As an introvert, I need my alone time. When it comes to being out in public, I need the support of my crew (am I too old to use that word?) in tow. Like everyone else, I have fears. A few of the more trivial ones include being alone in public and talking to strangers. I've never eaten out at a restaurant solo or taken in a movie alone. So, this past January, I decided my word for 2016 would be "fearless."
Shortly after making this decision, I spotted an event on Facebook for a Women's Full Moon Hike. It sounded like an adventure, exactly what I needed to really be "fearless." What a perfect opportunity for me to make myself uncomfortable, I thought.
I drove the hour east of L.A. to meet up with hundreds of strangers. Even though I missed my exit, got lost in the hills of Los Angeles, and couldn't find a place to park my car once I reached my destination, I kept pressing forward. (The thought of turning around and going home to my couch and cats was tempting.)
Thankfully, I found parking. I spotted a tall, curly-haired brunette and begged her — I mean, asked her — to be my hiking partner. You could see she was caught off guard, but after a quick trip to bond in the ladies' room, we were fast friends. My new BFF and I joined more than 1,000 women to make our way up a steep hill in the dark. We came. We saw. We howled. We conquered.
I noticed a skip in my step as I headed back to my car, and I felt a little taller, too. It got me to thinking: If attending this one hike made me feel this empowered, maybe I could organize them. Maybe I could even lead them.
I didn't have any experience leading anyone in anything, but praise be to the internet and social media. After a few clicks, I had done some research on hiking at night and created a Facebook event for that month's full moon.
The entire day leading up to my hike, I had a pit in my stomach and could barely catch my breath. Would anyone show up? Would they have fun? Would they be able to tell I was nervous? I probably should have been more concerned about the warning signs for the mountain lions and snakes on the hiking trail, but I have my introvert priorities to worry about.
I got to the park and saw a group of gals gathered near the restrooms, where I had told them to meet. Seeing them gave me a confidence boost as if I was already getting the hang of this leadership thing. As I greeted each woman by name, little by little, I started to relax. I kept reminding myself: I could do this. I was the leader.
When the sun set and we began our climb up the hillside, I realized that one of the benefits to being the leader was overhearing the chatter behind me. Women were sharing things with each other. You could tell some of them were already friends while others were just getting to know one another. Once we made it to the top to take in the view of that glorious moon, we all cheered in unison at our accomplishment.
As we descended back down the hill, I witnessed the women supporting each other through the steep, rocky sections. You could feel the positive energy when all was said and done. It seemed the women left the hike with a sense of accomplishment washed over their faces and a fire in their eyes. I knew they were going home a little better than they arrived.
We came together under the full moon to release the old, renew ourselves, and regroup. There were deep conversations and the births of new ideas. We supported one another and released fears.
We're now in month six of our full moon hikes, and they have become a respite from the chaos and uncertainty in our lives. While on the hills, we get to focus on aspects of ourselves that we tend to avoid during the day, one of which is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, fear of not being good enough or accepted. As we walk along the rocky path, we look around and realize we are not alone in these fears. The women I have met through our hikes are reminders of the strength and courage in all women.
I have learned to approach life as a mountain, to take a moment and assess before stepping, to ensure one foot is firmly planted before I move the other. And if I need a nudge or a hand, I have learned not to be scared to ask for it.
I did it. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I uncovered another part of me, that I didn't know existed; not only could I be a leader, but I actually prefer to lead. I think my word for 2017 will be "adventure." I want our hiking group to tackle an even bigger mountain, maybe even a weekend in Yosemite climbing Half Dome.
And, who knows, perhaps I will even go see a movie alone soon.