Teva Explorer Whitney Mitchell reflects on a period of stillness offline and the steps taken to fuel her radical self care. Words and Photos by Whitney Mitchell.
“Sometimes you gotta be selfish and in love to move forward.”
(This might be a love story.)
I turned 34 last January. To set the tone for what was ahead, I took a trip west with my kindred birthday twin and a marinated plan for the year ahead.
Seven weeks later as shelter-in-place orders were mandated, the year would reveal itself to be a shared experience of a reckoning—rooted in isolation and uncertainty. Today, within days of my 35th birthday and seven weeks from March 2020’s initial shake up (re-alignment*) in the states, we’re still on a never-ending rollercoaster of wild learning.
Cozy shoes for self-exploration: the Ember Moc in Birch.
Last year was a daze. Every day was Monday and every day took more than it offered. The internet seemed like it was a guide to the future, shaping my spirit with an influx of up-to-the-minute information and lingering residual effects. Social media continued to reveal itself to be more than just social media. Apps driven by click-to-learn-more became heavied mechanisms that would surface anxieties that virtually paralyzed my thinking.
The same platforms that were vehicles to amplify the ongoing injustices and inequalities experienced by Black and brown people—making our real life prejudices unavoidable to the masses of people that have hid from them—became sources of what felt like kicks to the stomach. I began to notice a sort of readying that I’d have to embrace for the information that I might see. I became fearful of another announcement for someone’s passing due to COVID, sandwiched between a selfie, a government tease and cheer dance TikTok video. My brain couldn’t compute the different realities. Subconsciously, I was depending on the internet to tell me what my day would be, which ultimately made me scared to scroll.
So I stopped. I deleted the apps that kept me connected to the present.
This initially felt careless. It is a privilege to opt out. There was information to uplift, art to embrace and birthdays to be remembered. However, I was too cloudy to see the difference between it all.
During my post-30 adult life I’d recognized how important space would be in its many forms.
Space to think.
To gain inspiration.
Space to love. And to cry.
Space to reclaim my joy.
Once I stopped consuming the internet’s content, I started taking up space outside and walk for miles to shake up my daily same. Sometimes I did this two or three times a day, hoping to process every worry that had built up from the initial shock of what 2020 was shaping up to be.
The waterproof Ember Commute in Bison/Medallion.
Initially alone, but soon joined by a man that I’d loved in many forms over the past 17 years (on the other side of the street). We talked through questions of life and who we were with everything stripped away. Every day, every walk away from the internet, I fell in love with myself again, the space that 2020 created, and ultimately with Jermie—my personified awakening and now my forever person.
We talked through questions I’d never spoken answers to. I’d talk through the unlearning of affinities and the ideas of space that once held value and my energy of pursuit. The small world we created turned my 2020 into the feeling I had as a young pre-teen, when I saw my parents dancing in the kitchen with each other—an untethered freedom.
Jermie wears the Hurricane Drift sandals in Grey.
We turned social media silence into the most incredible journey of rediscovery, together.
We listened to music that shaped my childhood and what I remembered love to be.
We consumed histories and writings that shaped a “radical self acceptance” and a deeper appreciation for the reality of what is, shaking away from the fear of what isn’t.
We formed new relationships with outside and food—connections that allowed for me to enjoy repetition embracing the newness of the same—together.
It’s amazing what you can do when you’re in a space you define.
What you can learn and unlearn.
What you create and overturn.
What love you could develop, within and with someone else—who they really are and not what and internet space could shape them to be.
I feel like a completely new human with a renewed sense of what it is to be alive.
My relationship with food is different.
My kinship with my physical community is different.
“Every day, every walk away from the internet, I fell in love with myself again…” Whitney wears the Midform Universal sandals in Metallic Champagne.
I’ve got brand new taste buds waiting to relearn the flavors I’d overlooked in place of everything sugared across the internet.
2020 reconfigured my relationship with social media. Led by love, I learned how to dance with algorithms, consuming the things that would keep me full yet informed. Acknowledging triggers and giving space to process them. Our world will never be the same and the internet grows new life expressions every day, but the inspiration and the real work will always be offline.
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