It was the summer after my senior year of high school and I was at a camp called Malibu, 100 miles north of Vancouver BC, knee deep in dishes. I was there to spend a month serving over 700 high school students each week who were there to experience every ounce of fun and beauty and awe that the Louisa Inlet had to offer.
I remember being three weeks in and washing my hands after finishing up the lunch dishes when I heard a voice say, “Hey! You’re the cookie girl!”
I turned around and smiled, “Yeah?!”
You see, I grew up in a “Figure it out for yourself” household. What I mean by that is that in many ways, my parents were hands-off throughout my childhood, partly because that was their parenting style and partly because of the circumstances I grew up in.
Figuring it out for myself looked different throughout various seasons of my life. When I was in middle school, it looked like learning how to make my own meals and do my own laundry and pay for my own school clothes. My sophomore year of high school it looked like registering and paying for drivers ed.
My junior year of high school, figuring it out for myself looked like finding a way to get myself to Young Life camp. My boyfriend of three years at the time was going and I was promised that I would have “the best week of my life” and those two reasons were good enough for me to want to go, but when I looked at the $800 price tag, I was suddenly hesitant. I knew my parents didn’t have that kind of money to spend and I didn’t have a job, so I decided to figure out a way to earn it.
Long story, short, I baked and sold over 2000 cookies that Spring in order to (almost) fully fund my trip to Malibu where I did in fact have the absolute best week of my entire life…and I figured it out for myself.
When I have filled out job applications in the past, I have caught myself lying during the sections that ask about teamwork.
How do you feel about working in teams?
Written answer: I LOVE teamwork! Every person has something unique to bring to the table and when people show up and give what they have, it makes work more effective and efficient.
Real answer: Teamwork makes me want to vom. Give me a task and I will stay up all night getting it done for you all by myself and it will get done faster and better than it would with a team and I guarantee it will ROCK. Just please don’t make me communicate and problem-solve with other humans.
“Figure it out for yourself” has become a deeply ingrained mindset for me. It makes sense to me that if I want something to happen, I have to do it on my own because that is how my life has been and to be honest, I think that’s OK. I believe that a certain amount of independence is necessary and healthy, especially as we enter adulthood…but I’m also aware that with the onset of adulthood comes complications and problems that aren’t always easy to solve. We aren’t just cooking meals and doing laundry anymore. We’re doing our taxes and buying homes and attending funerals and finding out that our loved ones have cancer and dealing with break ups. We are doing hard things. Things that aren’t figured out by baking and selling 2000 cookies, so we need other people…LOTS of other people to help us figure out the hard things. We need a team.
Five years ago, as a college freshman, I knew very little about the meaning of “team.” That boyfriend I went to camp with? I dated him for four and a half years in high school and he was the extent of my “close friends.” I had other acquaintances and girls that I knew from school, but he was the only one who really knew me. After breaking up with my boyfriend a few months after graduation, my team suddenly became a team of one. I was lonely and depressed and the trials and tribulations of life were relentless. I wanted friends, real friends. I wanted a team. People I knew I could call on at any time of the day when life threw curveballs my way.
And then magically one day I had thirty best friends and we all lived happily ever after.
^^ Ha. No.
This life is not an easy one. This world can be cruel. And I am not convinced that anyone…especially me, can make it out of here in isolation. We weren’t built to do it all on our own and I recognized that during my freshman year. I saw the brokenness of the world and recognized my aching heart and realized that I craved community, but that community wasn’t going to happen all by itself. So, in my true, “Figure it out for yourself” fashion, I started working to create it for myself. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and asked people to sit down and talk with me over tacos and cups of coffee. I invited them into my life and asked them to let me be a part of theirs. I was honest about when I was struggling. I learned how to start asking for help. I had awkward conversations. A lot of them. I learned to embrace the crap out of the awkward conversations and kept having them until it got less weird. I kept investing in people even on the days when I was exhausted and frustrated and felt like I’d never have the type of community I’d been dreaming of.
Two and a half months ago, I set off on a mission to raise $20k so that I can live in Thailand for a year serving with a nonprofit that fights slavery around the world. That’s right, $20k. Surely not a number that could be raised by selling cookies. Over the past two and a half months, I have sat down over coffee and dinners with dozens of people who I have been investing in over the last five years. I’ve been sitting down with the same people who I used to feel uncomfortable and awkward around to share with them confidently about my hopes and fears and dreams as I prepare for the year ahead. Five years ago, when I decided that the “team-model” was infinitely better than the “figure it out for yourself” model, I had no idea that I was building a support team that would be encouraging and partnering with me as I prepared to move across the globe. It’s been challenging and humbling and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
All I can say is, what a gift. What a beautiful gift it is to be able to look to your left and right and say, “These are my people. This is my team. These are the people who show up at 2am with hugs and wine and ears to listen. The people who mourn with you and celebrate with you and make you laugh until you feel like you have the rock hard abs you’ve all been trying to get at the way-too-expensive all-women’s gym you all signed up for. The people you share tears, victories, memories, and pizza with. What a beautiful gift.”
This is what it looks like to be part of a team. And now I don’t have to figure it out for myself.