Going It Alone

25 August 2014

“The strongest oak tree of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” -Napoleon Hill

I've done a lot of things alone in my life so far.  I've gone to the movies, dined, visited Disney World, travelled (both abroad and domestically), moved abroad, lived in an apartment, made large purchases, gone to weddings, and gone hiking all on my own. Hell, I even went to my senior prom alone. And now I can add to this list: go on a (short) road trip, camp, and go to a concert by myself.

There are a lot of things I want to do while I'm alive, and pretty early on I realized that if I waited until someone could do those things with me, I might never get to do them at all. I knew I couldn't wait on someone else to want to go to the same movie as me, or want to go to a dance with me, so I would go by myself. When I studied abroad, I had a list of must-see places and knew that in order to see some of them, I might have to go alone (thus a two-week Spring Break in the U.K. and Ireland, solo). A few years ago, I really wanted to go to Hawaii and knew that going by myself was probably my best shot (also, traveling to Hawaii alone is incredibly relaxing). I'm no stranger to being solitary.

And yet I felt unprepared on Friday morning when my plans with a friend to go to a concert in the middle of nowhere of Washington State changed unexpectedly. The plan was to drive out together on Friday morning, set up camp overnight, attend the concert Saturday night, and return home Sunday. It was going to be a fun girls' weekend! The universe had other plans, as it often does.

Thus I found myself Saturday morning, throwing some food and clothes in the back of my car and taking off with my friend's tent to drive out into the middle of Washington all by myself. I had a knot in my stomach all morning, conjuring up visions of being drugged and dragged out to the middle of the brush before the concert. Or, being followed back to the campsite after the concert and being taken by surprise by some knife-wielding psychopath. Somehow, I had forgotten all of the other things I had survived on my own.

I've never driven for so long by myself. I get antsy and fatigued in the car. Luckily, driving solo means being able to make a pit stop whenever I damn well please. Whenever I got nervous driving up and down and along the sides of mountains, I told myself "you can get through this," then turned up my music louder and sang at the top of my lungs. Turns out singing really helps with my anxiety on the road. I do alright as my own driving companion.

Once I arrived to the campground, I set up my tent right away, with the help of no one. Now, I'd set up plenty of tents before (I was a Girl Scout, after all), but could not remember ever having done so alone before. I did, however, have the necessary skills and I managed to get by (even pressing the stakes into the ground without a mallet). Next all I had to do was go to the concert and make it back to my tent in one healthy piece.

And of course I did. I planted myself on my idea of a prime spot on the lawn and soaked up every minute of the concert. I people-watched (what is up with all the crop tops?), I read a book before the show, I soaked up the beautiful scenery of the gorge. When the music started, I swayed and hummed along as it pleased me, knowing that no one was around to care or tease me for doing something that is purely me. I let the music move through me, un-self-consciously. I stayed until the very last song and walked back to the campsite among the throngs of other concert-goers.

On Sunday morning, I packed my things up (again, all by myself, with no help from the wind) and hit the road. I stopped for a delicious breakfast in Ellensburg, and it didn't matter that I had a long wait. The nice waitress ended up comping my breakfast because of said wait, and I felt pretty well taken care of. My drive home saw more beautiful scenery, some rain, and a stop in Hood River for a break to stretch my legs and enjoy coffee and a book shop stop. My time was all my own, and I could do as I pleased.

If there's anything I've learned from this weekend, it's that I really can make it on my own. I've had a few guys in my time call me fragile, but I don't think they ever saw to the root of me. At my root, I'm strong as the strongest oak tree, able to handle whatever winds and rains the world throws at me, all on my own.

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