Every year, I do an annual reflection where I write a letter to my past self looking back on my theme for the year and set an intention for a new theme moving forward. Last year, I took on mutualism as a theme.

flourishing in community in 2022

Dear Spencer,

This year you’ll feel on top of the world in so many ways: doing things you once doubted even having the right to think about, finding wonder in so many unexpected places, sculpting ever closer towards a dream you have full conviction in.

At the same time, you’ll feel more lost than ever before. It’ll feel like a paradox. You’ll feel more steady than ever in the person you’re settling into, but you’ll feel so far from the life that you want to live. You’ll realize it honestly makes perfect sense. As your sense for what is right and compelling sharpens, things that don’t match that sense will feel increasingly wrong. You’ll come to question the merits of freedom, while coming to expect it as a requirement in whatever you do. You’ll feel endless optionality open in front of you and feel paralyzed by the choices. You’ll consider alternate lives, pine after catastrophe, idolize rebirth. You’ll gain the courage to want it all, without compromises even as you worry about ending up with nothing at all.

In 2022, you’ll become the shape of the person you’ve always wanted to be. Someone with quiet confidence. Someone who isn’t afraid of sharing their creations and thoughts and dreams to the world. Someone who can just meet someone from the internet and hit it off comfortably You’ll be able to look at things you’ve made with endlessly talented people and your own two hands that you are so so proud of. Things that you still think wow, did that happen? Things that have brought people together, provoked reflection, sparked joy. Websites that have resonated emotionally, that tell a personal story, that challenge our notions for what websites should be. Personal essays that open portals into the inner chambers of your soul.

Taking a whirlwind tour of the year, you’ll…

  • kick off the year by jumping deep into co-imaginination with Verses and steward the construction of pluriverse.world, you’ll retreat together with a small group in a big red house by a frozen river on the outskirts of Montreal, go on meandering walks with brilliant, warm, creative souls, playing with the snow trails, cook communal meals, and run half-naked to the hot tub in the back, the air thick with steam and laughter.
  • travel for some needed inspiration, exploring in Brooklyn, Amsterdam, and Marin. You’ll marvel at how much places so far apart share so much density of everyday wonders. You’ll think a lot about how lucky you are, how much you want to explore and learn and make and see.
  • nestle into Brooklyn again for the summer for a nourishing residency with Interact, exploring a nagging question that grows into tiny internets. You’ll meet so many thought partners and inspirations and find so much unexpected resonance in your seemingly rough, scattered, broad ideas. It will be a summer of pushing your limits: in dance, in relationships, in creative spirit, in listening to your body. It will end with a chaotic presentation in a cramped, hot studio, a moonlight champagne pop on an industrial roof, dancing the night away in a circus club, and recentering in a rock garden.
  • move out of your apartment, sell most of your furniture, find temporary lodging in a friend’s home where you’ll feel more at home than you ever did, surprise yourself by finding a home in someone else, embrace collaboration and push to embed yourself in the creative community (i’m still looking for more of these spaces in the bay, let me know if there are any i should check out!)
  • create about 20 artifacts outside of your core job, varying in size and complexity and scope, from net art to twitter bots to interactive manifestos to collective presses.
  • consistently write, embrace poetry, push your personal writing to the limit of its emotion, raw, pulsing with energy, and commanding. You’ll learn strategies for distributing your content in a way that feels human and not too growth-hacky. You’ll grow to hear more and more wonderful people mention your writing and tell you about how it made them feel: seen or inspired or provoked to look at the world in a different way. You’ll continue to treasure each one of these messages, gather them in a stash for rainy days where you wonder if it is even worth the trouble and become reignited to do it for these people, for these messages, for yourself.

Your word for 2022 was mutualism, and you’ll record over 50 instances of pushing past your discomfort and embarrassment to ask for help, admit your curiosity, being vulnerable first. You’ll embrace community as essential. Work in collaborations that make you levitate. Discover loves that embrace their unique shapes and sizes for all they are.

You’ll come face-to-face with the void of meaning and gain the courage to stare back. You’ll become intimate with heartbreak and with love, limerance and partnership. You’ll embrace collaborations and playing at the seams and edges of classification. To discover the shape of the thing that stokes your inner fire, you’ll defy classification, reject limitation, learn to weave resonance from wisps of air. As you enter the future, remember this feeling, shaking with uncontrollable forces yet brimming with energy, when it feels like the ground is water and every way you turn is the wrong path. But your wings are tensed. You feel the promise of flight.

motion: the tortoise, vortices, prayer beads, carrier bags, atmospheric weather, leftovers, and partner dance

Sandwiched between two days of gloomy clouds and uncharacteristic rain was a bright blue day ringing in the new year. One moment the streets were rivers, the walkways surrounding Lake Merritt littered with guano and trash from the water. A day later everything changed. From the roof, I could see further, clearer than ever. The edges of the East Bay hills and Marin mounds carrying a secret message.

I’m looking out the window of a home that is not my home, peering over an adopted city, cozied up in a borrowed blanket. Can you tell? I’ve been unsettled lately. Everything around me, the ground I stand on shifts beneath me. I am a leaf in water, wishing to grow limbs to chart my path. I am the foam in the waves. I am the miscellaneous debris in those tiny urban whirlwinds. We are all constantly moving, our cells vibrating. We move towards that which moves us.

an urban whirlwind of leaves

The underlying theme is 1) I want a lot of things and 2) I’m bad at making choices. Instead, I stubbornly attempt to manifest everything in order to not have to give up anything. My natural need to be in control of things and my future has been a constant source of stress and feeling overwhelmed. I’d like to be able to let go of control, to embrace finding magic wherever I find myself. I want to build a home in myself, so that home is always with me.

I know that surrendering myself to surprises has given way to things that feel the most right in my life. I know that the secret to improvisation is letting go of your body and mind, letting your instinct and soul reign. And I know that I don’t have to rush through life or always push towards an end goal of having control. I know I operate best slowly, as if I have all the time in the world, that focusing on having fun and appreciating every little beauty in this world is actually how I am my most creative and “productive.”

My theme for 2023 is motion. I want to focus on consistently moving, but without the rush implied by constantly advancing. I want surrender my armor, trust my instincts for bringing me through the world. I want to make perpetual motion. Nurture rituals that fulfill me, ground me, bring me into community. Cultivate traditions and practices.

I’ll grow my own rhythms, set my own pace, operate under the conditions and principles that ring the most true to me. I’ll walk. Steadily. Consistently.

I’ll embrace the paradox of simultaneous conflicting ideas. Be a kaleidoscope, seeing everything at once, attend to the infinitude of the universe, but searching, steadily, for resonant grains to gather in my growing carrier bag.

I’ll garden streams, nurture flows. I’ll make weather, one raindrop and ray of light at a time. I’ll resonate with the joy of living.

I’ll create worlds that last, that have the space to adopt the hopes and wishes pressed upon them by their inhabitants, that develop personalities of their own.

I’ll preserve. Breathe life into expired objects.

I’ll dance with spaces. Cultivate environments for wonder and sensemaking.

A dance is always determined from balance between its participants. Push and pull. Each must express themselves fully while giving their partners room to do so simultaneously. An ever-evolving motion.

I promise to move with the gravity of my hopes, dance with the will of worlds, harmonize with life’s song.

Some scenes from the year that have made me pause and resume moving slower

reminders to stay true to myself this year

  • go outside, take walks, breath in fresh air
  • hug the people you love and tell them you love them and what you love about them
  • make art that makes people feel, make spaces and open them up, make tools that empower people to make all of the aforementioned
  • take a deep whiff of food before eating, savor bites
  • collect moments and bear witness to wonder
  • preserve and renew
  • play play play
couldn’t resist trying out this trend

couldn’t resist trying out this trend