a safe place to be

When it comes to writing, where’s the line between honesty and self-absorption? Between oversharing and sincerity? I don’t think highly enough of myself to believe that everything that happens to me is interesting (it’s not), but also, I’ve learned a few things through my experiences, and I’d like to think they might be valuable to someone else.

The writers that I cannot get enough of are heartbreakingly, stunningly honest. They pour out the rawest parts of themselves on the page for a stranger like me to read, and I don’t know that I trust people enough for that. I don’t know that I trust myself to be strong enough, to not let it break me. Where does that leave me?

Maybe that’s what I’m trying to carve out here: a safer place (at least the illusion of it—it is still the internet) to experiment and explore and be a little more vulnerable than I can be on social media. Maybe not the inner workings of my heart, soul, and journal entries, but still, something deeper and quieter than the never-ending feeds and breaking news and scroll, scroll, scroll.

I’m just tired. Tired of the noise, of the constant extremes. It’s as if the internet has divided into two camps: one that only wants to be happy, “follow your bliss” 24/7, and another that believes if you’re not constantly devolving into cycles of burning rage, you aren’t doing it right (looking at you, Twitter). Can we just be okay with the fact that humans cannot permanently live in either of these emotional states? To recognize that, collectively, 2017 was an awful year, but also, it’s okay to acknowledge that your personal life went pretty well? We can experience more than one or two emotions. It’s okay to hold a whole lot of feelings about a whole lot of things in tension.

A few things to help guide this space:

  1. This is for writing, not for marketing. Honest writing is the goal here, not making money.
  2. Along the same lines: I’m not interested in adding to the noise or creating content for the sake of clicks. I’ll share when I have something worthwhile to share (even if I sometimes think it’s only worthwhile for me).
  3. I don't have answers, only stories. I’ll probably write more about myself than I feel comfortable doing because, well, that’s all I’ve got.
  4. If you aren’t interested, that’s okay; just keep moving along. (Pro tip: don’t hate-read. It does literally no one any good, especially you.)
  5. The comments will mostly stay closed, but please feel free to send me an email anytime. I’d love to connect, and will do my best to respond in a timely manner (but be forewarned that I am the worst with email, and if I take awhile, it’s not personal)

I hope to show up here a whole lot more in 2018. The more I write, the more I realize just how much I need to. Even if that’s all I get out of this, maybe that’s enough.

Brittany Stoess
into the wild

For the past several years, I’ve been very focused on the “adventure” side of things: being brave, challenging myself, and trying new things. Lately, though, I’ve started digging more into the “wild”—not in the “let’s go crazy” sense but more like tuning into what it means to be in the wilderness (literally and metaphorically) and to love and respect wild places.

In 2018, I want to explore the topics of environmentalism and realistic ways to live more sustainably. I want to dig deeper and find a different angle of approaching the topics and issues that matter most to me. More than anything though, I want to focus more on writing.

Visual content is something I love. I’ve always had a natural eye for what looks good, and I enjoy creating and sharing that with others. Lettering, illustration, photography—they all bring me joy, and I will continue doing them. It’s satisfying to wrestle with a design or a photo edit and finally get it just the way I want it. But writing? Writing is more than satisfying; it gives me a purpose and meaning. It’s my voice; it’s how I think and process and push my heart out into the world. It’s something I have to do, the one thing that I always, always come back to, no matter what other hobbies or interests I pursue. It’s maddening and more often than not, I hate the actual process of getting words down on paper. Yet when it all comes together...it’s magic. There is nothing else like it, and I don’t think I’ll find that kind of fulfillment anywhere else.

Here is where I feel most natural and free. This is where I’m in my element. I needed to expand and get out of my comfort zone; those lessons gave me courage and strength that I needed to grow. Now, though, I feel a tug back to my roots: words, mystery, and taking things at a slower pace in order to process more deeply and offer more meaning. Somehow, entering the wilderness feels a whole lot like coming home.

Originally published on Adventure & the Wild.

Brittany Stoess
may we love dangerously

Loving anything hurts. Love makes us vulnerable. It opens us up to—guarantees, even—pain, grief, and frustration. Love is not easy or soft; love is dangerous territory.

But love also heals. It brings joy. It bridges impossible divides. Love transforms; it has the power to change the world and ourselves. Love is worth fighting for.

And so, may we live and love dangerously, risking it all—pain, grief, and our reputations—for what is right. May we never lose hope that the light will always win in the end.

© Brittany Stoess 2017 (All Rights Reserved)

"May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger, at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort and to turn their pain to joy.⠀

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor."⠀

- Franciscan Benediction

Brittany Stoess

Lately, I've struggled to find balance:

  • Love of travel + adventure vs. contentment + staying present
  • Healthy engagement + creativity on social media vs. the mental space of staying unplugged
  • Meaningful, collaborative nonprofit work vs. independence + freedom
  • Pouring myself into others vs. taking care of myself

It's hard when all the conflicting things are good and needed. It's hard to prioritize when they all feel so necessary. I don't have the answers, but I am learning.

I'm learning to not let what I'm "in the mood" to do be my guide, but also to discern between flighty feelings + deeper intuition of what I actually NEED.

I'm learning the value of both structure and going with the flow of everyday life. Too much structure and I feel rigid and joyless; too much flow and it's a chaotic mess.

I'm learning that I need to engage in both dreaming AND doing. Generating ideas is wonderful and a key part of who I am, but it's only when I take action that I truly feel fulfilled.

Structure/flow. Journey/destination. Both/and. Most of life isn't either/or, and it's not all that neat or linear. The more I learn, the more I think that maybe finding + maintaining balance isn't a thing; rather, it's a constant push/pull between all of what makes life so rich and beautiful. Instead of balance, we find wholeness instead.

Brittany Stoess
the trail

The thing about being on the trail is that it takes away your option to quit. It doesn't matter how hot or tired you are, or how much your body aches, the only way to the end is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can and should rest when you need to, but eventually, you have to walk. No matter how uncomfortable it is, it's the only way forward.

I've had this same sort of experience in my personal life, too. I've made difficult choices, and found that there comes a point when the choice to change your mind is no longer there. The only way out is straight through, no matter how much it hurts. Standing paralyzed hurts just as much (if not more), but doesn't get you anywhere. You have to keep moving forward.

I think that's where we are collectively right now; there are so many issues where we've reached the point of no return. It sucks, but we're in it, and we have to find our way through it. There is no turning back to the way things used to be. It will hurt no matter if we stand still or walk, but only one will get us anywhere. We don't have a choice but to accept the discomfort and start pushing forward.

We have to have the awkward + uncomfortable conversations. We have to be willing to speak up when our fellow human beings are being treated as if they matter less. We have to be willing to face the areas where WE have contributed to the mess, intentionally or not. It's not easy, and it's not comfortable, and it makes me sad and angry, but honestly, aren't we experiencing all those things anyway? We might as well get somewhere in the process. Start walking.

Rainbow Lake Wilderness © Brittany Stoess, 2017 (All Rights Reserved)
Brittany Stoess