Do you have a happy place? I have a lot of them. Have and have had. I’m thinking about some of those happier places, today. Want to come with?
In high school, my favorite place to be was probably the backseat of my brother’s car. Lack of legroom aside, I was always pretty happy to be where I was — driving around, listening to music. With no parents, with no destination in sight.
In college, my happy place was pretty much wherever my boyfriend was. (How original, I know.) But: plot twist! The one exception was his bed. Remind me to fall in love with someone who only likes the idea of sleeping on a cloud, next time. Will you help me remember that I’m not typically into fluffy things? (We’re just talking typically, mind you.)
I also loved this teeny tiny cafe called Ports. I went there whenever I could. Ports helped me become exceptionally good at turning ordinary days into special occasions. That’s a good skill to have, I think.
Ports was just down the road from campus, and it remains my favorite restaurant of all time. (New York, New York, you’ve got nothing on Geneva, New York. Particularly in the baked Brie department.). It sits on the edge of Seneca Lake, which happens to be one of my other favorite places. I liked this old wooden dock, way over on the opposite edge, particularly well. It never saw much action, because it was pretty far from the main one. Where all of the cool kids went to drink and tan and swim. I loved that dock. The one no one knew about.
I went there when it was much too sunny to sit inside. I went there when I was restless, when I was beyond homesick, when I was lonely as hell. I went there when I was 100% sure that I had picked the wrong school. I went there when I was afraid to have anyone see my stomach. Look at my legs.
I always felt so much better, whenever I went there. I’d debate using my shower towel as a beach towel, pack a great lunch, jog down, and set up shop. Here’s a tip: if you don’t have anyone to brush away your tears, you can usually count on the sun to come through.
I found a new happy place last week. At a semi-public pool, in Arizona. It had been so long since I’d gone in the water. I wore a bathing suit — a bikini. This was a very big accomplishment, even though it took me all week to warm up.
The first day I took off my shorts, but refused to relinquish my t-shirt. The second day I thought about the farmer’s tan I didn’t particularly want, and reached for a little sundress with a halter-top, instead. The third day I got really hot. Really hot. I had no choice: I had to lose the cover-up. Nobody seemed to be paying much attention, so I decided it was okay. It was. I just lay down on my stomach and wiggled it off. Stayed like that until I ran out of water, and then wormed my way back into it.
The fourth day I started out where I’d left off, but after about 15 minutes, I threw caution to the wind and flipped over. I was white as a ghost on my front and was undoubtedly starting to look weird. I carefully covered my stomach with my book. Again, nobody appeared to notice. On the fifth day, after begging my mom not to look, I removed the book. Mostly because it was way too boring to keep re-reading the book jacket upside-down. (On that note, apparently I can only last about an hour in the sun without entertainment these days. Probably a great thing for my skin!)
On the sixth day, I decided that all of the people at the pool didn’t have a judgmental bone in their bodies. That they were all so nice. And that I was going to go swimming.
And I did! I even walked around and said hello to some of them. And I didn’t completely freeze when one of them offered to take a picture of my mother and I. Together, in our suits.
And eventually, I asked my mom to take a picture of me, alone. In my suit.
And then another one. Not because I hated the first one, but because I didn’t hate it. Maybe I even really didn’t hate it. And then, in a moment of completely uncharacteristic spontaneity, I shared it on Instagram and Facebook. Both.
And then I only suffered from a few major minutes of self-doubt, in which I worried no one else would like it, because come on, I’m only human. And because social media has started to matter way too much. And because it’s as hard as ever not to care what other people think. Maybe even harder than ever.
I cheated a little bit and leaned on The Waist Deep in the Water, The Skinny Arm, and The Strategic Crop. But let’s focus on the important things! I look normal. Happy, even. That girl looks so happy.
And her little life lesson voice is still going off. What if happy were the one and only goal?
Kiss your own fingertips
and hug your own curves.
You are made of waves and honey
and spicy peppers when it is necessary.
You are a goddess,
I hope you haven’t forgotten.