A Lesson in Opening Up at Pink Pangea’s Retreats
Sit around the room with strangers. Write about your innermost thoughts, your dreams, your failures, your loves, your life, your insecurities. Then read them aloud. And then have the aforementioned strangers critique your work. Sound like a nightmare? It definitely sounded like my nightmare. But, it was a gift. A beautiful gift that Pink Pangea granted me and my fellow participants on three separate retreats.
Nobody who knows me will ever attest to me being a super open, in-touch-with-my-feelings individual. Put it down to my New York City upbringing. We leave the feelings to California, but each of my Pink Pangea retreats came at such a pivotal moment in my life that getting in touch with my emotions, assessing the damage, frolicking through the dark spaces of my head and making some life decisions was necessary. The retreats granted me that space. The frolicking space needed for an over-driven, over-ambitious, never-stop millennial to take a breath and think.
My first retreat was in November 2015, in Barcelona, a city I’d been to but wasn’t a fan of as it came at the end of a long Euro trip at the energetic age of 21. By that point in the previous trip, we were completely churched and museumed out. I didn’t even visit the Sagrada Familia because there are only so many crucifixes you can see in one month, and I’d reached my limit. But I wanted to return to Barcelona, and after attending a few Pink Pangea’s retreats and workshops in New York, I got the writing bug again.
Living is a team sport. We all love. We all hate. We all hurt.
I showed up at the Barcelona retreat after an overnight flight in the wee hours of the morning. The city was deserted, as Spaniards are not early risers. I wandered about the city on my own, not knowing what to expect of the upcoming retreat. Battling pretty exhausting depression that I had not admitted to myself yet, I showed up to my first workshop. From the first question, “Why are you here?”, the therapy begun.
We were a room full of women, mostly from the US, ranging from our 20s to our 60s, as diverse as can be. Different life choices, career paths and dispositions were represented. But that week in Barcelona, I really understood how universal the experience of being a woman is. The fears that plagued me at 26 were the same fears that plagued the nurse from the Midwest in her 40s.
Our experiences, while each unique, really showed that living is a team sport. We all love. We all hate. We all hurt. We each feel our feelings in our own way, but sharing them women who quickly became friends and a support system was extraordinary and eye opening. You don’t need years to forge friendships and solidify a bond.
The talent in the room was phenomenal. From funny anecdotes (me), to beautiful poetry, to true heartbreaking admissions of guilt and grief, the participants’ writing was amazing. But the openness of these women with each other was where the retreat’s real power lay.
From assault to an ignorant boss to becoming a mother to falling in love to falling out of love. We talked about it all. We wrote about it all at Pink Pangea’s retreats.
So, just a few short months later I attended another retreat, one week before starting a new job. I was happier and healthier after just a few months, and already open, knowing what was to come.
The second retreat was so different. I had found my voice in my first retreat. I had found out I was funny, so I went with that. It became my hook, my lense through which to write. To entertain, to share.
I looked at the new crop of women who were to become my supporters and confidantes with a knowing glance. Understanding their fears and trepidations, but knowing that they were in for a wild ride that would open up their talents as well as themselves.
“Girls don’t like other girls,” we hear growing up. “Girls are jealous,” “Girls are catty.” But, girls become women who can support women, who listen to others’ experiences and deeply feel for one another. From assault to an ignorant boss to becoming a mother to falling in love to falling out of love. We talked about it all. We wrote about it all.
Pink Pangea opened me up to myself in a room with a bunch of strangers. These retreats gave me confidence in my writing, and to share it with a group of people.
At my next retreat, I’ll transverse more of my mind and feelings and (hopefully) share, eloquently, the experience. During a week on the sands of Greek islands or in the fresh air of the Swiss Alps, I’ll write, I’ll share and I’ll be grateful for it all.