I absolutely love this now-lost series of videos about ayahuasca and its effects on the vlogger who took it. Unfortunately the young lady who created the series decided to take the vast majority of episodes down recently. It’s well within her rights to do so, and I don’t want this post to come off as though I were bitter or attempting to guilt her to put them back up on the off-chance she should see it. I’d just like to take a minute and explain what they mean to me. Since she took them down, I’ve decided it would be outside my boundaries to refer to her by name in this post, in case she no longer wants to be associated with that life or whatever the case may be. So as a compromise, I will refer to her by the pseudonym “Ayahuasca Girl” or simply stick to pronouns throughout this essay.
Experiencing Nature’s “Forbidden Fruit”
Besides one other person I’ll mention in a later post, she is my favorite “Youtube personality.” Basically, her niche is to talk about psychedelics and their beneficial qualities, particularly ayahuasca retreats. She’s incredibly forthcoming about her personal experiences with it, and some of the struggles that she needed to overcome. I find it very relaxing to listen to her speak; she has a way of putting such a profound adventure in terms anyone could appreciate. The last few years, use of LSD, psilocybin and MDMA to treat ailments as wide-ranging as depression, alcholism, PTSD and other ailments are promising to shift public perception of their beneficial qualities. That said, it’s still a taboo subject, so to take a side and speak out in favor of it is very admirable.
While the deep philosophical lectures of Alan Watts, Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary are fascinating, I find Ayahuasca Girl’s vlogs to be just as insightful in their own way. She’s more plain-spoken and unpretentious than that crowd, and I have seen some on the internet unfairly badmouth her as a result. But in my opinion, we need someone like her, who can discuss the experience simply and honestly just as much as we need those who would give academic speeches or grandiose visions of a “psychedelic religion.”
Overcoming Adversity and Embarrassment
Our anonymous vlogger sometimes alluded to sexual abuse she’s suffered in her past here and there in the series. Eventually, in what I consider her magnum opus as far as the YouTube series goes, she was brave enough to talk about it in detail. I will just say quickly that this video convinced me that psychedelics should be studied and used appropriately in therapeutic settings. I was inspired to read about other examples of their potential as healthcare treatments and if they can help people like her and the rest, why not use them? It’s not the end all be all or the answer to every case, but it’s a valuable tool which should not be ignored. Just because they can be used recreationally is no reason any substance shouldn’t also be used clinically given proper tests and administration. Otherwise we’d have to ban opiates too, as one example. I’m of the opinion that there are no good or bad drugs, merely good and bad uses for them.
But that aside, I just want to say I admire Ayahuasca Girl for making this video. It takes a lot of strength to come out and talk about sexual assault, and it in turn gives strength to others who haven’t felt safe enough to open up about their own experiences yet. Speaking for myself, I had already opened up about my own assault and the aftermath (I might go into this in a later post if I’m comfortable) before she made this particular video. Nevertheless, I was encouraged to speak out to my friends about my trauma only after I’d read that someone else I greatly admire had also gone through a similar traumatic experience. It showed me that I was not alone, that I was not pathetic for “allowing” it to happen to me. So, I just wanted to reiterate the point of her video–you should never feel shame for being yourself, or for someone else hurting you, or for speaking out about it. More people have been there than you know.
Compared to sexual abuse, this next point might sound a bit silly, but I love the other video where she talks about dancing. Specifically, it’s about how she was ashamed to do it again after her dad caught her in the act as a child and laughed. In the video, she excitedly talked about finally facing her fears and taking a dance class–it was really adorable and inspiring. That also rang true for me because I have an analogous experience, only with singing instead of dancing. I loved singing along to the radio and my CDs as a child–I even used to do it in the car while my parents drove me around. I was a very emotional little kid and “felt” a lot of those love songs very passionately even before I knew what love or sex were. Listening to something like “Oh! Darling” or “Michelle” often made me burst out in song or sit there literally crying as I imagined what an amazing experience it must be to fall in love, eagerly awaiting “my turn” at it once I was old enough. (Boy was I naive…)
For awhile in the sixth grade my favorite song was Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” My dad walked in on me singing along in the basement while I was working out–I didn’t hear him come in because of my headphones–and he started laughing at me. Like with our Anonymous vlogger’s dad, he wasn’t trying to be hurtful. But all the same, it was. I’m an extremely sensitive person, almost to a fault, and that incident made me ashamed to sing or even listen to that particular song again for years afterward. I know that sounds melodramatic, especially looking at it in hindsight, but that’s how it played out.
Nobody likes to be laughed at or embarrassed, but it’s going to occur at least a few times in life. I think knowing it’s something everyone deals with to some degree helps a lot in putting such memories in perspective and getting over them. These are the kind of little but all the same scarring humiliations you don’t often see someone admit to their friends, let alone millions of strangers online. But by doing so, Ayahuasca Girl helped me and I’m sure many others make peace with their own comparable struggles. That’s a very admirable service as far as I’m concerned.
A lot of the time, I see older Gen-Xers or Boomers dumping on Millennials and anyone else who blogs, vlogs or otherwise shares their experiences online. It’s played off as nothing but narcissism or a symptom of our cultural vapidness. I’m sure those negative attributes are a factor (everything has downsides) but I like to think there’s more to it than that. I think on some level it’s humans doing what humans do with any new technology–reaching out for love, commonalities with peers, trying to feel like we belong. I like to think in at least a few cases it’s a genuine public service. One of the big problems in modern life that I see, is people aren’t very in-tune with their own emotions anymore, much less aware of the situations of their neighbors. Even if vlogs are unrefined or have some ulterior selfish motives to them, I believe sharing emotions and experiences online helps other people know it’s okay to feel the way they do sometimes. It’s important to know you’re not alone in feeling hurt or let down by something which in the grand scheme of things is insignificant. In some ways, it’s like the modern, decentralized continuation of Mr. Roger’s legacy–just reassuring people that their emotions are valid and telling them not to be afraid.
Unfortunately, Ayahuasca Girl is also now another example of lost internet media as well. There seems to be this idea that with the internet, everything is safe, everything is forever. While I think that maxim is helpful to keep in mind before posting things you may regret, it’s also false. Media created for, or backed up onto the internet goes down all the time. Geocities, the IMDb forums, countless other YouTube series and the list goes on. This is a topic which might warrant its own standalone post from me someday. But in the meantime Ayahuasca Girl is the latest in a long list of things I truly cared about which stupidly assumed would be there forever. So just keep this in mind–nothing is forever, even on the internet. If it’s important to you, take a screencap or Copy+Paste it.