The Weekend I Fell in Love With Myself

I recently found my youth. That carefree, stupid, curious child inside me was MIA years 12–20. I felt constantly weighed down by the pressure to be an adult. To be responsible. To surpass all of my peers, who were busy “making mistakes,” learning as they went. I felt safe, comfortable, neutral. Year 21 brought along a lot of changes in my social desires, and I started wanting, craving the acceptance and company of others.

My friend recommended that we do a weekend trip to Guerneville, California for a small indie music festival. It was right up my alley. Camping, singing, smoking under the stars with hundreds of music scene millennials sounded like a dream, a future memory that, forty years down the road, I would look back on and exclaim, “Oh, what it was like to be young!” Alas, we dream. We have expectations. And we often forget that our imagination can exaggerate the potential and forget to illuminate the reality.

Our plans kept turning into circles. Our circles led to no clear paths. Without paths, intuition tells you to be afraid, uncertain. To question your worth and your ability to “be.” Why aren’t I more like other girls my age? Other explorers? The young women I see globetrotting, making friends down every street, constantly playing, and doing so gracefully.

I didn’t know the answer to these questions until I jumped in the river this weekend. On the outskirts of the music festival, covered in dirt and sweat, with a warm cooler full of melted ice and hummus gone bad. It was there that I realized why so often I can’t connect with the scene that I am supposed to. I can’t force my happiness, or give a genuine smile to every person I meet. I become more and more anxious, not relaxed, with every drink.

I try to appreciate everything, but my heart appreciates the small. A smiling, dirt-covered kid running down the hill. The way that my skin feels as water evaporates off of it into the sunlight, turning river water into air. The way that the leaves fall around faces surrounding me, adorning them with a halo of light.