(Re) Treat Yo’ Self
By Jane McGowan
How do you decide when it’s time to treat yourself, especially when it involves vulnerability on your part? This is exactly the decision I had to make this past Fall when I visited the AboutFace website for the umpteenth time thinking to myself “that Adult Retreat program is coming up, do I want to do it this year?” I had been calling in to the monthly networking calls for most of the year and I was hoping that if I did decide to go, if nothing else, I’d at least get to meet the few people I had talked to on the calls. Not ever having gone to Camp Trailblazers or the Leadership Retreat, I was nervous for a whole variety of reasons. Questions of self-doubt were swarming in my head:
- Do I even feel like an adult? While I fit the age requirement, I was nervous that no one my age would be there and it would be geared more towards people that had already mastered that whole ‘adulting’ thing.
- What if everyone knows each other from other AboutFace programs and I’m the odd one out and have no one to talk to?
- This organization is based in Canada and I’m American…what if I don’t fit in, eh?
- What will we be doing at this retreat; will it be fun?
- I am so used to being the only one with a facial difference in any given room at any given time so how will I feel in a room full of people with a facial difference? How will that change my self-identity?
There were many more thoughts, but I will spare you. So how do you make that decision when you’re scared that everything might go terribly wrong? The reason I decided to go to the Adult Retreat was because I was at a point in my life where I thought it would be beneficial to have connections with other people in the facial difference community. I also had topics and questions that were coming up in my life that only other people with facial differences could help me answer or commiserate on. So off I went, traveling to Canada with reckless abandonment, not knowing if this would be one of the best or worst decisions of my life. And if everything went wrong? At least I could say I drove to Canada and back and lived to tell the tale.
Not only did I survive the trip, but out of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, this has been one of the ones that has far exceeded even my wildest fantasies. The bus that brought most of the retreaters there had already arrived when I pulled up in my New York plated car. As I approached the house my heart was racing, I was so nervous. I could hear the loud chatter of everyone talking to each other in the main room. As soon as I walked in it felt like I was welcomed with open arms, everyone was trying to meet me and ask me different questions all at once. Everyone was so happy to be there and shocked that I had driven all the way from America! Maybe I wasn’t so bad at this adulting thing after all.
There are no words to describe how I felt walking into a room full of people all with a facial difference, but I will try. It felt like I had unknowingly been living in the world as an adopted soul and when I walked into that room, I finally met the people I belonged to and with and they had been waiting for me all these years. Why had I been scared to come here again? I couldn’t remember. We spent the weekend having deep group conversations, meditating, working on crafts, going for walks, laughing and having fun around the piano and the bonfire! I ended up becoming closer friends with my roommate than I ever thought was possible in two days. Everyone was free to say what was on their mind and nothing was too personal.
I’ve missed my retreat friendships so much that I’ve driven to Canada for a lot of the social events since, and have enjoyed strengthening the bond that I have with each of them. So maybe you’re on the fence about the Adult Retreat, I sure was. But what if, just maybe, it could be one of the best decisions you’ve made for yourself? Isn’t that at least worth the risk?