Full disclosure: I thought it was going to be stupid.
Maybe not stupid-stupid, but it seemed to have the potential to be pretentious, self-indulgent, a little too much for me. Look, this is all I knew going in:
Mighty Summit is an annual getaway weekend for professional bloggers and content creators. We’re asking all of our attendees to draw up Mighty Lists — lists of about 100 things they’d like to do in their lifetimes — and share them with each other over the course of the weekend. Too often we move forward in our daily lives without making time for our passions. Mighty Summit is about establishing life goals, reflecting, relaxing, and networking with others doing the same.
Oh, boy. I was a little… dubious. Suspicious. Okay, I thought that sounded like forced fun and like a weird corporate retreat with many team-building exercises and then seminars on WordPress and maximizing your Klout. And that we’d all have to stand up in front of each other, shaking and crying, forced to announce our biggest failures while everybody shouted, “I SUPPORT YOU, BECAUSE YOU ARE WOMAN!”
Basically, I had a big giant smirk on about the whole thing that threatened to break into full-on jerkface. But I am here to report I was incredibly wrong, and for that I am thankful. I am more than thankful; I’m flattered I was considered a worthy invite, especially considering I’d already verbally shit all over it to one of the inventors.
I met Maggie over the summer via AB. We realized that at one point over the past year I had sold her a Derby Dolls shirt while I was wearing a giant wig. Anyway, pretty much right after that I sat on a deck chair and told Maggie exactly why I don’t believe in life lists.
Maggie is kind of all about life lists.
So you can understand my shock when a couple of months later she and her partner-in-mighty Laura invited me to be one of the lucky ladies of this year’s Mighty Summit. That is a gracious invite, all things considered. Or…a trick!
Despite my hesitation, I was told it would be twenty or so women at a resort in the Russian River wine country, relaxing, drinking and eating food (lots of words I enjoy), and the only thing I had to do for entry was: create a life list.
Very clever, Maggie.
What I’d told her back then on that deck was that just like how I’m not really into The Secret, I also don’t think I’m supposed to make a list of things I want to happen and then hope they happen to me. I don’t usually list goals because I like being open to all kinds of possibilities, and not focus on only one or two things. Anyway, I went on. I’d had some wine.
So I begrudgingly made a life list. The truth is, no matter how much I might want to passionately stick to my beliefs, I’m way more worried about not finishing a homework assignment. But I did worry I was about to spend a weekend talking to people purely about websites and goals.
See, I’ve been tricked before. I once had to rub aloe on the skin of a stranger while sitting inside a darkened sweat lodge. I’ve been forced to make a vision board. I’ve had to close my eyes and let people guide my movements. I’ve been asked to make a group painting while verbally expressing hopes and dreams. I’ve had to make a presentation in front of a classroom on the five things I’d take with me if I had to live alone on an island forever. I’ve had to be completely naked, covered in mud, isolated with two friends who were a couple. What I’m saying is, I’ve had some moments. And not all of that was in drama school.
Look, I like to be down for whatever, because that’s how I roll my non-life-list-having life, where yes, I will jump out of a plane and yes I will eat a bug in Bangkok and yes I will sign up for your crazy bootcamp.
But willingly walking into an isolated weekend with a building full of strangers who were going to talk about goals? This could be really scary! What if it was all going to be about joining some kind of happiness cult, or we were going to have to sit across from each other and shout affirmations, or buy into a timeshare, or we were all going to have to bathe each other in aloe while sitting inside a darkened sweat lodge? (LOOK, IT WAS TRAUMATIC. SHE DIDN’T FEEL LIKE PEOPLE.)
When we arrived at the airport I made a joke about whether or not we’d have to wear party hats that stated our life list goals, or if we’d play Pin the Life List on the Dreamer. And AB pointed at me, gave me her patented Great White Shark eyes and said, “You need to change this attitude, Missy, right now.”
And I immediately realized she was right. [smash cut to AB going, “uh, like I ALWAYS AM.”] The only thing I hate worse than a self-righteous, self-entitled, smug jerk is a hater. Which is what I was doing. I promised her I wouldn’t say another unkind word and that I would let go and have fun.
I didn’t have to make that promise. From the second I arrived I knew I’d had it all wrong and that the weekend was going to be piles of ridiculous amounts of fun. (And okay, yes, there were party hats. I did not wear one, but only because I arrived after they were passed out.)
The Summit is cleverly set up so you ease into realizing you’ve just made twenty-something amazing friends. You start with food and drinks in the mostly dark (but with tacos instead of getting saged), then you’re hit with a bag of presents (thanks, Tieks, Epiphanie, Tattly, Feistyelle, Photojojo and Superhero Photo!). Then there’s food, vineyard touring, and all the talking that has ever happened, ever. At one point they were foolish enough to have us set up inside a wine cave. I briefly worried about the walls shattering around us, trapping us in forever.
There are hot tubs and fire pits and music and massages and sneaking off for private talks. There’s too much laughing and a little bit of gossip and learning you’ve actually been almost meeting for over a decade. There are moments of hilarious, boisterous oversharing and quiet, anxious confessions in the middle of a forest.
At one point someone made us do a pyramid, and then everyone else was like, “How did we end up doing that?”
“I don’t know. Was it on someone’s list?”
“I don’t know. We just did it because I think someone wanted it.”
“Really? Well, I guess I like that we’re that supportive.”
“Good, because I’m about to ask you to jump off a bench while I take your picture.”
“Okay! Let me get everybody and we’ll all do it.”
“Is this culty?”
“I mean, I don’t suddenly believe we should all stand on benches and take pictures. That’s kinda culty. Who would do that?”
“Um. AB did.”
“Ha, ha. Right, yes. Because she’s persuasive.”
“No, she really did that.”
“You are funny.”
“No, for real. It was called Bench Monday.”
“Is called. People still do it.”
“Wow. That might be kinda culty.”
I’d never been to camp, but if this is why everybody was so excited to go every year and leave me behind to play on my lonely cul-de-sac, I now get it. And can’t believe my parents never sent me to camp! Gah!
And yes, we eventually talk a bit about our life lists. But at that point we aren’t a list of attendees or strangers’ names on an email blast. We are women with first names (many with the same first name) who have all scratched out a little, powerful place for themselves and are looking to discover what can happen next. It was a group of savvy, smart, hysterically funny women, and I really hope I’ve made a few friends for life. I can’t believe how quickly this one page went from a list of strangers to photo after photo of a smile that makes me smile back. If you’re looking for new content, or someone to admire, I highly recommend cruising that list. Those ladies are impressive!
By the final day I had bonded and boozed and bonded some more. We hiked through the Redwoods. We pet some dogs. I (hopefully successfully) convinced someone to love her butt. It was on my life list, and she wanted to help me cross something off.
Look, I still don’t believe in life lists. I find much of the happiness movement to be potentially dangerous, and I get uncomfortable when I think people are making money off of other people’s sadness. Ask me sometime how I lost my shit alone in my car one night, when I heard a pet psychic on the radio pretty much bilking a grieving daughter’s emotional vulnerability to make her think her mom’s dog was forgiving her for being a “bad kid.”
There’s another reason I don’t post goals or wishes up here. First, it’s not your job to read my to-do list. But for something in public like the Mighty Summit, I’m nervous when I’m asked to share before I know you, because my information and my dreams I keep in my heart and my head for a reason. They are my secrets, they are my stuff, and when I share them with you, it’s because you matter. I want to share my hopes and dreams with you because we love each other, not because we’re wearing the same lanyard.
(Note: there were no lanyards. Did you think there were? I would’ve thought so, too. Nope! Which is why three times I had to ask one poor woman the name of her damn website. (My lanyard was made of wine.))
Okay, so maybe I could afford to loosen up a little, and not always assume people are trying to jack me. Not everybody’s hiding in a sweat lodge with a palm leaf filled with aloe vera and a very tiny bathing suit. Some people really just want to throw nice gatherings with nice people and make sure everybody has fun. If I were in the position to do it, I’d be thrilled to be able to do the same.
Some good things came out of sharing this life list. I’m very happy one new friend is determined to help me find a pair of great boots, and I think I’m going to be able to help a couple of other women check some items off of their own lists. I’ve been reminded that some of my accomplishments are other women’s life goals, and some of the things people think to do with their lives are just head-shaking genius.
But I still believe in the importance of finding your own path without very much of a map. Sometimes it’s smart to let the roads take you on their own surprises, even if all signs say you might be headed toward the unknown.
Thank you, Mighty Summit. May you always take the left.