Growth usually requires getting uncomfortable, doing something in a way you’ve not done before. Last night I had the opportunity to test this theory and I’m reporting back that
1, I had to push myself into new territory to avoid disappointment,
2, it wasn’t easy to take that first tiny step and commit to the process because it scared me, and
3, it all worked out better than I hoped, coming away with a new belief in myself. With changes big and small on my horizon, I can handle this.
It was the last night of my visit to Charleston. Most of the trip I’d been occupied indoors at a hotel, 11 minutes drive from the center of town. The situation had me feeling what city I was in was inconsequential, the standard hotel facilities for the DIY Blogger event I had come to help friends run could have been in any town, in any state. This was a disappointment as one of the reasons I had agreed to help out had been the chance to spend time in a city I find enjoyable to experience. I and a friend had gotten away the night before, for a delicious dinner in a restaurant I’d heard great things about, afterwards catching the last few minutes of the City Market just as vendors were closing down for the night. But apart from those brief two hours I’d been ensconced inside the walls of the nondescript hotel.
Because of this I’d been eagerly anticipating the close of the conference and the opportunity to get out and taste the flavor of the city on the last night before an early flight out the next morning. I had thought perhaps the team would make plans to go out and celebrate a successful event. But when it became apparent those people needed to circle the wagons around their core to regroup, I then turned to the friend in the group that I had most looked forward to seeing during the trip. But with her own family along for the trip, it was important she make time for them that evening.
Despite not having set plans ironed out I had been confident there’d be one, and had showered and put on a fresh dress and makeup to make a night of it. I didn’t care my wake up call was set for 3:30, I was going to squeeze the most from this moment! So when the text came in there was no room in the car for me, I was devastated.
For context, I was already feeling like an outsider given I’d just spent the last three days amongst a group of people and an industry I’d left a few years prior. It had moved on without me and my presence had surprised the few past fellow bloggers I had grown my blog and business alongside back in the day. I didn’t really belong anymore, and when the closing ceremony came to an end a couple hours earlier I had experienced a feeling of great sadness with the knowledge I no longer fit in. Having no festive plans materialize when I was cleaned and prettied up, ready to go celebrate like everyone else, made hot fast tears overtake me. Then anger. Then, thankfully, a resolve to get out and make something happen even if I did it alone.
And so the first thing I did was download Uber. First time ever. Okay, this looks doable. Then looking at the screen asking for directions came frustration, well where can I go?! I’d wanted to go out for a celebratory drink in a swanky establishment, but that seemed too intimidating. What was I going to do? Slink up to a seat at the bar, looking like a desperate mid aged plus woman looking to hook up? No thank you. Then I thought of the City Market we’d only gotten the briefest preview of the night before. Ah ha! I can go there, that will not only be safe but comfortable and I’ll enjoy it. I typed in the address and I was promptly informed a ride would be arriving at the front of the hotel in 3 minutes with the manageable fee of $7.45. Boom.
The driver was a cheerful and talkative woman, with her cute little dog jumping into the back seat to say “hello!” Sweet! And before I knew it she was pulling up alongside the market, wishing me an enjoyable night. Thank you, I will. You too!
After walking up and back down the long aisles of the market, talking to a few vendors and taking in their creations and the energy of the people milling about, I came back out to the busy streets and decided I wasn’t ready to end the evening just yet and began wandering through the packed streets with the other tourists and locals. After several blocks of charming shops and eateries I came across the bar of a hotel set on a busy corner, only a third full of patrons. I did want a nice drink and walking slowly by the windows I spied a comfortable looking corner set up with bench seating lined with pillows and a round marble top bistro table set in front. I could feel comfortable sitting there on my own, sipping on a glass of wine, watching the people pass by on the streets! I decided to give it some thought while I continued down the street a bit – perhaps I’d see a better option, or then again I might decide to retrace my steps and give this establishment a try. A couple blocks later that is what I decided to do.
Walking through the door I knew I was going to be fine, just do this and enjoy yourself! It’s not the first time a woman has gone out on the town on her own, and perhaps being a hotel lounge it wouldn’t be so atypical – even though it was nearly 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. Yes, there was that. Oh well! I went to the bar to look at the drinks menu, decided what I’d order then headed over to the corner I’d scoped out, despite there now being two slightly older men settling into the table next to the one I had targeted as mine. I think it’ll still be okay, you can do this. And I did. I sat. Got comfortable. Ordered. Sipped. Watched the world go by and even began to pay attention to the sports on the screen. The one directly next to me above the window featured the “last table” of a poker tournament and this was the screen that my neighbors were interested in. So I began to pay attention and ease dropped on some of their comments regarding the game. Okay, welcome to the big time league of poker tournaments, who knew! Not me!
Apparently either way these two young men at the table on the screen were going home a rich man, second place set to win about 5 million with whoever came out on top looking at an 8 million plus prize. I was so surprised and intrigued that without giving it much thought I turned to the men on my left who clearly new the rules, asking a few questions about the game. And they answered, politely without thinking it was an opportunity to start chatting me up.
I sat there slowly sipping my glass of wine, content with how the night had fallen into place, proud I’d not let others take away my ability to get what I had hoped for. I’d done it on my own regardless, and while I would have enjoyed company, this was actually better for this particular night. It proved to me I have what it takes to carve out my new life that is going to require testing new things out on a daily basis. The night had helped me experience my determination and power, even in the simple task of creating a satisfactory ending to a trip that had in many ways been a challenge to my sense of self.
Nearing 11 I finished my glass, paid the waiter who was sweet, and ordered up my second ride on Uber. Okay, this platform rocks! No standing on a street corner with arms flailing, vying for a cab in a busy city on a busy night. And cheaper than I recall cabs being from my Chicago and San Francisco days! I stepped out into the balmy late summer night air just as the vehicle my app had told me to expect pulled up to the curb where I stood. Another nice friendly conversation and once again, before I knew it, I was at my destination, the hotel.
The halls were still hopping and I quickly ran into people from the organizers family. They were effusive with their greeting, pointing me in the direction of the outdoor pool where the event organizer who’d invited me to come out to Charleston was wrapping up the evening. Not being quite ready to call it a night I uncharacteristically decided to take myself out there so I could give her a proper goodbye in person, ensuring I left on a positive note not only in her mind, but more importantly mine. The group was happy to see me, with one gentleman grabbing a chair for me to sit in. There I enjoyed another lively and cheerful conversation until a worker at the hotel came out to kindly remind us the area had closed, so please at our convenience – wrap it up! A few minutes later we did and finally nearing 12 I entered back into a hotel room happy and satisfied, a room that had last seen me clearing away tears of frustration and sadness with determination.
For many the above is probably no big deal. Hats off to you, you rock! But for many trying out new ways of conducting themselves in the world this can be daunting, particularly when you have to do it on your own. I’m laughing as I write this remembering a solo trip I took to London in my early 20’s, getting on the plane with only a guidebook and no set itinerary or place booked to stay. I figured it out on the fly and had a great time. But sometimes as the years pass and we get comfortable in our wheel of comfort, the things we do repeatedly without much challenge because they are solid in our wheelhouse from years of being on repeat, it can be a challenge to step out and do something new.
I’m incredibly glad I did and it gives me a base of confidence to build upon. If you are needing to expand yourself beyond your wheelhouse of comfort to access your desires or potential, consider beginning with something really small to enjoy a win, and with a win underneath you determine what you want to tackle next!
Here’s to women claiming their independence and power, one itsy bitsy step at a time.