I can’t quite believe it, but summer is here (Happy Summer Solstice y’all :p). Or rather, the Bay Area version of summer. Cold, windy, moist… it makes you want to get out of town to somewhere where you can have “real summer.” In May I went to Tahoe with friends and saw my mom in LA for Mother’s Day, but that wasn’t enough. Soon after I was itching for another trip.
There had been some plans to go camping for a friend of a friend’s birthday party earlier in the month, but truth be told spending my entire weekend with complete strangers celebrating a birthday just sounds fucking terrible to me. Please tell me that I’m not the only one? I get a little grumpy after 24/7 with close friends, let alone new friends. Luckily I was able to bow out gracefully from the camping trip. I literally breathed a sigh of relief.
Of course only a few weeks later, and another birthday camping trip with strangers came up! This one sounded even more extreme. A 5+ hour drive away on a regular weekend, with even more guests, and a whole lot of love for the birthday boy. I immediately freaked out, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get out of it. There’s a variety of reasons why I couldn’t get out of it, but basically it came down to Ryan wanting to go, and the event itself being too unique to miss. It was a “glamping” birthday party (fancy camping). I knew it was irrational, but I couldn’t shake my stressed out feeling around the trip. My breathing was heavy for a day before the trip. I had troubled sleep. I read this LifeHacker guide to spending a weekend with strangers several times. I asked my therapist why my head was making such a big deal out of this. I was basically this cat.
Anyways, it was a go, so there wasn’t much to do besides be stressed, and pack.
While getting down to Santa Barbara on a Friday night during rush hour was a complete pain in the ass, I had little to worry about from the social standpoint. Everybody was quite lovely, friendly and chill. The camp was gorgeous, and the food delicious. I felt like I’d been invited to a Kinfolk wedding… er.. birthday party. I mean, look at this beautiful campsite:
Real beds, leather chairs, Pendeton blankets, an orange! They thought of everything.
A bloody mary bar! WTH!
All the beauty and celebratory feelings aside, I still found myself getting stressed out at certain points. Once I felt like if I had to keep smiling and making chitchat I would snap, so I took a hike. Literally.
Necessary sweaty hiking selfie
Not quite babbling brook.
QT with the Economist
Alone time pretty much made it all better.
When I was younger I used to give myself an incredibly hard time about how I “should” want to go to certain social events, usually really big and ridiculous parties with hundreds of strangers (smaller gatherings never gave me pause). I felt like something was really wrong with me, or that I was missing out on life, or perhaps not socially capable (I know, so dramatic). By now I’ve been to enough of these events to know that usually, I’m not missing much, and I shouldn’t feel guilty if my natural inclination to stay home and tinker comes first. I mean, there are so many projects and things that I want to work on in my spare time that sometimes going out just for the sake of it feels like a waste of time. I’m sitting at the bar thinking “I could be knitting a stuffed animal” or “I need to get my stupid Google Analytics certification.” Still I can’t get away with never going to social events that don’t suit me. That’s just life.
Things that helped:
- Get away for a breather when possible. ( Alerting loved ones about how you may ghost alleviates stress).
- Plan alone time ahead of time. In my case, I knew I wanted to take a few hikes alone, just to get away.
- Make new friends- can’t always do this, but it’s great when it happens.
- Have a few relevant chitchat topics on hand for when you meet someone new. I spent a lot of time talking about the drive…
- Even better, get involved in an activity with your new friends. Card games? Drinking? Pushing kids on a swing?
- I avoided looking at my phone when I felt uncomfortable. It felt good just owning being that person who is just chilling by themselves taking in the scene. Having a drink in hand somehow makes this less creepy.
- Remembering that I was quite fortunate to be invited to this crazy and fun event, even if I did feel a little stressed from time to time. #soblessed
- Perhaps the most important tip: Holding on to the positive/otherworldly/beautiful moments when they happen. Take them in. Let them sustain you through the endless crappy small talk!
This all sounds a bit grim, so let’s end with some positive moments! Here is proof that I did have fun, somewhere in that anxiety ball.
Danger around every corner…
Group hike = photobombs
Top of the Outlaw Trail! The camp guides said it was a hard trail, we said LET’S DO IT.
Margaritas in mason jars. The key to a great summer.
Wildlife abounds. Kind of weak of them to include mice. Who cares about mice?
Berry meringues. Gluten free, wouldn’t you know.
We survived! And now a five hour drive back…