Friday, April 11, 2014

Bring the Pain, Be the Change

Photo by Glama Sutra.
When I was eleven or twelve, I went away to camp for the first time. I can't remember if it was for a week or three weeks, but it was my first time to go to an overnight camp for more than a night. I looked forward to camp all summer and was diligent with my planning and packing. I was so excited! The night before camp I felt a little ill. Three hours before I was supposed to leave for camp I puked. It was a big, hearty hurl that had no other symptoms to indicate I was actually sick. Then I went to camp, had a great time, made banana boats on the campfire, rowed around in a canoe, and made a few new friends. I was glad I went even though I wretched right beforehand.

Fast forward a decade. Andrew and I had the U-Haul packed, ready to move to St. Louis to sort our lives out and figure out what we wanted to do next. We were excited. We'd lived two hours from our families while we were in college, so we could always hit them up for gas money and drive down to do our laundry or mooch a few meals. We lived in Hot Springs for a year and a half before heading for the next state. I started feeling ill as we were driving away, and I puked up my orange juice within five miles of home. I wasn't super close with my entire family so it's not like I was a puppy being pulled away from my pack. In fact, I still had loud disagreements with my father (who was also my neighbor and my landlord) into my twenties. We were moving away so we could learn more about the world and strike out on our own. After the orange juice was gone from my body, I was still a bit anxious but I was physically fine. We didn't have a place to live in St. Louis yet, but we had to take the chance.

I was apparently a bit of a puker. My mother didn't urge me to stay home after that pre-camp spew. She suspected I was anxious to be away from home so long in one go. On a subconscious level, I think she was right. (I hate admitting my parents were right about something.) The pain of leaving the comfort of fighting siblings and limited air conditioning and arguing parents was sickening. I was physically ill when the day came to leave, even though I wasn't in tears and totally aware I was leaving the pain of the known environment to experience something new. It could have been more painful at camp. (Hell, I went to one camp a few years later that was very cliquish and my roommate threatened me because she wanted a different roommate; she then tried to slip a laxative onto my plate and convince me it was candy. I was really excited about that camp and wound up rooming with a bitch. I complained and she got moved down the hall.) The unknown was more painful and I puked.

I know the home life I described isn't idyllic. My brothers and I had a few physical fights, and they'd gang up on me to play war with squirt guns and water balloons. My parents were a bad match that tried to stay together because that's what you're supposed to do, and my dad had a penchant for other women (not in the original marriage agreement with my mother). We had a motorcycle shop with noisy strangers coming in and out of our home and eating all of our food. My family cared about me, but it wasn't the most pleasant environment. It was familiar pain, making it endurable pain.

We've all had familiar pain, circumstances that weren't great and weren't going to get any better. The lover we stay with even though we know we can do better. The sucky job we won't leave. The audience seat we don't want to give up despite our desire to be on stage just once. I had two friends who were yo-yo lovers, always breaking up and getting back together. They were miserable together and kept sniping about how the other one was. And then they would break up, be happy, get back together and bitch. I think they might have enjoyed the drama for a while. Maybe you have endured the familiar pain because you secretly liked the drama. Maybe the challenge was a little fun.

What kind of pain does the unknown hold? For my camp experiences, one camp was awesome and the other had cliques and laxative bitch roommate. What kind of pain would a new relationship hold? A new job? A night performing? Leaving a troupe and going solo? Joining a troupe?

If you want to grow, you have to be willing to experience the unfamiliar pain. There's no way you're going to experience those potential rewards of a new experience without leaving your current situation for that new experience. Sometimes you have to puke before you go to camp. If you don't like your current situation, quit your bitching or take a step towards something new.

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