Birthdays are an emotionally charged time for me. You’re a year older but are you any closer to your life’s goals? How far along are you on the self-improvement scale? Are you stuck in comfort zones that don’t push you toward growth? Questions like these keep me up at night.
I’d wanted to have a chilled boozy lunch at my old favorite, CT’s institution: Caprice*, but in keeping with my ‘year of new experiences’ goal, my best friend got us tickets to Up the Creek music festival.
Camping was on my ‘to do’ list along with ‘embracing my inner hippy’. I’m all about the secret sunrise life; moon magic and the esoteric in general so it made logical sense for the new year, new me to be ‘Happy Camper’.
Also, my ideal look in guys can be summarized to one word: Jesus. So being recently single, I thought: what better place to meet a few bible hot men, than out in nature, floating down a river, and taking long walks between the trees…right? Wrong. It turned out to be more of ‘it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’ experience.
Clearly, I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t anticipate a Rugby 10’s smelling beer and hay vibe, with dust blowing everywhere. Tents packed together like sardines in can. Thank g_d two guys helped us assemble our tent because we had no idea what we were doing.
(Me still thinking: I can totally do this!)
With the tent up, fresh white feather duvets and pillows inside, my friend and I were able to settle down to a cheese platter and icy wine. I started to feel normal. It almost felt doable. ‘Camping is like living in Durban – you just drink through it’ my inner monologue pep talk repeated, as I tried to self sooth.
There was a moment later that evening, dancing to a band outside with no shoes on, that I thought ‘this is quite cool’. It was certainly a brand new experience. I was in ‘tent’ by 10.30pm. The music raged till 3am. Then it was the snoring drunks, and car alarms that kept me up the rest of the time. For a person who averages 10 hours a night with a nap before dinner if I can help it- sleep deprivation wasn’t something I’d considered.
I stepped up out of the tent, feeling exposed and awkward in my pajamas (!!) to treck to the car to get my belongings (you can’t leave things in your tent). I felt so vulnerable – far away in the middle of nowhere, with all these hungover strangers aimlessly drifting around. The fact that I wasn’t able to embrace the experience, as my bestie was doing, was something I beat myself up over from that moment on.
My dreams of future holidays camping with my chilled fantasy boyfriend were destroyed.
I’d never be dirty and free like I’d hoped. I wanted to go home to my ensuite bedroom with aircon.
(The portaloo, early eve, while it was still clean!)
There wasn’t a Jesus to save me in sight (there was no one who remotely looked like that – bar the emaciated drunk shivering short haired version who interrupted my reading to talk to me about tantric sex – where he’d hoped that conversation was leading to I’ll never know because I jumped in the river and swam away).
(Two of my favorite things: coffee & pizza)
The river was nice. It would have been nicer without 2700 people peeing and sloshing around me. I did it though: floated on the lilo, danced to Rubber Duck on stage. I took a few happy instagram pics. I drank vida coffee to combat homesickness and ate lots of pizza as comfort food. And then I left.
My savior of the day was (as usual) not any man but my girl friend (who’d also bought tickets for my birthday). She arrived on Saturday, spent the afternoon in the river and then so kindly I cried, drove me home! Friends are my favorite life experience: they’re there to encourage you to try new things and pursue your dreams and to support and comfort you when things don’t go as planned or turn out as you hoped.
I don’t think anyone likes to feel like a failure at trying something new and you do learn from every experience so I’m grateful for the opportunity and glad I tried. Mostly importantly, I’m thankful I didn’t have to go through it alone.
That night as I squeezed into a tight dress and slipped back into my stilettos, I realized, there’s no place like your comfort zone.
*I did the lunch on Sunday with my camping bestie and again the next weekend for my birthday round two and it was every bit as delightful and fun as I’d hoped it would be.
PS: Now I know that camping at a music festival is not for me, it would be a mature, sane choice not to put myself through the experience again. So, true to my nature of strict logic and sound rational mind, this weekend… I’m going camping to a music festival. Why learn from your mistakes when you can repeat them?
I’ll keep you posted.