Outside the Club? Head to the Wild.
My six-year-old heart wanted more than anything to be in the Soapbox Club.
My older brother and the neighbor girl up the mountain formed it. They had brightly colored plastic soapboxes, you know, like the ones you used to use for traveling? They would write each other cryptic secrets on mysterious pieces of paper and slyly pass them back and forth. I was strictly forbidden from looking at them. Unable to be a part, even though I bought myself a little plastic soapbox in the hopes that that would qualify me, I remained an outsider. Steadfastly outside the club.
Apparently, you had to have the “lifestyle” of the Soapbox Club. You had to know the “culture” of the Soapbox Club. You had to have the “lingo” of the Soapbox Club. And above all, you had to be “invited” to the Soapbox Club. So, I was left with an empty soapbox and nowhere to go. Some things don’t change much, it seems. There have been many Soapbox Clubs I longed to be a part of in my life…and many dead ends.
Outside The Club
I’m not sure why human nature is so prone to exclusion, superiority, or hoarding of certain kinds of knowledge. But even as adults, we still form clubs and cliques. They are grown up now. Disguised in organizations, churches, sub-cultures, or even hashtags. There are still secret requirements or standards of performance that are hard to find or break into from outside the club.
Social media has not helped. If anything, social media makes understanding the rules of these grown-up Soapbox Clubs even harder. Now the evidence of their structure is cropped, glossy, posed, and filtered. We’ve built ourselves into categories of people – outdoor enthusiasts, weekend warriors, travelers, city dwellers. You can find all your club members with a search engine or an hour on the ‘gram. You’ll know them. They’ve got the right “soapboxes”, understand how to perform within the culture, use all the lingo, and their filters match the approved aesthetic.
I often think of this as I post to my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I’m sharing a passion of mine with the world, one that emphasizes wild, outdoor survivalist living and a rugged lifestyle. Still, I want everyone to know: this is not a club. I don’t do anything that you can’t do, and what you see online is certainly not all of who I am.
Accepting All Members
You don’t need a soapbox, a name brand, or a hashtag to be connected to the wild. Connection to nature is not owned by a particular group of elite people with a specific knowledge that makes nature accessible. You don’t have to be an appropriate level of “hardcore” to be accepted in the wild. We were all born naked and untamed; we will all end up the same…in the dirt we walk on. The Earth and her resources feed us, grow us, sustain us; she is available for all of us. You cannot be outside this club. The Earth wants us, and we need her.
I have been a professional in heels and makeup. I have been a survivalist, dirty and raw. Being one does not make me less of the other. Having electricity and a soft bed in my tent doesn’t make me less able to sleep on the ground in the cold. It doesn’t give me an elite badge of honor to suffer in purist fashion. Nor does it when I balance the natural resources around me with the comforts and amenities that I enjoy.
There is no club admission for fresh air and sunshine. If you don’t use the resources nature gives you, she’ll make them anyway. Wild is not a club; wild is in humanity’s blood. We all need it.
What I hope people see, when they look at what I do, is that they can do it too. I hope they understand that the more we connect with nature, the closer we get to a wholeness we have worked our way out of while building all of our other clubs. Clubs that require infrastructures, entrance fees, privileges, and invitations aren’t doing anyone any favors. If you find yourself outside the club, the wild is ready to have you.
Nature is the great equalizer. She will rain on the good and shine on the bad alike. Each day is her invitation to make a change if you’re looking for one. Take her up on it! Start small, or go huge. Buy a tent, pack a picnic, go barefoot, sleep under the stars, swim in the ocean, harvest a wild edible; stop, go outside and take a breath of free air. She’s got so much more to offer you than that ol’ plastic soapbox anyway.