Since my 37th birthday at the end of February I have gotten into the bad habit of focusing way too much on the things I thought I should have by this stage in life: a great career, a nice home, a husband, some kids. I think about one or more of these things daily, sometimes obsessively, and this has caused me to second guess many of the decisions I’ve made since the day I graduated high school. What the hell was I thinking majoring in history? Should I have gone to law school? Why have I spent money traveling instead of putting money away for a down payment on a house? Was the guy I went on a blind date with who only eats bland food and has never set foot outside of the county in which he was born really so terrible? Would a second date have killed you, Kelly?
Focusing on those things as the metrics for success and seeing that I have come up short on all of them has caused me to beat myself up and doubt my own judgement.
So last Friday I took the day off (I would like to mention I have a great job, it just isn’t on a career track) to drive to Fredericksburg for the annual crawfish boil my friends host at their place just outside of town. Driving through the Texas Hill Country in spring when the wildflowers are in full bloom is a singular experience. It is inspiring. It is amazing. It reinforces my belief in God. It is hard to feel bad when you are immersed in such natural beauty. It was exactly what I needed to open myself up to a weekend of fun.
Within a few hours of my arrival my other friends who were making the trip arrived and I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world. The friends you will still be friends with 20 years from now. The ones you don’t even have to talk to very often to stay close. The ones who pick up where you left off each time you get together. The friends who converged upon the small town of Hereford, Texas every November for 10 years to cook chili in the freezing cold, and who have forgotten more fun from those weekends than many people will ever be blessed to know. These were the friends I needed to see to restore my faith in myself.
The crawfish boil proceeded as planned on Saturday (after the customary Mahaley’s breakfast tacos and drinks from Sonic, of course) and it was great. There were lots of other people invited, many familiar faces from crawfish boils past, but my group of friends who are all from out of town were the only ones staying at the house. Actually, the house isn’t big enough for all of us, so one of the couples brings their RV and sets it up in the pasture behind the garage so that everyone has a bed. When a thunderstorm blew in late in the day, a couple of us took shelter in the RV. As the other guests began to leave, those staying slowly made their way into the RV. Why we didn’t all head into the house is beyond me. It would have made more sense, but when the second round of rain started a while later, there we all were in the RV. Eight adults, a teenager, and two little kids in close quarters. We had beer to quench our thirst, chocolate éclair dessert to fill our bellies, and iPhones to plug into the RV’s sound system providing the music to lift our spirits.
Then came the dancing.
Ahhh, the dancing. I LOVE dancing. Of all the things I love about the people in this group, it might be our mutual love of dancing that endears them to me the most. None of us are particularly good dancers (in fact one of us only dances under duress, but loves to laugh at the rest of us), but we all love music, and after a few cervezas (which we also love), we can’t help but get up and dance to it. Those 10 years of cooking chili at the Broken Arrow Saloon always ended in dancing on the gravel floor behind the bar in to the wee hours of the morning. That spot behind the bar became known as The Pit, and the dancers it contained, The Pit Crew. The Saloon was torn down a few years ago, so The Pit Crew has had to take its show on the road. If you are particularly lucky, you may have spotted various incarnations of the Crew out and about at such locations as The Duckhorn Tavern in Temple, Texas, The Oliver St. John Gogarty Bar in Dublin, Ireland, or the kitchen in the Big House at the Piston Ranch just outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. Basically, anyplace three or more members of this august body get together is likely to turn in to a dance party.
When you are dancing with the Crew, you are in the moment. You might be rehashing good times from the past or planning more good times for the future, but for the most part you are just there in that space with those people having a fucking blast. You are free to be silly and stupid knowing you won’t be judged. In fact, it seems the worse you dance, the more you are accepted. It is liberating and restorative and I always feel great for days after.
We danced until we dropped. Before the little kids fell asleep, they thought it was great fun. The teenager thought we were all bananas. I hope that we are making an impression on the second generation of the Crew though. I hope they are learning that it is ok to be silly and have fun, that you don’t need a lot of fancy stuff to have a great time, that your real friends don’t expect you to be cool just to be yourself. I hope 30 years from now they are off dancing with their friends and loved ones somewhere while my friends and I are rockin’ the retirement home.
Making the long drive back to Fort Worth on Sad Sunday (after more Mahaley’s tacos and Sonic drinks, of course) I got to thinking that if I had majored in engineering or accounting, I might have been way more stressed in college (I love history, so those classes were fun for me) and maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to spend so much time with, and become such good friends with the people who form the core of this group. If I had gone to law school I may not have been able to take off for all of those November trips to Hereford to dance in The Pit, meet the other members of this group, and create wonderful memories. If I had stashed my travel money away I would not have been part of taking the Crew international and having one of the absolute best weeks of my life in Ireland. If I had gone on a second date with Mr. Bland Food it would not have killed me, but the third date would have. He had no interest in ever going anywhere fun.
Life is a series of decisions, and my decisions led me down a path that resulted in dancing in an RV with my friends during a thunderstorm Saturday night. I think that is a set of decisions I can live with, and I hope I keep making the choices that lead to more of those moments.