The title of my memoir, and tombstone, will one day read: “You were a lot nicer than everyone thought.”
I can’t tell you how many times someone tells me that after we become friends.
I’m not really offended by this anymore. It’s true, I suppose. I AM a nice person, quite a wonderful person actually, but there are definitely a few layers that you have to peel back to get to the real me.
And more often than not, it’s me that’s standing squarely in the way.
This lovely photo was taken last summer during a fun weekend for creative entrepreneurs. It was full of inspirational women, informative workshops and delicious food. One of the best parts was that I got to experience a DREAM destination: Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. THE Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate fame made us dessert and shot the shit with us about creativity and making mistakes. Dream. Weekend.
And, side note, I’ve been obsessed with Camp Wandawega and it’s story and the incredible owners since I “discovered” it on Instagram or some featured Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel branding shoot, I’m not even sure where. I never even went to camp as a kid but something about this idyllic, back-to-basics place brought me such a sense of peace and calm. The place was heavenly and it’s where my dream for Renewing Mom Camp was born (and will one day come to fruition, damnit!). But that’s another post…
Anyway, while the event was near perfect, for whatever reason, actually experiencing it was quite different. Looking at this photo, I feel a bit of sadness about that otherwise wonderful weekend, because I didn’t really connect with the group as much as I had wanted.
As an introvert, I know that I need time alone to recharge. But this was something entirely different.
It had been a hot and sticky weekend of great workshops, inspiration and networking. At one point, during a break, the group was cooling off with a swim in the lake. Most of the women from camp, about thirty of us, gathered in the water and on the dock, talking, getting to know each other. Laughing. I didn’t join them.
Instead I sat in this chair. Paralyzed with fear and anxiety. About what, exactly, I couldn’t tell you. I pretended to work on my laptop and wrote in a journal to appear busy. I didn’t want anyone to know how I actually felt: lonely, like a little girl on the playground of a new school. I had no idea how to insert myself into a group that seemed to gel and spontaneously become “best friends.” I know that probably wasn’t true, but that’s the story I told myself. “Everyone had clicked and connected. Everyone by me.”
“Go down there!” I commanded myself. “If for no other reason than the fact that you are melting!”
But I sat glued to that chair. And I didn’t move. I hid my red, raw, teary eyes behind huge sunglasses. I sat and watched. Feeling alone and unremarkable, unworthy of knowing.
What. The. Fuck. Where did this awful, limiting, and totally untrue belief come from? And why? Where was the confident woman from just a few days, even hours earlier, that was so excited to be attending that incredible event? To experience the dream venue she had seen in magazines, inspired to shared her vision for a new business and to learn from other creatives?
I wish I could say that I got up from that chair and joined the group, ending the weekend with new friends, great connections and remarkable memories. Instead, I look at this photo sadly and really just want a do-over. Because I didn’t get up. I sat in that chair, literally and figuratively, for the rest of the weekend.
I try not to be a Monday-morning-quarterback and dwell too much about what I could have and should have done differently. But I try to learn from experiences. Because you don’t get any do-overs.
There’s no where to go but forward. Straight into it. And then through it.
I don’t know if it would have worked but I sure could have leaned into a little more, instead of hiding and waiting for the fear to pass. Because it never did. It never will.
What could I have done? I could have walked down to the water and sat on the dock with the group. I could have admitted to one of the women that I felt a tinge of overwhelm by everyone’s amazing business success. I could have asked more questions of the women sitting next to me to get to know them better.
On their own, none of those things seems that scary when I think about it like that. Yet they would have helped me face my fears head on and begin to move past them.
Facing fears doesn’t require cannonballing yourself into the lake. But you can sit a little closer to the water. Even dip your toe in a little bit.
Sometimes, probably more often than you might like to admit, you’re standing in your own way. So step aside, and get out of the way, so you can be on your way.