Today, I’m going on vacation. I’ve been having anxiety dreams for a month. Not about the trip—there will be umbrella drinks on beaches—but about the what’s-going-on-while-I’m-gone. This is an ongoing problem for me.
Six years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I visited Hawaii for the first time. My friend Hannah went to school at the university in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. We were supposed to be college roommates at CU-Boulder, Hannah and I, but she got into Hawaii and didn’t tell me right away and pretty soon an entire summer had crept by and she announced weeks before the fall semester that we would not, in fact, be bunking together. (That semester had been rough for me, roommate-wise, but that’s another story.)
To show I had no hard feelings, I went to visit Hannah as soon as I’d scraped together the money from my piddly campus job, which didn’t happen until Thanksgiving of the following school year. My airfare cost $759. It was the most money I’d ever spent in one place.
Hannah picked me up in a borrowed car, and we spent the first day or so riding around on a moped she’d acquired via an apparently long and convoluted story. This made me suspicious, and I liked it.
For the next four days, Hannah and I basically did whatever we wanted. We hiked to a secret waterfall, which in retrospect may have been on or at least through private property, and which required visitors to scale a small cliff via a slippery, moss-covered rope. We snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, which I wanted to enjoy but found terrifying; at any moment, I was sure, the tide would carry me out to sea, where I’d have to tread water indefinitely.
We caught a ride to the North Shore, where we sat on the beach and drank the kinds of cocktails you make when you’re twenty. We stayed in a hostel with lizards on the walls. I am embarrassed to admit this now, but for the sake of transparency, I’ll tell you that we also went shark-cage diving, which yes I know it’s so awful and bad and I wouldn’t do it again now that I know better, ecologically speaking, but it was so cool.
For the most part, my only worries on the trip were things like: Will I fall off this cliff? Will I be stung by a jellyfish? Will this shark eat me? I had a little of my usual free-floating anxiety, but it was, like, what twentysomethings worry about, and in retrospect was all terribly unimportant: Why isn’t my boyfriend texting me back? Will we hitch a ride back to the airport in time to make my flight?
I’ve been lucky enough to go on some really cool trips since that visit, but as I’ve gotten older, so have my worries: Will we be able to pay rent this month? How much am I currently dropping the ball at work? Will I lose actual digits or limbs to frostbite? And, my personal favorite: I am certain that everyone I know is mad at me for one reason or another.
And so, as this trip to the Big Island edged ever-closer, I vowed to banish my anxiety and be really, fully present. I made spreadsheets to keep track of all the work I needed to get done in advance—that shit’s color-coded, and it’s all done now. I scheduled the next few posts, I told everyone who needed to know (and probably a few people who didn’t) when I’d be gone, I packed my bags more than two hours before my flight.
Today, I’m going on vacation.