By day 5 of our trip to sunny, beach-filled Puerto Rico, I had become disinterested, aggravated, and agitated, to say the least. There were 5 of us on this trip, a trip that I had looked forward to for weeks. Being that I hadn’t saved enough to go on my month-long trip to Paris, Puerto Rico was my chance to travel for the first time that year, something that I enjoy immensely and hope to one day do much more of. In the days leading up to its start, I was excited, very much so looking forward to all the food, alcohol, and general beach-laying laziness that I had given myself permission to partake in. Mixed in with the excitement was a very real truth that I had come to know about myself and forgive myself for: although I enjoyed being around people, at a certain point it would become too much, and I would need to find a quiet retreat where I could be by myself and with my thoughts. If this didn’t happen, that part of myself that I really didn’t care for would show up.
Where I was usually smiley and cheerful, the sheer idea of putting even a small smile on my face was just too much to bear. Where I usually had the ability to carry on lively, interesting conversations, I was unable to hide my disinterest in what was being said and my lack of desire to be part of the discussion. During these times, it seemed my energy had been stolen from me and no amount of food or entertainment could bring me back to life. I felt too lazy to care about others, including their feelings.
In normal, day-to-day life, it is pretty easy to maneuver through my daily list of things to do without “it” slipping out. During a stress-inducing networking event, I can retreat to a bathroom for a few minutes to give myself a quick pep talk where I promise myself that once I hit my objectives for being there I could leave as quickly as possible. At big family gatherings, in lieu of bathrooms, I retreat to my car where “I have to do something really important,” or I simply leave. At large packed conferences, I have my hotel room or a quiet café to retreat to for some peace and quiet. I always have an escape route. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that when traveling with a large group, especially family, it becomes really difficult to escape and recharge.
Knowing my personality flaw, I was relieved to know that our family residence during our stay in Puerto Rico would include three rooms, one of which would be mine. I had determined that this would be my retreat, the place I would go to recharge that part of me that won people over and made me a very likable person. After about 5 hours of landing and finding our way to what was planned and scheduled to be our home away from home, we made the decision that we had to give up our hopes and find a local hotel. Dirty accommodations with a dirty band-aid and a used washcloth included will do it every time. So, we traded in our three-bedroom condo for a one-bedroom hotel room. One king-sized bed, a sleeper sofa, and a rollaway bed were split between five people. As soon as I saw this, I knew that I was in trouble. When traveling with family and with days packed with eating out, sight seeing, and excursions, the only true place for alone time is behind the closed door of a room. Our hotel reservation gave us solace that we were staying in a clean place, but it also took away my calming place.
I lasted longer than I thought I would. Days 1 through 4 were filled with laughter, fun, excitement, conversation, and lots of food and alcohol. We toured the city dining on traditional Puerto Rican cuisine and zip lined across a 1,000ft long rope with the beautiful Yunque National Forest and its mountains as our backdrop – a family first. We drank the original Peña colada night after night. Still, in spite of the fun, I could feel my energy dropping and my agitation at even the smallest bit of conversation increase.
My family could feel me pulling away. I could feel me pulling away but I could not help it. I couldn’t stop it. The continuous “are you okays” didn’t help either. The constant touching and unintentional bumping up against was driving me crazy. I became annoyed each time someone tried to start up a conversation. I didn’t get the point. I wanted to just say, “Hey, there is honestly no need to talk to me. Trust me, I prefer it that way.” But that would’ve caused alarm and probably even more unnecessary conversations. I am one in a family of extroverts. Explaining to them what was going on with me, would have probably fallen on deaf ears. By the end of day 4, I had gone completely silent and would stay that way all the way through day 5. I had nothing more to give and absolutely nothing more to say. They thought that I was angry. This of course, annoyed me. I thought of ways and things that I could do to just get away and recharge, but I knew that it would be seen as antisocial behavior.
Being on the same flight home with one nephew sitting next to me and the other sitting behind me with my sister, I knew that my only reprieve would have to start with my solo drive home where I could be left alone with my thoughts. I ran to my car as if it were a watering hole in the middle of a desert. After a long 5 days of being away from me, the almost hour long drive home was my time to reconnect.