Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How far are you willing to go to reach your greatest goal? (My year of homelessness)

How far are you willing to push yourself, in order to reach your greatest goal in life? Would you get up an extra hour early in the morning each day? Would you invest all of your money towards it? Would you be willing to give up your possessions, be homeless and sleep in your car? Would you give someone a blowjob?

If you can't answer "yes" to most of the above, then maybe you aren't chasing the right goal. Maybe you are chasing someone else's goal, fulfilling your parent's fondest dreams for you instead. Or maybe you lack the passion and conviction to reach for it.

As some people know, I went on a journey that was to be one of my roughest, grittiest adventures yet--living homeless for a year. Today I am finally resurrecting this blog.

During this time, I planned to document the experience by writing field reports and shooting video. It was my guerrilla approach to making art out of the situation. It was also a way to be able to spend my days writing, rather than just running the treadmill of a 9-5 job. I abhor corporate jobs that require you to work each day so as to further someone else's goals, increase someone else's profits, while simply fighting to maintaining the status quo of your own life.

I won't take time explaining all the circumstances that led up to my decision to live nomadic; it is long and complicated. Suffice to say that the re-arrival of breast cancer into my life was definitely a catalyst. Inquiring minds can read about my experience in my separate cancer-adventure blog beginning here: "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Hospitals"

I pre-planned my homeless experience, with the intention of modernizing nomadic living, making it into high-tech, efficient homelessness. I didn't want to compare myself with other homeless people, or duplicate their circumstances. I wasn't trying to understand their experience. I entered into it as my own experience. (For those interested in the topic of homelessness in general, I recommend checking out this book, Modern Homelessness: A Reference Handbook (Contemporary World Issues))  I did have some resources to begin with such as a vehicle, laptop, and iphone, and also acquired camping and survival equipment. I could alternate between sleeping in the car, a tent, staying over occasionally at people's houses, and motels when possible.

I am a VERY goal-driven person, and despite all hardships, I have plodded away at my goals over the years. Upon moving to California I was in Phase 2 of my personal manifesto, which was to get at least four books published, on the subject of films (done). At that point I would move on to having four screenplays produced (not done). You may be able to tell that "4" is my lucky number.

My choice to embark on a homeless lifestyle caused a number of reactions from people, many negative and unpleasant. The label of "bum" was applied at times ("Why is Dominique being a bum? I know things are hard, but can't she go flip burgers or something?") It was interesting to see how people reacted. Success in our society, especially California, is measured by your possessions. Not only does your home tell a lot about you, but the exact location of your home equates your status. What happens when you have no home at all? Does it make you a lesser person? What is a bum exactly? Do you become one when you don't have a home, or just when you look messy and start asking for spare change?

I felt that if planned properly, nomadic living could actually be a new alternative lifestyle for new economic times. So what if you camp on some land? You can still get cleaned up and attend a lecture and nobody will know the difference. (Believe me, I did it many times). You don't have to be dirty and dreadlocked. You don't have to be a hippie. You can be a professional working person still. It's like telecommuting. So many jobs these days are online or can be worked from remote locations that it opens up a whole new vista of opportunities. And if you are in the arts, it may even be an advantage to be free enough to move about, make your bed wherever you are working on a project, go super in-depth with studies by becoming part of each new environment. If you have ingenuity, you can find so many ways to live like this.

As an avid podcast listener, especially on the subject of screenwriting, I heard something recently that caught my attention. Two famous screenwriters discussed how they were able to complete their scripts which subsequently got picked up. They both spent a year or so working very hard and putting aside money and then quit their day jobs for a year and finished their screenplays, living very frugally off of savings. Now that is an ideal way to handle it. But beyond that, it piqued my interest in how many successful writers had been "bums" as some say, by living homeless at some point before they hit it big.

Guess what? LOTS and LOTS of famous people, writers, actors and so many more went through a period of homelessness. Of course most weren't on purpose and usually it was just one of many hardships endured to get to the top of their game. I was shocked though, at just how many famous people passed through this sort of "rite of passage" to get to their ultimate destination. Considering that, why should anyone be ashamed of homelessness, as a sign of failure. In my eyes, when you have a firm goal in mind that you are working towards each day, then being a nomad may just be a sign of success to come.

I am finished with my little social experiment now, and I have a home once again, in the beautiful, vast Mojave Desert, where I spent much of my time camping before. Was homelessness a good experience for me? What did I achieve during my stint as an urban nomad? Well, that is a story for another time, as I resurrect this blog and start releasing my field reports (as well as other new blog updates).

All in all, nothing went as planned.


Kill said...

Wow - You actually popped into my mind in the last week or so, and I was wondering at how long it'd been since you'd written. And here you are. Very much looking forward to reading of your experiences.

Dominique Mainon said...

Thanks Kill. I really need to get back into the habit, and catch up with everyone else.

ambient_1 said...

Wow, I was just thinking about you and wondering how you were doing, and there you are. Are you in Joshua Tree?
It's so good to know that you are doing well. Your strength and talent amaze me. Congrats on the books, upcoming screenplays and new home.
Much love,

Anonymous said...

interesting... i sort of did the same thing... but went to Tijuana, Mexico instead....