I just got back from a solo trip to my favorite place on earth: Walt Disney World. When people found out I was taking a vacation by myself, I was met with a wide range of reactions:
“By yourself? That’s sad.”
“Walt Disney World? Alone? Weird!”
“How cool is that? I would love to go to Disney by myself.”
This was a vacation, but it was much more than that. A little context here is probably necessary.
THE YEAR FROM HELL
It’s been a while since my last post. Several months actually. In the past, my extended absences from writing were due to a lack of discipline. This hiatus was not that.
My first post last year discussed reclaiming a life I had let slip into auto-pilot. You can read that post here, but in it I wrote, “There is too much at stake to not take this path.”
What I was unprepared for was what would follow almost immediately after I wrote those words. A year ago this month I discovered that while my intention to reclaim a life out of balance was the right thing to do, it was too late for one huge part of my life. In the following months, I would experience the end of my marriage, selling the house in which my children grew up, and, for the first time in my life, living on my own.
Everything I had thought I would experience in this season of my life was gone. The “empty nest” that I was anticipating became much emptier than expected. Just as I had started to deal with the issues related to my insecurities and fears of rejection, I experienced the ultimate rejection one can face. Nothing was going according to plan.
For most of the last year, I went through group and individual counseling to help me process what’s happened and it’s been helpful in ways I could not have imagined. One of the biggest issues was learning to enjoy my own company. So, how does a solo trip to Disney fit in to all of this?
TIME FOR A NEW LOOK AT THINGS
The first time we ever took our kids to Walt Disney World we were living in Florida and they were young enough that we did not have to buy tickets for them. During those years, we had season passes and went almost weekly. Even after we moved back to Texas we made almost annual trips. Of all the experiences in my life, Disney trips were inextricably tied into our DNA. There are no places I can visit at the resort that don’t have some family memory attached to it. While those memories will always be cherished and forever etched into my heart, it was time for a new perspective.
A solo week at Disney meant experiencing many of the things I had previously enjoyed but through the lens of where I am in life now. I spent the week observing all of the other families around me and reminisced about what those days were like for us. I met new people, had conversations with other guests and multiple cast members. I found that I engaged with the Disney experience in a new way to create new memories that were all my own. And, at the end of the week, I discovered something.
The night before I left I was talking with a friend about the trip. She said that it was a “way to push yourself beyond your comfort zone…only to discover you can be comfortable and content even there.” As I boarded the plane to return home the next morning I realized she was right.
I planned this trip as a bit of a test for myself. It’s one thing to live on my own here at home. I still have access to familiar relationships either at work or at play. But Florida was different.
If I was to engage with people, I had to take risks. I had to speak with strangers. I’m glad I did because I found that I could. The realization of being “comfortable and content” was a huge achievement.
THE WAY FORWARD
As I begin the second year of my new reality, everyone who told me that it would get better is right. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m getting there. This trip was a huge step out of a year of transition and into the rest of my life.
This trip was not just for fun. There was self-reflection, rumination, wrestling with the soul. What I realized was while I cannot avoid life’s challenges, I am not required to wallow in sadness. That is a choice.
I choose joy and gratitude and celebration and wonder and curiosity. I choose to live life to the fullest and to live it well.
Now, where to next?