So, fast forward two years after my Frost Valley disaster—another school trip, and another bout of anxiety before going on it. Dag nabbit, we had to choose roommates again before the trip. But this time, I did so with ease. This time, it wasn’t just my grade: it was the grade ahead of me, and the grade behind me, both of which I felt more kindred connections with than my own age. And of course, by this time in my life, I felt more connections to the boys, which was pretty fun. (They happened to deal in a lot less drama.)
I don’t know what was different about this trip, but I was full of self-confidence, and didn’t feel so insecure.
Maybe it was because I already faced the worst case scenario as an outcast and survived. Or maybe it was because I was surrounded by my fellow band members and some chorus friends—those with whom I shared a love of music.
It was the annual music competition, where we participated in a concert with other bands, choruses and orchestras around the country. This particular year, we had the opportunity to go to Toronto, and I was super excited. Road trip!!
The whole ambiance of this journey was different than any others I had been on. Something was in the air. There was definitely a sense of playfulness and adventure—and for the first time ever around other kids my age, I just let myself go be me. I let the cameras fly without being shy or worried about how I would look after the pictures were developed. (Plus, there was no insta-facebook back in “those days” to worry about—you actually had to bring in your photos or an album for people to see them).
I goofed around and flirted with the boys (and it probably helped that my self-esteem was recently boosted with a switchover from glasses to contacts and a natural body shift from pubescent awkwardness to ladylike curves without the baby fat). I also was silly with all the girls, pranking our friends in other rooms, and just doing the stupid things that teenage girls did when they had “freedom.” It really was a fun experience.
Especially because this wasn’t all work. Sure, we had to practice and perform, but one of the days we were there we got to let loose at an amusement park. Aside from the thrill of all the rides, we got crazy with costumed characters who walked around the park, and got sick on the most amazing fruit and powdered-sugar topped funnel cake I had ever had in my entire life. (I mean, it had whipped cream, too!) Now, before you all go thinking I am some sort of real crazy for remembering something like that—
remember, I do have photos of all my adventures that help trigger these awesome memories. And yes, that funnel cake was so fabulous, that I took a picture of it.
So this trip, I learned freedom. I didn’t need to feel self-conscious.
I could be fun and just have a good time without worrying what people thought of me—not even those I usually felt I needed approval from. I got teased for being a ditz, but this time, instead of being a target of ridicule, the teasing was affectionate. I’d laugh back with them about it, and tease them too, and we’d end up hugging. I even ended up hanging out with some of the most popular kids from school on that trip, and realized that my previously-self-declared status of being an outcast was actually unique.
I came to the realization on this trip that I am actually friendly with every type of clique imaginable in high school: the nerds (I was one of them, hidden behind my cleverly-disguised “omg I am so blonde” routine); the popular kids (who always told me I was so sweet); the music geeks (again, because we got each other), the outcasts (who continued to always have each other’s backs) and even the athletes (how could you not love a girl who handed out post-game Milky Ways to the entire team?).
Ha! I guess you can say I am the entire Breakfast Club rolled up into one—except for the “bad boy” of course. Out of all of the cliques in high school, I only had some issues with the school “dirtbags”—half judgment on my part, admittedly, and half because they knew I wasn’t cool enough to come to that particular dark side. So that awareness set me free to just be myself.
And in the end, the universe rewarded me with a meeting of a boy with the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen.
It was an instant connection—what I would learn much later in life to be my first intense soulmate encounter. (Aside: My personal belief is that we cross paths with many kinds of soulmates throughout our lives, both romantic and platonic.)
I had felt connected to people my whole life, but this was an instantaneous “I know you” type of vibe. We hit it off so well when we met, that we ended up sitting together for the bus ride home, talking forever and laughing, as if we knew each other our whole lives. It was so natural, that when I ended up falling asleep, my head ended up on his shoulder. I jerked up to feel him put my head right back down to let me know it was okay to get comfortable with him. And it wasn’t this romantic, we’re going to
hook up kind of vibe. It was a very sweet, very affectionate, gentle vibe between us.
Of course, between his eyes and his sweetness, it was all downhill for me—I developed a hardcore crush that lasted my entire senior year. But in that very moment, I felt a true, instant, effortless bond with another person—a male—and I felt safe.
I didn’t know what was to lie ahead for us from there, but that trip truly opened me up to self-acceptance, and the power of what can come into your life when you surrender and just be who you are,
without the mask. Consciously, I didn’t have that awareness; but that first soul connection reawakened the sleeping spirit within me that remembered the softness of my soul without ego, and the journey to deeper connections had begun.
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