30 May 2013

Lessons from Vegas: Be Yourself

Last week's entry was about my trip to Vegas with my coworkers.  This post is kind of a continuation from last week, as promised.

First off, you have to understand  why I went to Vegas in the first place.  I was watching a movie after my daughter got married, where a group of friends go off on a weekend together to kind of relax, have fun, bond. This sounded good  to me but there was one problem: I can count my close friends on one hand, and sadly, since my friends are pretty much just like I am, none of us has a whole lot of free time to do things together. We send each other texts and emails...and occasionally talk on the phone, but we don't often see one another.  Distance and commitments keep us from doing that.  The people that I usually hang out with are my family.  So you get the idea.  When this Vegas trip came up, and I got asked if I'd like to go, I said, "Sure, why not." And we bought our tickets and booked the hotel months in advance.

But as the dates grew closer, I became more and more apprehensive about going.  We had "meetings" between the 10 of us to discuss plans.  There were clubs to go to, shows, spas, dinner. Remember when you were in junior high or high school?  The peer pressure?  Do such-and-such to be cool.  Wear a certain brand of clothing.  Try something you weren't supposed to do on a dare?.  All of this in the name of fitting in with the rest and being a part of the inner circle, right? 

Well, sitting there during these Vegas planning meetings, those peer pressure feelings started flooding back.  Here I was going on a trip with everyone, yet I wasn't into any of the stuff they were planning.  So I thought, okay, I'll just go along with the group.  I said, "I'm up for whatever."  Except that I wasn't.

My typical day starts at 5:00 a.m.  Our plans were to get to Vegas after work by 8:00 p.m.  And the group was going to go to a club at 11:00 p.m.  I'm not much of a drinker, and I'm not much of a dancer....and at this age, believe it or not, I've never been to a club.  And the idea of going to a club at 11:00 at night after working a full day just didn't make sense to me (or sound fun).  It just wasn't my thing.  But there was the peer pressure.  So I said I'd go.  Just to be part of the group.  After all, that's why I was going...so I could hang out with new friends, right?  But a week or two before, at our last meeting, I announced that I wasn't going to the Friday night club thing.  "You're not going?? Come on!  You have to come!!  What are you going to do if you don't come?"  Of the group of us that went to Vegas, I was the only one that didn't go. And that was totally okay with me.  My life gets so crazy at times, that spending a few hours on my own was great.  I checked out some of the casinos, walked a long ways people watching, played penny slots.  Inside, I felt good that I was doing what felt right for me and was not swayed by the  group.  But, here's the question: by doing so, am I alienating myself from friends?  Do we need to make the effort to conform when conformity doesn't feel right?

The next day, Saturday, we were all over the place doing different things (some went to the spa, another group of us to the museum, another to a show) but we had all decided to meet up for a "nice" dinner together in the evening.  And then the group was going to see the Thunder Down Under  - basically a male dancer/strip show.  Advance tickets were purchased.  Everyone was going, except for...you guessed it, me.   Before I go on, I want to say that my intention here is not to judge anyone.  I've done my share of crazy things in my life as well.  What I mean to say though is that going to this type of show was also, "not my thing."  And it's okay if it's someone else's thing, but I'm just speaking for myself.  

At dinner that night, we were joined by a couple other friends who met us there.  And there was excitement about the show.  When I mentioned I'd been leaving after dinner...again, the peer pressure...or maybe it's not really peer pressure as much as a need to know why I didnt want to come.  And then a need for them to justify why they wanted to go.  As if they have to explain to me or defend themselves.  Again, I'm not judging...but only saying that the show was not a good fit for me.   Truly, my reason is this.  The show is basically a strip show for women, right?  Well, if the shoe were on the other foot and my husband was in Vegas with friends and they were all going to a strip club for men, would I want him to go with his friends? I would never tell him he couldn't go; and in the same token, he didn't tell me that I couldn't go either.  But I didn't want to go.  "Not my thing" was the answer.  Of all my girlfriends that came on the trip, one of them - a  young mom - decided that she didn't want to go either.  And we hung out together that evening and had a great time talking, sharing, walking the strip and people watching.

So you ask, just what is "my thing" since it's pretty obvious that I've figured out what isn't.  That's not so easy to define, but I know this much.
My thing is ...
Listening to my heart (and respecting what it has to say)
Respecting other's feelings
Living in peace with myself and what I believe is right for Me 
Not judging others for what feels right to them

There's a lot more I think, but for now, that's enough.  I'll have to keep adding to the list.  
I DID end up having a great time in the Vegas. I got to know my coworkers a little better, and the time we did spend together was fun.  Am I glad I went?  Yes.  Did I learn something about myself?  Yes.  I learned that I'm okay with who I am now. And those who get me, get me.  And those who don't, don't.   Really, I don't "get" everyone I meet either, right?
I think Oscar Wilde said it best when he said, 
"Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken"
To hear an audio version of this post, tune in to this week's episode of "The Next Step with Fr. Vazken" on epostle.net