Life is funny. Sometimes the most fabulous times collide with the hardest of moments…I believe the word appropriated for such times is “bittersweet”. This weekend was a perfect example.
As many of you know, my Nana has been sick for the past few weeks and passed away this Sunday while I was out of town. Though I knew it was eminent, there is nothing that can prepare you for the news that someone you love has taken their last breath and it broke my heart that I wasn’t with her. There are no words to describe the feeling that goes with the hole in your heart that can only be filled by the shape of that person. The pain is too fresh to poke at that bear, but in time I hope to dig deeper to tell you some of her stories. For now I’ll just say that she was not only my grandma but she was also my friend and will be greatly missed.
I can’t let this week pass without saying thank you to all the families of the military who lost loved ones as they served our country. In 1943 my Nana was deep into marine boot camp when she received word that her fiance, Marine First Lieutenant Mike Hoffman, was killed in the Battle of Tarawa (for which he earned the silver star). It is in his honor that she continued with her service until the war ended, eventually meeting and marrying my Papa, also a WWII veteran. Nana was extremely proud of her time in the military and of her country. Whether you believe in war or not, someone today is mourning the loss of their son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or friend so that we can live in peace. On their behalf, please take a moment to appreciate that sacrifice.
On the sweet side, this weekend I attended Camp Mustache. For those of you who don’t know, CM is a gathering of like minded folks who read and act on the writings of Mr. Money Mustache, accidental leader of the “Mustachian Cult”. Like my Nana’s life, words can’t do justice to my experience but as a writer is mused to do, in this case I will give it a try. 🙂
Here is where I have to divulge a bit of truth…I am not a card carrying member of the Mustachian Cult. I don’t lurk on the forums, I don’t follow Pete’s words of wisdom to a T (I drive, rarely work out, and have an affinity for shitty non nourishing food), and I haven’t read every single blog post he has ever written (like several of the peeps I met this weekend), BUT his writing is what got me on this FI path and I do appreciate the idea that we can live more intentional beautiful and fulfilling lives by focusing on what is truly important. It is with that in mind that I wanted to attend CM and was handsomely rewarded as I have never met a more amazing group of sincere, authentic, and warm people who I could instantly connect with.
When I was a kid, every summer my sisters and I attended a local day camp. My mom packed our lunches and off we went to the field near the community pool to spend the next 4 hours in a large swarm of kids running amok, playing games, pulling pig tails, watching the boys and giggling with our girlfriends. This weekend I was transported back in time to be the same audacious girl I was in summer camp all those years ago (minus the warm cream cheese sandwiches and pulling of pig tails)…fun, happy, and without a care in the world. I wasn’t focused on work, my blog, savings rates, cooking, cleaning, politics, or who left pee on the toilet seat. I was there. Just me. For 4 entire days. The hours flew by with interesting discussions, awesome bonfires, epic star gazing, an intense hike, random creating of a video tribute, hooting owls, scandalous book readings 😉 , and so much more. Two days in I felt a shift in my persona, like a tangled rope of Christmas lights when you finally pull the right direction and it all unravels at once. It came to me with complete clarity and finally made sense – this weekend I began the process of unfucking myself.
When you surround yourself with people you’ve just met, you get the rare occasion to be whoever you want to be. Not your mothers daughter. Not your sisters sister. Not your boyfriends girlfriend. You stand alone as just yourself and get to decide what part of YOU you want to show and what parts you want to hide. If you choose to show it all, as I did, it will also make you keenly aware of the parts of your identity that you are no longer showing at home. For instance, I learned that I have been suppressing a lot of my needs for the greater good. Limiting my emotions is a prime example…like trying to keep monotone when my reality is a roller coaster. Not celebrating my wins for fear of crushing other peoples feelings is another. These restraints are self induced but only due to years of trying to fit into certain defining categories that make for the perfect woman. I am not perfect and anyone who knows me will attest to that…so why did I ever try to be?
EDIT* It occurred to me to mention that much of the FI community labels themselves as introverts. I wonder how much of that is what we truly are or how much we learned from a feeling of not belonging. This weekend the last thing I think anyone would have labeled me as is an introvert. In a community such as this I push myself to go outside my comfort zone because it feels more of a safe place. I didn’t have to fit the mold of what others want me to be or think I should be. Maybe that makes all the difference?
Whatever mold it was that I felt I needed to fit into is gone today. I no longer want to live in the shadows. I don’t want to be less so someone else can be more – we can all just BE. I don’t want to bite my tongue if I have something to say for fear of not being liked. I am who I am because of my past and all the shit I endured, but I don’t want it to dictate and dim every little fucking thing I do in the future. I want to shine as bright as I can and I want to surround myself with people who appreciate and encourage that in me.
On the flight home I realized that for the first time in a really long time I am proud of who I am (even if some of it was hidden) and the direction I am heading and I don’t have to make apologies for it. I still have a lot of work to do (no doubt about that) but if my past has taught me anything, I am resilient and always up for a challenge. As Neil Young once sang, it’s better to burn out than to fade away. I intend to do just that.
I can honestly say that I haven’t had a weekend like this in all my adult life and am so grateful to the organizers for putting the event together and to Pete (MMM) for inspiring such an incredible community. I can’t remember the last time I spent so many days with so many people and didn’t have to fight the urge to flee! That’s gotta be the most honest stamp of approval (and possible future tag line/bumper sticker?) for Camp Mustache that has ever been. 😉 Sweet is exactly the word to describe my time there.
If any of my CM friends are reading this, thank you for making this weekend what it was. If you are reading this and have never been to CM, do not fret! CM is not an event so much as it is an idea. Community comes from surrounding yourself with your tribe – like minded folks that share your values. People you can teach as well as people you can learn from. I started this blog because I was seeking a tribe. I had a hole that needed desperately to be filled and in my interactions with each of you, I am slowly filling it. Going to CM added a heap on the pile. I can only imagine Lola Retreat and FinCon will add a few shovels as well. Whether it be here in the comments or at any of those events, I hope our paths cross. Life is too short to live it dimmed.
Until next time…
PS – If you are in Chicago this week, I am hosting a meet up on Monday, June 5 at 5pm’ish. Email me for more info or if you would like to be added to the invite list for future events!! firstname.lastname@example.org