Momentum is a story of transformation about a Story of transformation.
Let me explain.
Back in 2010, after a humiliating breakup, I found myself in a situation that seemed like something out of a Hollywood romcom. My girlfriend, Sally*, had left me for another man, leaving nothing behind besides a fantastical dream of walking down the West Coast of the US, from Canada to Mexico. We were planning to do the trip together.
At the time, I was a tangle of contradictions. I had a degree from one of the best business schools in the world, but I was four years and counting into what I was calling my Quarter Life Crisis. I’d hardly worked since my twenty-sixth birthday, having spent most of my late twenties wandering as a backpacker through India. Now, with my thirtieth birthday on the horizon, I was as scared of the future as I was of my past. Sally had been my anaesthetic against the terrors of the great unknowns of adulthood. When she left, I panicked.
My dream was to become a “storyteller.” The dream wasn’t just half-baked; it had hardly been in the oven. But two weeks after I found the note that she left on our kitchen table, I uploaded a video to a relatively new website called Kickstarter. It was the dawn of what we would come to call Web 2.0. There wasn’t yet such a thing called Instagram. Almost no one I knew had ever heard of crowdfunding. In the video, I explained that I wanted $5,000 to fund a walking trip down the West Coast, from Vancouver to the Mexican border. I wasn’t begging for money, I argued. I was using the money to create an art project that would link my previous travel in India to this upcoming walking trip.
The title of the project was Walking to Mexico: An Experiment in Cross Cultural Communication.
I made a point of not mentioning anything about my ex-girlfriend. But the truth was the whole thing was little more than a ploy. Walking to Mexico had been Sally’s idea. We’d been discussing it for months. I had never really wanted to do it, but I had maintained that I did want to do it because… well, I had never really thought about why. But now that she was gone, I saw the walking trip as the only leverage I had left.
My fantasy was that Sally would see the video and would be so touched by my devotion to her idea—and, therefore, my love for her—that she would leave Him instantly and come back to me.
It was my stereo over the head, Say Anything-moment. And it failed spectacularly.
It wasn’t just that Sally brushed me off. Four days after I launched the project, Walking to Mexico was featured on Kickstarter’s website as the Project of the Day. Donations skyrocketed, and on the ninth day, I had reached my $5,000 fundraising goal. Now I was committed to walking to Mexico—without her.
I spent the rest of that summer facing a terrifying choice: Do I write an email to the 138 people who put a total of $8,061 towards my project and tell them that the whole thing had been a hoax? Could I face yet another humiliation upon humiliation? Or, do I walk into my local outdoors store and walk out with a new backpack, sleeping bag, tent, cook stove, foam mattress, harmonica, Frisbee—I called it the Hobo Starter Package—and just keep on walking for 1,800 miles, alone, until I reached Tijuana?
Now, it sounds funny. But at the time, it felt like an existential identity crisis. I could hardly share what was happening with anyone, my situation was so absurd, and I was terrified to admit yet another massive failure.
On September 1st, 2010, I left Vancouver with my life stuffed into a fifty-pound backpack. I felt like a conscripted soldier, sentenced to his death.
Only much, much more impotent.
Of course, I didn’t die. At least, not physically. But for us human beings, transformation isn’t as much a change in form as it is a shift in our inner self-perception. Somewhere along the way, the psychological entity that I called Jordan Bower evaporated, and something new emerged in its place.
This experience was more than just freeing. It was also terrifying, chaotic, absurd, and, sometimes, ecstatic.
My life has changed substantially since I finished walking in September 2011. Today, I’m a corporate consultant. I’m happily married. I own a house. I’ve reconciled many of the inner questions I was struggling with back then, and though my life isn’t perfect, I mostly live with a sense of fulfillment and peace that, as a thirty-year-old, would have been unthinkable.
But with hindsight, I can see that I needed that to get here. For the last decade, I’ve tended to my Story closely—writing out the various episodes in detail, reviewing my photographs, playing out what happened over and over in my memories. Even today, I can see that there’s something ineffable in that that I still need.
That creative impulse is what has led me to create Momentum: so I can understand what happened with the greater depth, maturity, and perspective that simply wasn’t possible while I was walking.
In creating Momentum, I’ve made two important framing choices. The most obvious is that I chose to write the story in the third person. Rather than saying, I did this and I did that, I’ve written that Jordan did this and that. I found that this creative distance has made it easier to caricaturize my younger self—maybe even poke a little fun at him.
The second important choice is that I have broken the story into 28 individual episodes. Each episode is a self-contained story about something that happened along the way. In part, I think this makes the story much more readable. But I also think that it helps characterize my journey as a series of steps on the process towards transformation.
In the epilogue, I say more about what I’ve learned about these steps of transformation in an effort to add greater context and relatability to you, the reader.
There’s a bunch of other stuff in there… it’s up to you to find it.
I’m writing this at the dawn of the third year of the pandemic, at a time when the whole world is so obviously in a type of flux that is beyond our ability to control. We all know that we need to change, but no one is providing any solutions that don’t replicate the existing problems of patriarchal control, which are emblematic of the world that most of us believe we are leaving behind. What I think we need transcends how-to guides for change. We need to create spaces—digital, physical, and otherwise—where we can compare notes on the process of transformation.
From my vantage point today, I still don’t know how Momentum will fit in that larger transformation narrative. It’s not intended to be a teaching tool. It simply aims to be no more—and no less—than a Story.
I hope that you enjoy it.
— Jordan Bower, January 2022.