In my mind, I am amazing at all types of things – being a pioneer, a wedding DJ, a rock star. It doesn’t matter that I can barely sew a button or carry a tune. In my mind, I have a fabulous life. I am a legend.
I can romanticize almost anything to epic proportions. For instance, I make a decent vegan cream of broccoli soup. Vegans and non-vegans alike have told me it’s delicious. Maybe they are just being nice, but now every time I make it I let myself believe I am the most skilled soup chef there ever was. In the time it takes to chop the broccoli, I am convinced I should open a soup shop – a really cute soup shop, perhaps called “Soup Shop.” It will receive rave reviews, people will love it and I will happily make soup all the live-long day.
I have worked in food service. I know for a fact I would hate running a restaurant, and I know for a fact I would be terrible at it. My math skills are embarrassing. There’s no way I would be able to scale the cream of broccoli soup recipe to feed the 2,500 imaginary people I haved lined up outside my “Soup Shop” to eat my soup.
The nice thing is, I don’t really have to deal with these problems because it’s all happening in my head, and in my head my genius for business is equal to my talent for making delectable soups. I am also tall, skinny and blonde, but that’s neither here nor there.
The problem comes in when I convince myself I like something I really don’t because I like the idea of that thing more than the actual thing. I then try to make that romanticized idea a reality and end up disappointed and frustrated.
Confused? Let me explain it this way.
I like the idea of camping and being outdoorsy. In fact, I am in love with the idea of camping and being an outdoorsy person. But I am not sure I actually like camping or being outdoors.
Every year we plan one or two camping trips, and every year I spend the weeks prior to the trip fantasizing about how wonderful it will be.
The weather will be perfect, of course. All three days will be partly sunny (so we can have some shade) with zero humidity.
There aren’t any bugs at this campground, and if there are they most definitely will not be in the bathrooms.
I will wake up from a perfect night’s rest and step out from our tent to stretch in the early morning sunlight. Everything will be serene. I will breathe in the fresh morning air and stare in wonderment at nature’s bounty surrounding me.
The children will be well-behaved and will always want to go on whatever hiking trail or canoe trip I suggest. I will take pleasure in cooking my food over uneven heat sources and washing my dishes bent over a tub of lukewarm water sitting on my picnic table. I won’t be too tired after doing the dishes to start a fire and make smores. And when the smores are done, we will sit around the campfire looking up at the stars. Someone will pull out a guitar from behind a lawnchair and we will spend the evening singing campfire songs.
In my mind, we are a Scheel’s advertisement. We wear hiking boots, cargo shorts and flannel shirts. My (long, blonde) hair is pulled back into an effortless yet classy-looking ponytail and my face is as fresh as a Noxema girl’s.
In reality, my (short, brown) hair is frizzy from the humidity and my face is blotchy. My body has been washed hastily because there’s a pervy cricket eyeing me in the corner of the shower and I have to push the shower control every 30 seconds to keep the lukewarm water from shutting off halfway through my shampoo job.
There are gnats everywhere. The live ones follow me around in black cloud and the dead ones take up space in the bathroom sinks next to other people’s hair and toothpaste spit.
I have to poop next to strangers all weekend long.
I can’t step out for solitude in the early-morning sun because there’s a pack of kids tearing around on bikes and scooters beginning at sunrise. (Hey, that kid looks suspiciously like my 8-year-old!) I can’t see nature at all because the only things surrounding us are massive RVs.
Despite all of this, I tell myself that I love camping. It might be self-preservation. If I didn’t go camping, I would miss out on the few family vacations my whole family is able to take.
I have a huge family – brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews – nearly 40 of us in total. It would be impossible for us all to take a family trip somewhere normal like Disenyland. We would need an entire hotel floor, and then we would be fighting over whose turn it is to sit in the hot tub.
Camping is a way for us all to be together. We eat good food, we take walks, we gossip. The kids tell ghost stories and there’s usually one adult who isn’t too tired to make the smores. And just when the bugs and humidity get to be too much, it’s time to go home.
We’ve made some great memories camping, even if they aren’t picture-perfect. Before I know it, those memories have overshadowed the unsettling bug-in-the-shower flashbacks and I’m looking forward to the next year’s trip.
Who knows? Maybe by then I will have my “Soup Shop” business plan worked out and I can hit up my sibilings to be investors.