressing themselves; breaking out into song and dance to solve problems, to express feelings, to declare love. I watched old musicals with my Grandma. I was raised on MTV. I came of age on the dancefloor- a space in the 80's & 90's where my community felt safe to freely express their authentic self, to love and mix sweat with tears of those we have lost. I have evolved from making a mixtape for a friend as a teenager with a decorated cassette to creating journeys through spotify for a larger listening. These impressions created in a young person, impactful after all these years, provide some information that I’m listening to more and more intently and curious how this can be incorporated into meaningful work for social justice & my devotion to uplifting marginalized & oppressed voices, providing a tether to youth through the sounds that move them. To quote Common, from the lyrics of Glory, in the film Selma, “The movement is the rhythm in us”. Seeking creative and non-verbal ways to engage & connect youth in healthy transcendent experiences + developing contemporary ROP, for me, sounds like a whole lot of fun & a life lived thru a Queer Calling.
I recently participated in an offering through Queer Theology, called Queer Calling. The prompt: “WHAT DOES YOUR QUEERNESS OR TRANSNESS CALL YOU TO DO AND BE IN THE WORLD?” MUCH LIKE ENCOUNTERING CHRIST CAN BE CAUSE FOR “RETURNING A DIFFERENT WAY” SO TOO CAN BEING QUEER. HOW HAS YOUR QUEERNESS AFFECTED HOW YOU GO THROUGH LIFE, HOW YOU NAVIGATE YOUR FAITH, AND WHAT YOU ARE CALLED TO DO AND BE? So this is what I offered: Queer Calling: Returning A Different Way & I find making these playlists with an intention, for me, is a healing and powerful modality. I share playlists with friends and find them to tell a story about marking a particular passage in my life. Sometimes I even feel that the songs automatically generated for me through my Spotify account magically play rhythms and lyrics I need in that moment for inspiration and healing. Not to mention, I know for a fact my sister beams Don’t Stop Believin’ down from the heavens just when I need a sibling pep talk.
I’ll share an example of something I experimented with my students ages 18-24 while still working on the Big Island with Pacific Quest: ‘Sunday Dance Parties” AKA Movement Therapy. They LOVED it as a tool to process emotions. I would show them the video We Came To Dance –to help ground our hour together. They loved sharing songs that elicit an experience in their life. Or a song that they like to listen to focus or one that brings about an emotion of love, heartbreak or what they listen to when they are angry- a way to reclaim that part of themselves in a way that doesn’t involve “talk therapy”. I pretty much would like nothing more than to do this all the time- the possibilities are limitless.
I am honored that you have expressed curiosity and interest in the possibilities we can co-create. My hope is that I can leave a Legacy of Service & Love in this lifetime and I would be flattered to discuss further ways I can support you, your work and your organization.
Talk soon, Take care
DANCING BODHISATTVA IN SERVICE TO HUMANS RISIN' UP & GETTIN' DOWN
Radical Movement 101 a 12 month online program- A fully integrated soul + spirit + psyche process that guides you through mind-body practices + dancing +music.
Restoring Youth Rites of Passage: Two-Week Leadership Intensive June 2nd-15th Participate in three-day solo vigil, use and practice other wilderness soulwork modalities, inquire into the intersections of colonization, ancestry, trauma, and initiation, and explore frameworks and tools for rite of passage leadership, program facilitation, and adolescent development. Delve into key issues in rite of passage work today, including working with youth of diverse backgrounds in gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, and engaging in ceremonial practices in ways that respect diverse spiritual orientations and are not culturally appropriative. Bothell, WA. Rite of Passage Journeys
Youth on Fire Training July 30th-August 3rd A training in the art and science of creating body-centered rites of passage processes in your community. Boulder, CO. GoldenBridge.org
Youth Passageways and All Nations Gathering Center August 27 - September 3 2018 Build relationship, exchange story, and explore the possibility of future and ongoing collaboration.
Umatill Quest September 15 - 23 2018 La Grande, Oregon Co-Guiding a 10 Day Nature Based ROP with Adults