A few weeks ago my lovely husband, Travis, and I returned from a trip of a lifetime – a sailing trip through the wondrous Discovery Islands off the west coast of British Columbia. We felt the force of the wind push our boat through the ocean’s surface, had the opportunity to sit at the tiller to feel this power and saw a vast and impressive array of marine life. I feel so very fortunate to be able to have scratched such a world class experience off my bucket list, and it is something I will never forget. The dramatic coast line resembled what you see in Jurassic Park movies, the bioluminescence was so active that it appeared there were fireworks exploding under the waters surface and the curious but friendly seals seemed to make a habit of enjoying ocean swims with you. However, what really made this trip so exceptional was the company.
This trip was offered through an organization called Survive and Thrive, to young adults that have been affected by CANcer – people just like me! Throughout my cancer journey, I had been craving a sense of community and connection that even my closest friends and family could not offer me. A layer that could only be formed through personal experience, empathy and relatability.
Even at this point in my journey, I find it difficult to define the lack that occurred between myself and my loved ones, but perhaps it existed in myself censoring feelings, emotions and my overall experience to those around me. Whatever it was, it did not exist in this new environment filled with a group of people whose common denominator was the reason for this need to censor. Because it was something I yearned for throughout my diagnosis and treatment, my main goal of the trip was to appreciate this sense of community and build on this deeper level of connection (Travis’s main goal was to learn how to sail 🙂 ).
Although I only shared seven short days with this beautiful group of people, the impact on my soul from them and the overall experience will be everlasting. I am forever changed, and have a new appreciation for what it means to belong to a community. The sharing of stories was great, hearing and being heard was awesome, but what’s more is the feeling of safety within this environment. This was probably one of the only environments where it ever will be completely normal to hear, “Hey, so-and-so, what stage of cancer did you have” hollered over a large group of people. This also may have been the only time I will have felt completely normal and comfortable discussing my fertility treatment with a dude I met four days ago…and I think he would feel the same!
We are creatures of community, we need to share and to be heard. We need to empathize with others and we need to feel completely vulnerable. Sometimes we need to be brave and remove ourselves from our comfort bubble – for it is only here that we can truely experience growth and development. A wise friend recently wrote to me, “Often times when we feel the most vulnerable is when we’re on the mark of where we need to be”. I love this and fully believe it to be true.
It was my close friends and family by my side that got me through these past eight months, however I owe it to the 22 amazing people and the seven days we shared on this sailing trip for the empowerment I needed to move forward. Furthermore, it was not the people I have known my entire life and trust with my entire heart that filled me with the bravery I needed to share my story with the world, but again, rather this group of people I knew for seven days. THAT is the power of community and belonging.
When you find your vibe, you find your tribe. I have also learned that your vibe will attract your tribe, and that it is okay (actually, FULLY worth it and amazing) to let yourself be vulnerable to make this happen.
“Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change [… and] to be human is to be in vulnerability.”