Has it really been three months since my last entry? Why so long? I have definitely sat down to write a blog post many times in the last few months, but the words just don’t seem to be there, the way they usually are. I guess my creativity has been leaning in other directions lately. I’ve been questioned a few times recently about why I haven’t been writing, so I am taking that as a sign that it’s time to sit down and hammer some stuff out. As usual, I have many thoughts about what to write here, but what keeps coming up in quiet moments is one simple question. So today, I think I will write about that.
“When are you your best self?”
I have friends from many different walks of life and they will all answer this question differently. For some, the answer is undoubtably, when they are doing things for other people. For others, it’s when they are traveling to foreign lands. And for the rest, it’s when they are performing on stage, when they are on their yoga mat, or when they are working out every morning at 6am.
As for myself, the answer comes loud and clear after my second year at Camp Grounded. I am my best self when I am wearing colorful clothing in the woods. When I am not hiding behind my cell phone or standing on a social media platform screaming “look at me!!” I am my best self when I am not inhibited by the social norms of living in a Midwestern city, but am instead surround by free people, who enjoy the beauty of a solid thrift store find and the fun of being naked. These are people that are not afraid to let themselves be free, and in surrounding myself with them, I too, have found a bit of freedom from my usual restraints. I am my best self when I am not judging others and especially not myself. When I am comfortable in all of my skin, including the extra ten pounds that I’m rocking right now. I am my best self when I know without a doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, when I COULD be doing something different, but instead I am doing this. I am my best self when I am a part of a village of women who are moving forward and looking at themselves with open eyes, looking towards others with open hearts and asking for help when they need it. Above all, I am especially my best self, my truest self, when I am taking breaths with intention, open to the abundance of the universe and trusting that there is enough out there for me. Obviously, I am my best self at Camp Grounded.
If you had told me before I left for camp this year that my experience would be more profound than last year, I would have said that you were insane. I walked away from Camp Grounded last year with a gaggle of new friends and a huge amount of self-love that I did not have when I first got there. That self-love stuck with me throughout the year and because of it I have had a year unlike any other in my life. I’ve read enough books to know that you have to love yourself to love another and in the last year, I have been able to experience that firsthand. If I had not found that little piece of self-love that I found by the watering hole at camp in 2013, there is no way that I would have been able to accept love from someone else. What a wonderful thing, to find a love for myself that I never knew I was missing. I might have had a little bit of ego wrapped up in this thing that I found last year. Because of it, I felt like I had learned everything there was to learn. I felt like there was no way that I could walk away with more than I found last year, but I was wrong. Somehow, I got to that magical wooded space and set the perfect intention for myself. One that allowed me to lighten up and have more fun than I had last year. It also allowed me to open up and share some new experiences with friends, new and old. In hopes to shed some high school baggage and to have a more authentic experience than the one I had last year, I set my intention, which was to avoid any thoughts of judgement towards myself or others. So, here we are. Weeks later, and I am still processing this intention. It is clear that I need it for my every day life, not just my camp life. This intention, which I set with very little meaning, is still coming to me in a soft voice at all parts of my day. Stop.
Once upon a time, not long ago, I was my best self when I was in my uniform. Something about that uniform and my workplace made me a better person. It made me kinder, more compassionate, more gentle. On top of all those things, it made me more confident and comfortable with myself. For a while there, a part of me believed that my uniform was like a superhero’s costume that I could put on and would make me all the things that I wished that I could be without it. Almost everything was easier with my uniform on. Yeah, it was a sweet deal while it lasted. It made going to work and making money an exercise in being awesome. I loved it.
Of course (it was bound to happen at some point), the superhero costume stopped working. In other words, I am not my best self at work anymore. In fact, on occasion, I have been (shamefully) one of the grumpiest people you might encounter that day. Not every day, but more than I would like to be true. I have been struggling with all sorts of things that used to be non-issues for me. People with electronic devices, people with no manners, grumpy people with their limbs in the aisles, people, people, people. PEOPLE. If they could just be like I want them to be. If they could say please and thank you and look me in the eye when they order their drinks. If they could just teach their children to be polite and put their devices down when they are asked a question. If they could just, you know, BE MORE LIKE CAMP PEOPLE, then everything would be fine. I could keep being my best superhero stewardess self and everything would be great!
In the weeks leading up to camp, I experienced what was for sure my worst burn out stage as a flight attendant yet. This year has been pretty difficult. Sinus infection after sinus infection, topped with the worst weather of my career. It’s been delay after delay and I’ve been grumpier than I ever dreamed I would be. All of this on the tail of an amazing trip to Europe with one of my oldest and best friends. There wasn’t an ounce of gratitude in me for most of May leading into June, despite my great fortune of having a flexible schedule and unlimited free travel. I knew that if anything was going to take my head out of my ass, it would be camp. And I was right.
It’s been a few weeks now and I’m still riding a wave of peace and good will towards others. I know that I have an unhealthy relationship with technology and I’m still working on a that part of my life. But one thing that has gotten easier is being nicer to people. And I’m all about celebrating victories, so let’s enjoy that. I hope the changes that I got from camp stick with me, and the friends I made there too. I’m not saying that I got back from camp and all of a sudden work has been amazing. I’m still struggling, but I’m honoring the struggle by asking myself what isn’t working and what can I do to fix it. I think if things continue to come up for me and it’s obvious that something isn’t working for me anymore and I’m still not changing, then it’s obviously no one’s fault but my own. There is more to come in this department, I’m sure of it. Maybe a few months down the road, I’ll forget I ever felt unhappy at work. Or maybe not. But because of camp, I’m listening and that’s what matters to me today.
I can’t let this blog post go by without saying that being a camper at Camp Grounded is one of the best gifts I’ve given myself. In the last year, I’ve had more real and vulnerable conversations with people than I ever had before camp in 2013. But I feel this constant sadness (maybe it’s not really sadness, just like a feeling of worry or concern?) that I am not able to be my best self outside of camp. Basically, that as soon as I come home and I’m back in Chicago, or back at my W, (how we refer to our jobs at camp.) that I am no longer Ossia (my camp name this year).
In just a matter of time, it appears that I am back to being Lori, which means that I have stopped asking the right questions, I am no longer allowing myself to be present in every situation that I am in, and I am in constant judgment of myself and others. I feel this weight (really, this word I can’t think of in reference to this), when I think of all these things. And above all, I get really freaked out every time I pull up Facebook when I am in the presence of other human beings.
So, here I am today, writing about it. Because of that, I know that something must be working. I am aware that I am in danger of losing my best self, but I am also asking myself the right question: What am I doing today to make sure I don’t let her go?
Yesterday, the answer to that question was making conversation with my passengers and asking them about themselves, instead of talking about me. It was asking for help and then allowing other people to help me when I didn’t ask for it. It was reading on the train instead of listening to music on my iPhone. Today, the answer to that question is that I’m going to ride my bike without headphones. I’m going to eat every meal without any sort of electronic device near me. I’m going to call my sister and ask how her day is, instead of just texting her. And I’m going to honor every single breath and know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, even if it’s uncomfortable and not where I’d like to be. And when I start to get that place of judging myself for making bad choices, or when I want to judge others, I’m going to listen when the voice in my soul says it’s new favorite word: Stop.