Vacation Anxiety…Family, Fun, Sun, and Data Plans

13 Jan

In early 2011, my entire family planned a trip to the Dominican Republic and invited me and my then-boyfriend along. By mid-year, everything was paid for and we were all really excited…that is, until August 2011 when my (now) ex walked into my room and without warning, ended our relationship. My stuff was in boxes the next day. This box included a check written out to my mother to refund his plane ticket. Needless to say, I ended up not going either. It was too painful of a reminder. After my family returned, they could not stop talking about how much fun they had or stop referencing the inside jokes along the way. It sounded like a blast and I regretted passing up the opportunity.

Fast-forward to early 2012. My mom informed me the family would be returning to the Dominican Republic in January 2013. Did I want to join? Without hesitation, I said yes. I love my family. I love sun. I haven’t had a real vacation since 2004. Why not? I got back last Wednesday and I must say, the experience was quite different from anticipated. I learned a lot about myself, as well as family dynamics.

My family is pretty close. My mom is the most generous woman alive. My dad is a logical, always helpful problem-solving superhero. My brother is 100 times cooler than I’ll ever be and my personality polar opposite. As different as we are, we are friends and siblings. My brother’s girlfriend of over two and a half years is also like family – she’s like the sister I never had and doesn’t have a problem telling me like it is, no matter the situation. All of this background sets the stage for a pretty natural chemistry. When we get together for holidays or birthdays, laughter roars. We all talk regularly. I’ve lived out-of-state since I was 22 and I’m never at a loss with visitors.

Although this vacation was wonderful – and I’m really glad I went – I was stressed out on this gorgeous island for the majority of the experience. For five days, I couldn’t pinpoint the problem, I just know I wasn’t acting like my normal, carefree, my-girl-likes-to-party all-the-time-self. Instead, I was anxious, a little reclusive, and strangely quiet. What was my problem? I’m on this amazing vacation with my amazing family and I couldn’t relax. I came home feeling like I needed a vacation from my vacation.

After some thought, I realized I’ve heard this story before. Many of my friends (who also live out-of-state and are in their late twenty-somethings) head home for a while or go on a trip with their family and come back feeling…defeated (for lack of a better word). Why is that?

Over the past few days, I’ve hypothesized many reasons:

Odd Man Out: My family is all coupled up, either married or in serious relationships. As wonderful as each couple was in trying to include me in activities, it’s intimidating to be in that type of setting, especially when you couldn’t get more single. This is especially true when you are at an inclusive resort with absolutely no cute boys on deck (trust me, I looked).

Extra Curriculars: I work really (really) hard. I balance two jobs. Plus volunteer. Plus work out. Plus write a blog. Plus date. Plus life stuff like errands, cleaning, etc. My life is nuts. As crazy as life is, I’ve adopted another responsibility over the past year and a half: party like a rock star. I love the nightlife and am a chronic sufferer of “fear of missing out syndrome.” In this, my friends and I regularly dance the night away and have a 4 a.m. cocktail. It’s fun. I can’t explain it, but with my family, I feel like that party girl can’t quite come out like she does in NYC. Trust me, they wish this side of me came out more often while they were around, but it doesn’t. Instead, the thought makes me self-conscious.

I’m 12…All Over Again: As previously mentioned, my brother is the coolest guy ever and we’ve become really close over the years. However, by day three, it felt like he and I resorted back to the dynamic when we were kids: he thinking I was uptight and ridiculous and me being, well, uptight and ridiculous. This whole situation made me panic because I was afraid we’d annoy the crap out of each other and not be as close post-trip. This didn’t happen (thank goodness), but it got me thinking as to how you’ll never quite “grow up” within your family’s schemas. Everyone has their “role” within a family, and no matter how much you change, you’re stuck with it like a bad high school superlative. In my case, no matter how laid back and fun I’ve become over the years, I’ll always be the super type-A, academic, sensitive older O’Grady kid when insecurity rears its ugly head. On the flip side, if I was the former fun kid who became serious, I’d be constantly reminded about how fun I “use” to be. You get what I’m saying. In the eyes of your family, you’ll never really shake the person you were at age 12.

Frankie Says…Relax: I need to be honest. I thought it was going to be super easy to turn the world off and do nothing for five days. My family is great at it. They can all sit in the sun, do nothing, and be happy. To 99.9 percent of the human population, this sounds amazing. Before I left, this sounded amazing to me too. Passport in-hand, I turned my data plans off and was left with only 150 prepaid text messages. I should be good, correct?

Wrong. It turns out I am an epic failure at removing myself from the world. I need to check Facebook. I need to Tweet. I need Google searches. I’m not being dramatic. My DNA is constructed to always be connected to people. It absolutely killed me to only have access to my address book (and a few text message conversations) over vacation. I know what you’re going to say: that’s not normal. Maybe not, but it’s who I am and always been. You’re talking to a girl who had a pager at age 14 so she could be could always be available to call her friends back. Hot. Mess.

Additionally – as sick as it sounds – I’ve learned my idea of a vacation isn’t relaxation. “Relaxing” for a day or two is fine, but then I need to get out, bar hop, try new restaurants, build someone a house…you get the picture. Otherwise, have any of you seen Dirty Dancing? The structure of the camp Baby and her family vacationed? Yup, kinda like that.

Although this analysis may sound a little critical, I want to be clear: overall, I had a great time on this family vacation. I got to spend some serious quality time with my wonderful family, slept in, recharged, and ate tons of delicious food. I also have a kick-ass January tan. Sweet. However, as we grow and change within our own lives, it’s really important to understand why we don’t always feel 100 percent our “new” selves going back to our roots. The moral of the story is this: the beauty of family is that they love you no matter how you grow and change. They love you in spite of how your personality shifts. They want to embrace and love whatever person you morph into as you age. Let them. Your bonds will be stronger and trust me; your vacations with them will feel a lot more relaxing. Further, it truly doesn’t matter if you don’t love the same things they do or laugh at the same jokes. As long as you’re a good sport about it, your family is probably just happy to have you around, being part of the family. Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re a disappointment.

Here’s to family vacation 2014.

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