Nothing Went According to Plan
I recently took what was supposed to be a vacation. I started my Florida trip with a lot of plans and expectations. Nothing went according to plan. Few of my expectations were met. The first few days were such a struggle. I drove and it was a long drive from Illinois to Florida to do by myself. But I was okay with it until I stopped to get a hotel.
I thought it would be relaxing. It’d make it feel more like a vacation. But damn was I wrong. I was miserable. Housekeeping ignored the “Do Not Disturb” sign and disturbed. A lot. I barely got any sleep the day I arrived. And I kept waking up with my heart racing during the night expecting someone to bust into my room at any moment.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. And wasn’t going to happen. But my PTSD didn’t understand that. I got ready as quickly as I could stupidly early in the morning and practically ran out of that hotel. Miserable. Exhausted. And just hoping (and expecting) that my trip would start going according to plan once I arrived at my campsite.
I felt a little better. I mean, I was camping. The wildlife was noisy. The squirrels were crazy. The birds were crazy. The alligators were chill. So I thought it’d just take a good night’s rest for the drama at the hotel to wear off. And ya know what? It probably should have been all I needed. But I didn’t understand myself or this trip as well as I thought I did.
I had a few key reasons for taking this vacation. I really wanted to do some personal self-discovery. I wanted to enjoy myself. And I wanted to explore a few new areas along the coast as potential places for eventual relocation.
I assumed self-discovery and enjoying myself would go hand-in-hand for this particular venture. I figured the self-discovery I’d have would be super awesome and I’d learn a ton of great things that made me feel wonderful about myself. Fuck knows my self-esteem lately could’ve used it. I was wrong. The self-discovery I got was painful and unpleasant. It made me doubt myself and my abilities and question myself at every turn. I didn’t enjoy it. And I didn’t enjoy the first couple days of my trip because of it.
But I learned to enjoy the clarity. Getting to that point was hard though. I didn’t understand why I felt so shitty. I was camping. I was spending time at the beach. Water and nature are two of my favorite things. Combining them should make for the vacation of a lifetime.
But I learned that for me, these things are separate. (I also don’t like chocolate covered fruit but I love both fruit and chocolate, go figure right?)
When I was camping, I wanted to be hiking. I wanted to enjoy the solitude of nature. That time was for lots of self-reflection and wildlife photography. It was for filling out my field journal, reflecting on my experiences, and barely speaking because there was no one around to talk to.
There were a lot of people at the beach. Duh. And when I go, I expect that. A lack of running water and living outdoors made it difficult to feel like I could make myself presentable. I started to feel too self-conscious to really enjoy myself. Hitting up nature centers, local parks, and beaches just didn’t mesh with the totally outdoors lifestyle I was trying to keep as my side piece.
Realizing this though allowed me to turn my vacation into something more aligned with what I needed. I got myself a hotel room overlooking the beach a couple hours away and spent the first day there just enjoying the waves while I worked. And I finally felt like I was having the vacation I both wanted and needed!
I’d done it. This was the kind of personal growth that I wanted. I was enjoying myself, I was relaxed. I didn’t keep thinking about all the pressures of my life back home or of the stresses and disappointments of the last few days. The ocean cleared that away from me, like I knew it would. This was the confirmation I was looking for. Now I could really enjoy my trip.
That Friday was amazing in exactly the way I wanted it to be. The following Saturday was a disaster. Or at least it felt like one. The plan was to meet up with a woman I met from a girls only diving group and go scuba diving. I was warned it was the wrong time of year, but this is when I was here and she was also ready to get in the water. So we decided to give it a shot. She enlisted a friend of hers to serve as our guide and boat captain and we headed out bright and early. Well, sort of.
Nothing went according to plan. I feel like that should be the title of this trip. The weather started out beautiful and perfect for diving: warm and sunny with clear waters. But it quickly turned. The sky became overcast, it started drizzling, and there was practically no visibility in the water.
We stopped for lunch, chatted, and I listened to their super crazy stories. Then we tried again.
But just one perfect day hadn’t been enough to cure the anxiety that had been building throughout the trip. And the things that had gone wrong and were still going wrong got to me. Eventually, I realized that I was just too stressed to keep trying to make the dive work and got out of the water. I was frustrated and embarrassed. I was. But I’m not now.
It was for the best. The conditions we had weren’t safe for two new divers. Instinctively, my body knew that. But I hadn’t trusted my gut because I was hell-bent on proving myself. My certification experience sucked. The instructor was an ass. I left feeling like I could learn more from YouTube videos than that class (and in fact, I did). But it left me with lingering anxiety and feeling like a failure. So I wanted to prove I wasn’t a failure and I could beat my anxiety. However, heavy currents, low visibility, and a lot of boat traffic nearby wasn’t safe. Then, I just wanted to prove I could suck it up. Now, I’m glad I didn’t.
Looking back on it, I realized things went perfectly for me. When people ask how my vacation went, I answer honestly: fucking great! I dealt with my frustration. I took on a trip that was way out of the norm for me. I really pushed myself. And I survived. And learned a lot. And had fun. It wasn’t the personal growth I wanted, but it was the personal growth I needed (thanks, Batman).
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