This past weekend I went on a retreat with a group of people from my university. Why? Well, it was cheap, I would be hanging out in nature near a lake and I would meet some new people. That wasn’t just it, however. While I was there, there were so many things that happened.
The trip was called Awakening. It was all about self-discovery and spirituality (yes, there was some dropping of the word “God” and no, I am not at all religious). Our days there consisted mostly of people that held talks, us reflecting on it in our assigned groups and some other activities. It was a very unique experience that I will always remember.
So why am I writing about this? Well, I learned some things there.
First, put yourself out there! I did it with this trip. There were only several people that I kind-of know going too and I went. And I met so many great people while I was there. My group was filled with some people that were so nice and open. And every time I’ve seen anyone from Awakening on campus we say “Hi”, we talk etc. We all have this shared experience that, in some way, however small, connects us.
Also, it challenges you. Something you should know about me, I am really awkward when people get very physical. People giving me hugs etc. usually makes me way too aware of the fat on my belly, my height, my boobs, my sweat (it’s hot here). So usually I try to avoid situations where I have to hug people or kiss them on the cheeks or whatever other scenario you can think of. But twice this weekend (maybe even more often) that reluctance to let anyone in my personal space was challenged. We had to close out eyes and the crew ran up to us screaming. What followed were several minutes where they played music (among other songs Seasons of Love from Rent, which I LOVE). But that wasn’t all of it, not even close. They danced with us, hugged us (a lot) and moved us around until we were in a circle when we opened our eyes. All that touching, hugging, dancing etc (as you can imagine) made me feel incredibly awkward. But I let it happen. And although I wasn’t really comfortable or at ease, I did it. I accepted it and I believe I grew a little in letting that awkwardness go.
Second, the importance of my own “ideology”. Most people at the retreat were very religious, and by religious I mean christian (that’s the united states + a Jesuit university). I even attended Mass (at was interesting but awkward, I will not bother you with the two-sided details). I am totally not religious. I wasn’t raised that way and I personally believe I will never believe in God. But something that is as important in my life as religion is in others’ is Veganism. I truly believe going vegan (about 3 years ago) has enriched my life. It has made me look at the world differently, it has made me a kinder person and it has changed me for the better. I believe more people out there can relate to this.
Third, growing. Much of this weekend, and the discussions after talks, were focused on self-fulfillment. Everyone told quite some personal experiences (one of the reasons we all bonded). And I learned something that is kind of interesting: I am, in a way, done searching. For years of my life I have searched. Searched for who I am. It took years for me to realize I am an introvert that doesn’t like to go out and drink at a party, that prefers deep conversations over shallow meaningless ones, that likes to travel, that likes to cook and more importantly, eat the food I just made, someone that likes to read in bed for hours until I fall asleep. I have, finally, accepted that that’s who I am. Of course I sometimes with I was more outgoing. I sometimes even wish I liked to drink, but it is just not me. And that wishing never lasts very long. All the years I spent struggling have finally paid off. I would just like to let everyone out there know that if you’re struggling right now, it will get better. It takes work, taking risks, sitting in your room thinking and putting yourself out there. But you CAN do it. So go do it.
One concept that was thrown around a lot from the second day on is “Agape”. Unconditional love and acceptance. That is partially what helped me accept the physical things I talked about previously. It is also something that, I believe, I was taught from a young age. It is something that grew within me ever since I went vegan. And I believe everyone should practice it. Accept people, appreciate people, love people even though you don’t know everything about them. And tell them that. Don’t forget to also do this for yourself. Accept yourself, appreciate yourself, love yourself. It would make the world a better place if we all did that every day.
So the point of this entire rant? To maybe make you aware of some things that this group of people made me aware of this weekend:
Put yourself out there, challenge yourself, appreciate that veganism can be as important to you as religion to someone else, keep growing and practice “Agape”, Whether it is through meeting up with some people you met online, doing more things with friends, go out for that job, start that study, start making the YouTube videos you’ve been thinking of for so long, start writing that blog or book you intended to for a long time, ask out the person you like or travel (!).
Just go do it. And don’t put it off another day. Go do it now. It will be worth it.