Last weekend I had a grand plan to go camping.
I’ve been intrigued by camping for as long as I can remember, but have only ever gone once, years ago, with my then-boyfriend who was an eagle scout. I loved it. I wondered when I would go again. It was definitely the last day of camping that year. And when we broke up, it turned out to be the last day of camping for a while. I figured eventually I would camp again, once I had a partner or some friends to go with.
But years passed and I didn’t camp. Several months ago, one of my friends suggested that I go camping on my own. Just get out there, find a spot off a forest road, and camp out for the night. I was scared. I feigned interest, but I think we both knew it wasn’t going to happen.
For some reason, this summer, the idea came up again. This time, I agreed to start working on my car so I could camp in it. So for a few weeks we built a platform for me to throw a mattress on. We finished it on Friday and on Saturday I was off to the national forest nearest us.
It was beautiful, but I’m not sure what I was expecting. As I got farther and farther on the forest road, it became sketchier and sketchier. My phone had no reception and my confidence in my printed out directions was slowly waning. I kept calming myself down, reminding myself that I was a capable human being.
Then I hit a spot I wasn’t sure I could pass with my car.
And for some reason, I decided to go for it. It was a steep angle, and for a moment it seemed like my car was stuck, nose into the ground. But I managed to get out of there (thanks to the many off-roading trips I had taken with my friends from Michigan). I was really shaken, but decided to keep going. I had made through that obstacle it after all.
But then came another such spot and I decided to turn around.
It was all too much.
I had failed.
I turned around and headed back to the main road with my tail between my legs.
The closer I got to home, the more my body burned with shame. How could I face my friends again?
I was all ready to go home, shun myself from the world and watch some movies, when I realized how it would all play out.
I was feeling shame. I was going to isolate. That isolation would confirm that nobody wanted to be my friend, that my failure was shameful, that my failure made me unworthy.
And with that, I remembered that the only cure for shame is vulnerability.
So I made plans with friends. Sort of. And I spent the evening talking to people, eating food, and watching silly movies.
With some distance from the experience, I was able to recognize some of the things I would have done differently. For my first solo camping trip (and only my second camping trip ever) I should have gone to a campground – sure it’s less isolated, but it’s not isolation I was looking for, I just wanted to get out of the city.
I have plans to go camping with some friends in August. I truly hope I can make it out again before that. Just take some books and art supplies, a hammock and my car, and go do what I do in nature.
I’m not sure that will happen, but I do know I didn’t let shame get me this time. I do know I recognized what was going on and did my best to not repeat old patterns.
Last weekend wasn’t perfect, but I would say it was the kind of failure that became its own kind of success.