I just took a vacation, by myself, to Las Vegas. It was a spontaneous decision, partially based on sadness, partially based on alcohol, and partially based on a need to “find myself/get myself together/find some healing.” Ok, honestly, it was based on the fact that I Googled flights from Pittsburgh to Vegas and got a deal on CheapO Air for $131.00 round trip/nonstop.
I had an AMAZING time. I was never scared, never lonely, saw great shows, played High Roller, and got a chance for some distance from my norm. I had some epiphany moments, and truly came back with a giant appreciation for traveling by oneself, because…. I slept when I wanted, got up when I wanted, ate when I wanted at places I wanted to…. not once did I have to check with anyone else, and not once did I get told, “No, not doing that.” Quite frankly, I may never travel with other humans again!! More about that later in another blog.
On my last full day, I took a taxi to Harrah’s, wandered inside, and picked up my ticket for my 6:00 show, which is extremely early in Vegas. I then had an hour or so to kill, so I took the tour of the first floor, found myself a slot machine, and played. Each machine I played paid me money, so I went to the show with a voucher for more money than I had put into the machines. If you gamble, you know this is an extremely happy thing. The show was “The Righteous Brothers.” They were a duo that started in the sixties with rock, but became famous in the 70’s and 80’s for love ballads. The original member, Mr. Bill Medley, is the one with the deep voice. His partner, Mr. Bobby Hatfield, had died thirteen years earlier. Medley found himself a suitable partner, and this show was relatively new. I did not realize, until I got my ticket, that I had bought a front row seat. I find myself up close and personal, while Bill Medley croons “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and for a few seconds, I felt that if I died right there, I would die happy and content.
Following the show, I decided to walk to the “High Roller,” one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world. While standing in line, I was approached, and then adopted by three people from Iowa? Illinois? Lenore, Pam and Bob were lovely. Lenore’s husband was having stomach issues, so decided not to do the Ferris Wheel. I benefitted with a ten dollar off ticket. The next thing I know, I’m 550 feet above Las Vegas, at night, taking pictures of the neon bright strip.
After the ride, I hiked back to Harrah’s because I had realized that I was nearly starving, and there was a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse there. I cannot emphasize this enough. You want to get to know me? Want to impress me? Want to see what undying love looks like? Present me with a perfectly cooked Filet Oscar, and I am yours. A Filet Oscar is a Filet Mignon, covered with either crab meat chunks or a crab cake (depends on where you are), in a Hollandaise sauce with asparagus. In my world, it is a culinary wonder, breathtaking in its tenderness and taste. I was on a mission, already knew what I would order.
On arrival at Ruth’s, I did not have a reservation. I was informed that I could eat at the bar. And so I did. Plopped myself down next to a man, ordered a double on the rocks, and perused the menu. The gentleman said hello, I said hello back, and we entered into a “nice to meet you, dinner companion” discussion. He was in his thirties, in town for the mining conference. A casual discussion of careers, with the acknowledgement that we both taught college classes. He was wearing a wedding ring, which I promptly noted, and which caused me to immediately ask about his wife. (I am not coming on to you, poor man at a conference out of town.)
So, Chad and I are bs’ing about our travel histories, our careers, what we’ve done in Vegas – and our meals come. We get pretty quiet while we chow down, and then laugh about getting quiet while we chow down. Out of the blue, Chad says, “You seem to have it all together, and I hope when I’m your age, I have it all together.”
You know how people say that when they are about to die, their whole life flashes before their eyes? I had a moment like that, in Vegas, over a high priced steak. When Chad said that, my fork stopped moving to my mouth, and got set back on my plate. Tears, actual tears, flooded my eyes while my throat closed up a little. I saw everything good – my kids, my friends, my business, hundreds of special needs kids and their parents – and I also saw myself alone and speaking to a stranger.
I was DETERMINED to not cry in Vegas over an expensive dinner. I mean, come on, I’m nearly 50 years old, a professional…. I’ve been told I have an amazing poker face. I pulled it back together. This, in a nutshell, is what I said to Chad: “Chad, I don’t care how it looks on the outside, what people present. Nobody, EVER, has it all together. You can plan. You can set goals and work towards those goals. You can make smart decisions. However, the reality is, you can’t control nature, you can’t control fate, and you can’t control other people. Trying to have a baby and finding that you are infertile will rock your world. A miscarriage will change your life. A premature baby, or a baby born with a syndrome will change all of your plans in a heartbeat. Finding out when your little one is two that they are on the autism spectrum will change your life. Finding out that your partner is banging their secretary, finding out that your best friend lied, losing a staff member unexpectedly, or having a parent diagnosed with cancer – all of these things will change your world, your plans, and your finances. You go ahead and plan, and work towards that happy, successful life, but trust me, something will happen, totally out of your control, that will change everything.”
Chad looked at me, wide eyed, and said, “That’s true.” My response: “It is. Understand, right now, you have an amazing career, a loving wife that you can’t wait to get back to who also has an amazing career. You guys travel and have fun. Celebrate that now. Be happy and give thanks for it now. Just understand that someday, something completely out of your control is going to happen. How you manage it, how you recover, whether you persevere…that is going to be up to you, and will determine how you feel about yourself at my age.”
During the taxi ride back to my hotel I was a hot mess of confused feelings. On the one hand, I was so pleased with myself for taking this trip to Vegas by myself. I had a wonderful time! I saw great shows, ate great meals, was totally my authentic self, and didn’t give a crap who thought what. Until I met Chad and he said he thought I had it all together.
Folks, I didn’t have it all together. My personal life was a train wreck. Never in a million years did I picture myself going to Vegas on my own. When I pictured a Vegas trip, I saw a nice man who called me baby, princess, or sweetheart, who opened doors for me, held my hand across the table of a fine dining restaurant, and protected me from perverts. Meanwhile, I saw me looking at this man with adoration, being proud to be on his arm, going back to our hotel room, and well, making magic. That’s not how it turned out. When I decided I needed a vacation, there was no man. Nobody to call me pet names. No protection. Just me, and a desire to travel. Ouch.
But, not ouch. Went by myself. Had a wonderful time. Saw shows, ate high end meals, saw attractions, talked to nice people, got away from my life, came back with a different attitude…all positive. All good.
No, I don’t have it all together. Honestly, at this moment, I don’t know one single person who does. I do have a pretty amazing life, and so many things to be grateful for. It is not exactly what I had planned, but apparently it is exactly where I am supposed to be. Sometimes, when the unexpected happens; when your life turns and you aren’t happy with where you find yourself, sometimes it’s not about “getting back to your old self.” Sometimes it’s about finding yourself in a new and uncomfortable place, and learning to be happy there. Maybe experience some growth. Maybe make some changes. Maybe come out better off than you were before. Whatever life has handed you recently, whatever you are facing going into this fall and winter, just know that if you are feeling out of sorts/out of place, you aren’t the only one! I have to keep reminding myself that life isn’t about some mysterious destination that you get to, where everything is just ducky…. it’s a journey with twists and turns.
One of my favorite sayings right now is this: Like a good book, when your life unexpectedly changes, you need to yell “Plot twist!” at the top of your lungs, and turn the page.