12 hours in Vegas

I got on a plane this morning at 6a.m. By 9, I’m in the checkout lane at Walgreens on the Vegas strip. My friends have the cart behind me. It’s filled with champagne, vodka and diet squirt. Half an hour later, we’re mixing drinks in the suite and the fun is beginning.

It’s the fun I’ve been trying to have since I was 16.

My high school friends drank wine coolers and keystone through a beer bong. I’d watch them get happy and affectionate with each other. Everyone yelled and sang and danced.

I always felt left out.

In college, I got drunk for the first time. Immediately, it was awesome. I finally felt like I was on the inside of the world’s best private joke. In those early weeks of frat parties and stumbling around Westwood on the weekends, I must have made six million friends.

It wore off quickly.

The novelty. The excitement. The six million new friendships. I mostly regretted my behavior and couldn’t ever adjust to the full day aftermath of feeling like a shadow of my actual self. I got drunk maybe ten more total times before I graduated.

Worst college student ever.

Still, as an adult, I don’t like drinking. But unlike other things in my life I dislike, I keep going back to it. I haven’t had mayonnaise in two decades, but every six months or so, I decide to frolic with the normal people by getting shitfaced and going out.

I always regret it.

Las Vegas is a difficult place to just be who I am. It demands excess and consumption and performance. High heels and heavy eye liner. Binge drinking. When I booked the trip I was certain I could be like everyone else. The email chain was overwhelmed with “can’t waits” and “so stokeds” I just wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to feel like I’m just like everybody else. How could a trip planned with so much enthusiasm be anything other than the best trip of my life?

Because it isn’t. Because no matter how much I want to love what other people do,  sometimes I don’t. I like to cook dinner in my apartment and hang out on the couch with my best friends. I like to drink one glass of wine. Talk. Laugh. Connect. I like to eat healthy, go to bed before midnight and wake up with the sunrise. I don’t like drinking. I dread wearing eye liner. I know these things about myself and still came to Vegas.

Apparently all the self awareness in the world doesn’t guarantee self acceptance. I judge my friends as normal and myself as other-than. I have some deep down delusion that my life would be better if it looked more like the ones I think I see around me. I compare myself to other people almost incessantly. I’ve created this narrative where difference translates to defective or delayed or otherwise wrong or bad. If I wasn’t so dysfunctional, I’d be married or engaged. I would have a better career, live in a different city, post pictures on Facebook of my exotic travels and my huge group of stunning female friends. I’d be happier. More fulfilled.

Deep inside, I know it’s garbage. My comparisons are lies. There is no normal to which I’m not living up. The people and lives by which I measure myself aren’t even real. They are stories I’ve created based on my own perception and experience. They are reflections of my unwillingness to love myself fully the way I am. Single. Sober. No eye liner.

Self love is the highest purpose of my spiritual practice. I know the power of it and still I struggle. The way I feel this morning in Vegas reminds me of why self acceptance is so important. It is the foundation of feeling awesome in my every day life. Being and doing “me” fills my soul with happiness and love and contentment. Creating and emulating an imaginary ideal of myself is a barrier to all of it.

Spiritual lessons in Las Vegas? I must be some kind of freak.

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