Confessions of a Mighty Summit Convert

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.

Or worse.

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.

Leave a Reply

Comments (


  1. Lori

    Pam, I am SO glad that you overcame your first moments of skepticism and joined the group this weekend. I, for one, will forever love my butt (and my collarbones) because of you. :)

    1. Pamie

      Bonus body love! It was so great to meet you.

  2. victoria

    pamie, although i didn’t say so, i was right there with you. expecting a lanyard or some such identification verifying my mighty womanhood, instead of those pretty and sentimental gold necklaces we did receive. so glad i went anyway or wouldn’t have met you and the other awesome-sauce ladies.

    just for the helluva it, i’m going love my butt, too.

    1. Pamie

      I thank you and your butt thanks you. It was fantastic hanging out with you. And good luck with your Jonathan Adler meet-and-greet!

  3. Kayla

    I didn’t want to go. I feared crying and hugging and intense eye contact. But I went. And now me and my happy ass are happy we went.

    I will be posting soon! WATCH OUT! ZAH!

    1. Pamie

      I hope you don’t mind that we are going to be real-life friends in our shared city.

  4. agirlandaboy

    After last year’s summit, I not only had a bunch of new friends but also the support I needed to finally throw myself a damn wedding already. I…wasn’t expecting that. What pleasant surprises arise when we shut the hell up and let live, eh? :)

  5. simplygrove

    Seriously, this is the best thing ever! Love your honesty, so much. I hope our paths cross again sooner than later!

    1. Pamie

      I hope so, too! (Perhaps when we create our reality show together.)

      1. simplygrove

        Yes, we need our own reality show! We are WAY more interesting then cry baby bachelorettes…;)

  6. Allison

    “Pin the Life List on the Dreamer” might be the best line I’ve read all year.

  7. Sarah

    I loved reading this, Pamie. It’s all of us. And if you ever start a cult, I’m in.

    1. Pamie

      Deal. Your job would be to wake everyone every morning with your sweet voice.

  8. Mel

    ” What I’m saying is, I’ve had some moments. And not all of that was in drama school.”

    Oh man. I miss theater a lot, all the time, until I remember this sort of thing. And then I wonder how that seemed normal to me.

    ” 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.””


    glad you had fun, Pamie!

  9. Grainne

    Were you always so anti-lists? One of my favourite old entries was the giant to do list you wrote all over the porch. (Am I remembering that right?)

    Mighty Summit sounds ridiculously fun and inspiring and drunk! And I love that last photo.

    1. Pamie

      You are remembering it mostly correctly. But Ray forced me to make that list. It’s the only other time I’ve done that.

      1. Jennifer

        Now I have to ask: how many of those have you done by now? I think I can pinpoint at least a few.

        I’m a hippie-type, but also born rather skeptical, so I am usually walking a fine fucking line between these things. I usually don’t like the Life List thing either, mostly because (a) if you don’t do that stuff, which I don’t, it’s depressing, and (b) I don’t really get how just writing them down means that you’ll magically get them. Wouldn’t you have to put some work into it first?

        1. Pamie

          I am happy to say I’ve been fortunate enough to have crossed quite a surprising number of items off that list.

          And yet: still no karaoke with Dave Grohl. Why won’t someone make this happen for me?

      2. Grainne

        Thanks for the link. I like the list and I love that you have crossed lots of them off. Do you think that maybe that means it works?

        Also thank you for the link to vagmagazine on twitter. I’ve spent most of my evening learning what is and isn’t feminist!

  10. Stacy @bklynstacy

    LOVED meeting you. We have so much to talk about and we only got to get through about a quarter of it. Boots, consider done. My book about my mom? We’ll talk about how you can help out with that later (like, after I’ve written it and stuff). xxx

  11. JeniMull

    Well, I am sure you didn’t intend this – especially you – but after reading that, and checking out Maggie’s site – I am definitely starting a Mighty Life List, now.

  12. Jessica Schilling

    I’ve heard awesome things about this before, glad you had a good time and it wasn’t a cult :)

    Also, super jealous that you got an Epiphanie bag! That means you have to keep taking photos to put it to good use.

  13. heather…

    Such is the magic of the Mighty. You go in expecting schlock, and you come out hung over and inspired to take things a little more seriously. Well, at least *I* did, since my original life list included such dazzling items as “learn the ways of the indigenous Naavi” and “organize a life list in alphabetical order. Yeah.

    Glad you had fun!

    1. Helen Jane

      Pamie, that comment above is my twinsie Heather Spohr!
      (She fills in as the Southern California Helen Jane replacement on occasion.)

      1. AB

        Look, now, I cannot deal with Heather Spohr and Pamie hooking up. It would be like if me, Helen Jane, and a crazy drunk person combined to become Pam’s best friend.

        On second thought, maybe this is the best idea we’ve ever had.

        1. Pamie

          …Heather, did she just call you a crazy drunk?

  14. Willo

    No way, my lanyard was made of wine, too! That’s why we hit it off. We could read each other right off the bat. Oh, ya, I got your number!

    Seriously, so great meeting you, woman. I already loved my butt, but hearing you reinforce the importance of that gratitude gave me a little extra umph. ;)

    Most of all I collect feisty, no-bullshit women like you in my life, so our paths will cross again!

    Love & hugs from SF.

  15. Maggie Mason

    “This whole thing is a trick” is actually our tagline.

    I once had to sit naked in a hot spring with a ladies night group, one of whom had just been dumped by my best guy friend, and the other of whom had just been fired by the same guy. Both of them thought I knew in advance and were PISSED at me. I had no idea why. There were awkward far-apart naked hugs. There was cold, naked-lady silent treatment. I get hives just thinking about it.

    Anyway, getting people to believe in life lists isn’t really my thing.

    “I think I’m going to be able to help a couple of other women check some items off of their own lists.”

    That’s my thing.

    You’re a sister, Pamela Ribon. Thanks for coming. Your ass isn’t the only one who has your back.

  16. Daffodil Campbell

    In a strange coincidence, Maggie’s life list inspired me to join roller derby. I think this is where Kevin Bacon shows up.

  17. seo

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!