I did lots of writing this week by hand in my notebook. I tried to come up with various topics…thinking about this blog and working on the other things that I’m writing these days, and yet here I am, on Sunday evening, still without a posted blog.
I’m the epitome of a procrastinator. I work best under pressure… I always have! Today, I’ve been doing the dishes, listening to records, conquering a Goodwill run, loads of laundry… It’s been really easy to keep putting off this blog.
I even spent some time watching videos and learning more about how to use dictation software, you know, in preparation for knocking this thing out. It feels weird, but I know that I need to get better at scribing with my voice because I’ll get faster at cranking out more words and pages. It’s difficult to hold myself back from the compulsion to edit immediately when the robot machine doesn’t hear me correctly, but I know I need to get more comfortable with using this technology to help me achieve my goals. Anyway, this is a healthy challenge for myself as I lean in to producing more written content. So, here goes:
I went camping by myself for New Year’s Eve… Sort of. Mostly. For all intents and purposes, I did. I went camping all by myself. But, I did have friends that stopped by my campsite. I wasn’t *alone* alone for the whole time.
It’s weird to explain it that way because I really felt like I cheated a little bit. You see, I’ve never gone camping by myself. I completed the Texas Water Safari solo. I’ve certainly put myself through grueling nights alone in nature… However, technically, I’ve never actually gone camping by myself.
I had planned to do it a few years back. I think it was in December of 2016. I had planned a weekend at he end of my semester of teaching where I was going to go solo camping. At that point, I had only done the Safari with a partner. And I was looking forward to eventually going solo. I thought that something that would be good for training might be to take myself alone, into the woods, for fun. I wanted to see how afraid I would be or how comfortable I would be or how inept I was or to recognize my baller level of skills! I just wanted to know how I would do in that scenario. As the weekend approached, my sweetheart informed me that he had scheduled himself a wisdom tooth removal, and he would need help being cared for. I was conflicted and frustrated because I had been planning to go spend some time alone and to take care of myself, yet I suddenly needed to take care of someone else and forego my plans with nature.
I never ended up rescheduling that solo-camping trip.
Strangely, it seemed to leave my mind (or maybe a gazillion other things filled it), but it hadn’t occurred to me that I never circled back to that desire to challenge myself with being alone in the woods. The thought reemerged 5 years later! As 2021 was winding down, leading me to reflect on the year and to focus my attention on my goal-setting for the next year, I realized that the things that I hoped to accomplish in 2022 included a great deal of solitude and introversion. These are not things that would usually describe my style or my existence, but rather than seek out stage time or screen time, my 2022 goals included more pen to paper and getting my ideas into the world as a writer. It then occurred to me that I’ve never spent a New Year’s alone. Usually, my preference is to be surrounded by large groups, fun activities, and all the razzle-dazzle of sequins and champagne and smooching and revelry. New Year’s Eve is actually one of my favorite holidays next to Halloween. But, when thinking about never having spent NYE alone, I ask myself ‘why not?’ And I instantly thought ‘How wonderful!” What a conscious choice to make–and with such intent–choosing to commence my year, focusing on myself and my solitude and getting into a comfortable place of introspection and introversion! It sounded quite idyllic.
I crowd-sourced camping ideas from my social media network. Folks love to share their recommendations for movies and TV shows and where to eat and places to visit…It’s always good thread participation in those types of posts. Most people suggested places with beautiful fall and winter scenery. Places with leaves changing colors in the woods and whatnot. No one suggested the beach. But, I have felt called by the ocean for the last several years. I felt that what I needed, for me, were waves and sand and the big open horizon. I needed to start the year feeling like the world was my oyster. (It’s okay for you to roll your eyes. lol)
I also needed to be sure that I didn’t go too far from San Marcos because I was absolutely 100% going to be jumping in the river on New Year’s Day at noon. It’s a local tradition called a Polar Plunge that many folks make fun of because the river is 72 degrees year-round. It may not always be a true “polar” experience, but it’s one of my favorite events all year! There was no way that I was going to miss it, even if the climate crisis fostered record warm temperatures that made the jump a little less climactic. I knew that I was limited to about 3 to 4 hours driving distance, and I resorted to my personal favorite camping place which is Port Aransas, Texas. In Port A, they allow free beach camping. They allow beach fires. It’s very easy to get to. I knew that I could easily access bathrooms and showers and also feel autonomous and safe. All I needed to do was pack up my car and my dog and head to the beach. It was simple and easy and exactly what I wanted. It was a weird epiphany I had as I packed up for my trip. I realized how much easier it was prepping for just me! I’ve taken my boys camping. I’ve gone camping with friends. I have a sweetheart that I would camp with all the time. But this time, because it was just me, there was so much room! I didn’t have to make space in the car for other human bottoms to sit to ride. I didn’t have to include anyone else’s special blankets or pillows. I didn’t need extra food. It was so, so damn easy. I couldn’t believe it. But, it makes sense when you think about it.
It’s always been easier for me to travel by myself. I don’t know why I thought camping might be harder. But, my gosh, it was so simple to only have to worry about me. I had space to celebrate me! And to only do whatever the hell it was that I wanted to do. I treasured this wonderful treat to myself.
It turned out that I had a comedy friend who was also going to be in Port A performing at a New Year’s Eve party at a VFW. He offered to try to get me on the show and suggested that it would be fine for my dog to join me. I said I wasn’t really looking for stage time but he was more than welcome to come out to my beach camp spot and hang out.
On the night of my arrival, I went to a bar to meet up with my comic bud and his friends, but after a couple of drinks, I really wanted to get to the beach and secure my campsite. Mind you, it was already well past sundown, but I had absolutely no plans of pitching a tent. I’d laid the seats down in my 1999 Honda CRV, and I prepared my sleeping mat with blankets and pillows. I also took along my Coleman camp stove, a little charcoal grill, my table, and some chairs… I had everything I needed to survive for a little weekend. I knew that if I needed anything more, it would be more ice and more firewood and that I could probably either have it delivered or ask my friend to bring it to me. I also knew that if I really needed anything else, I could load up my car and go get it. There was never a point where I felt I’d be too isolated or unable to handle my situation.
My friend came and visited me on the first night after I had already put myself to bed. It turns out that he was driving down the beach looking for me, and when he called to get my pin drop, he was not far from me at all! So, like the great hostess I am, when he arrived, I pulled out all of my supplies and set up a charcuterie-covered table, built a fire, played music and danced festively around the popping embers. I loved being able to create a spectacular scene with my preparedness. Our amazing little beach party went on until just shy of sun-up.
I slept like a wine-drunk log and woke to the cloud-covered sun high up over the beach, families walking about or setting up for the day. I don’t know how to describe the way that all of that made/makes me feel, but it’s something I want to know in a more casual and routine way. I would love to live at the beach for a couple of years in my lifetime in order to better understand that kind of existence.
I spent the day hula-hooping and cooking and dancing.
Symbolically, I also loved cleansing myself of 2021 in a place where sands and winds are constantly changing. I loved waking up there, at the edge of Texas, on the first day of 2022, and reflecting on where I am going then returning to where I have been, for my recurring baptism, in the Fountain of Youth that is my River.
The reality is that I really have no idea what I’m doing. I’m trying to be true to myself, and that’s an ongoing process. It takes a while to get to the truth sometimes, but though the river is ever-changing, it always leads us to the ocean. Perhaps, if I allow myself to adapt to change and growth, it will guide me to bigger horizons.
I’m super into that.