We did it.
We, ten female collegiate of Valparaiso University Class of 2004, went on a Ladies Rendezvous (so much classier than Girl’s Trip), otherwise known as #CampValpo, to the lovely city of Portland with not a single briefcase or diaper bag to be had.
And we found ourselves.
It wasn’t easy.
It took planning. It took family members and spouses stepping up to care for the little ones. It took coordination with coworkers and picking up the slack. It took checklist after checklist after triple checked checklist, not only for the purpose of guaranteeing it would all get done but to lesson the control and anxiety and guilt. (It also took homemade felt banners and lots of ziplock bags and an air mattress, but that’s a post for another day.)
It took emails back and forth. Emails that begin as an idea, that blossomed into pep talks and hand raising and decisions. Messages of countdowns and anticipation that led to thank you’s and memory sharing.
But above all it took but one small and selfish decision.
To do something for ourselves.
A chance for good laughs and hugs, more sleep, endless drinks and eats. Was that the choice we were making? That certainly was the initial motivation.
But in the end, it was more than that. More than all the rich dreams we dreamed before jumping on the plane. The dreams that got us through whatever was the chaos flavor of the month, be it work deadline or house renovation or childcare resembling zoology.
“I’m so happy.” This refrain echoed among us. Was it the wine talking? Was it the smiles of a familiar friend who had been gone too long? Was it the second shower I took in that double-headed, light-filled, interruption-less, cleaned-by-someone-else shower?
I thought that was all it was. Until a wise friend and fellow camper gave me the words that I had not yet perceived.
In the end, she said, we were happy because we found ourselves. Not the mom, not the wife, not the career woman, not the grad student, not the daughter, not the neighbor, not even the friend.
We were happy because we were truly and speechlessly OURSELVES.
This sense of self we found is the one that once resided in the perfect paradise of time between living under our parent’s guidance and living with the responsibility of others. One might call it college but really it’s just that moment when we had not yet added the layers of ourselves that we would slowly become in our late twenties and beyond. These layers that wrap around us now are beautiful and strong and creative works of art. But when you are not careful, they can also be suffocating. They can sometimes leave us lost, heavy, too far removed from our core being.
Was it running away from these layers, our current reality, that brought us closer to our self? No, in fact, it was running toward old friends. These faces of friends from college, the women that cheered us on, let us be raw and new and young. These friends that went through this vulnerable stage of life right next to us. It was here, in a darling rental home in a quiet neighborhood of Portland, far removed from our current reality and even further from the college campus, it was here that we found happiness by finding ourselves.
Oh hello old familiar friend, we all said. No, not you old roommate or girl in my Physics class or fellow sorority sister or friend of a friend. No, I’m talking to you, that 20 year old me, with dreams in her site, optimism in heart, and plenty of time and guts to explore freely without boundaries. That girl was bold. She was confident. She might have acted a little scared but she didn’t seem to care as much about the rest of the world because she had no one to truly worry about but herself. And she was happy. Really happy. How could she not be? Living with your best friends, having an endless closet to borrow from, eating whatever you wanted and still fitting into those skinny jeans (accept they were boot leg cut then, which is coming back, right?)
This Ladies Rendevoux, #CampValpo as we coined it, included some fantastic highlights that must not go unnoticed…
Vacation from the day to day is always refreshing. (Sleep could have been better, but who needs sleep when you can enjoy your hot coffee from beginning to end without a single interruption?!)
Portland is an awesome city, as we all knew. The food incredible. The wine outstanding. The scenery stunning. The weather, well let’s just say there isn’t a word appropriate for this blog to describe how much I loved it.
Of course all the uninterrupted face to face girl talk, sharing dating drama, and career anxieties, and mental health struggles, and parenting stories.
There was suddenly an endless closet and makeup counter back in our life!
Perfect for endless selfies and hashtagging (a happiness factor that did not accompany our college years.)
The house we all called home for four days was perfection.
We hiked. We barred. We swam. (ok, we waded, but the water was hot so we did sweat which counts as a workout in my book.) We wore heels. Basically we kicked our bodies into major shape.
We earned badges.
Did I mention there was wine? And tours of the incredible wine region? And wine?
And we cried until we laughed and we laughed until we peed.
If these were the only takeaways from our trip I’d say we came out on top. And I would like to think all these attributes would bring me home a better wife, mom, team player, and overall life liver. But we all know that despite the reset button, life doesn’t stop. We have a short attention span for this kind of respite. And before we know it we are back in the thick of things with vague memories of a glass of wine and familiar friend to share it with.
But I believe what might have a bit of a longer lasting power is that small reintroduction to that old friend, ourselves. I’d like to think the happiness we resurrected in rememberingthe old Rachel, Laura, Kate, and the like, is a reminder of that strong and carefree fighter we once were. Maybe reconnecting with her every now and again, that core girl that set the foundation of the women we are today, maybe that can add a little extra strength to the layers we have wrapped ourselves in as the years have gone on.
We did it, ladies. We found ourselves. Now hold on tight until we can do this again.