Remember how birthdays used to be such a big deal in our younger years? Big birthday bashes with balloons, party favors, kids running and screaming—or if you were weird like me: you had your birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese EVEN THOUGH you were terrified of Chuck E. himself. There is literally a photo in an album around the house of an employee holding me as I cried staring at Chuck E.
Anyway, for the past couple of years, I haven’t really made my birthday a big deal. No big parties, no big sha-bangs. Just getting another year older—and another year towards accomplishing nothing in life, ha!
This year I decided to treat myself to a weekend getaway. I never usually travel alone, but with all the stress, anxiety, depression looming over my head, it seemed like a good idea. In true isolation to literally get away from it all, I even turned my phone onto airplane mode for the entire weekend—no text, calls, social media, updates. This would be an opportune time to reflect and be with myself.
For this trip, I made the trek to Westlake Village, CA to the Hyatt Regency, just a 30 – 45 minute drive down the 101 freeway. My family have been members of the Hyatt Loyalty Program where we can earn points through expenditures of a Hyatt credit card, which can then be redeemed for free night stays at any Hyatt establishment and other luxury experiences.
We’ve been doing this since I was in high school, aligned with my parents’ accounts, so in mid-2016 I branched out and got a membership to build my credit as well as earn my own points cause I love to travel! In addition to accumulating points for free nights, you also receive one when you sign up (and get approved) for a Hyatt Gold Passport account as well as earning one every year you are a member. So of course I thought, “Why not?? Free weekend stay at a nice hotel!”
Prior to leaving for the weekend, I called in advance in attempt to check in early that Saturday—my check in time was scheduled for 4pm. The rep on the phone was polite and said they’d try their best to accommodate but didn’t guarantee. I ended up getting at the hotel a couple hours early and was gonna spend time at the pool before check in time, but the woman at the reception desk said I could check in early! Score!
First activity on the agenda was hanging out at the pool and getting some reading done. My current read at the time was Odd Birds by Ian Harding, an actor well known for his role as Ezra Fitz on Pretty Little Liars. Honestly I wish I had more time to read—I truly enjoy it—because you can immerse yourself and get lost in a story and temporarily forget about reality and the world around you. It’s quite therapeutic cause it allows my mind to escape my troubles and anxiety for 2.5 seconds. Plus, reading Odd Birds, though interspersed with tales of birding adventures, provided a window into the entertainment industry through the eyes of a fledgling actor fresh coming out of college. It was comforting to see Ian’s insight on the challenges of pursuing an acting career—as well as distinguishing the line of where Ian the actor begins and ends with Ian the person. If you need an easy read of quirky recollections and humbleness, Odd Birds has got you covered!
After a few hours of chilling out by the pool reading—and letting my feet dangle in the cool water—I went back to my room. The intent was to shower before heading downstairs for dinner, but I decided to soak in a hot bath first. Taking a bath should be relaxing, but for me…I get a bit anxious…because in the past couple of years I had entertained the idea of drowning, envisioning myself submerging and never coming back up. I would lower myself slowly but then come back up and wrap myself and hug my knees in a cry session. As much as I thought about it, I could never bring myself to fully commit. I would think about all the things I hadn’t accomplished and I still wanted to chase my goals. It’s such a conflicting feeling for me, but that glimmer of hope was what kept me hanging on and sobered me up in those moments.
I could have easily tried to go out for dinner elsewhere, but the restaurant at the hotel—Harvest Kitchen & Bar—had one hour left of happy hour so I made the wise choice of eating there. No driving involved, it was right down stairs, plus the happy hour prices were budget friendly! As mentioned previously, I hardly ever take myself out places, including out to eat, so my nerves were buzzing. To try and calm them down and loosen myself up, I ordered a glass of wine—cabernet sauvignon of course. I then proceeded to order a crab cake and steak tacos, which didn’t last more than five minutes on the table.
Initially I was hesitant when the crab cake arrived cause it came with a bunch of veggies—namely a bed layer of arugula and a foundation of corn and, I think, peppers?—but surprisingly I cleaned the plate. The simple yet colorful plating had rich flavors that complemented each other well. The crab had a tangy, salty flavor, and the arugula had more of a bite and bitter flavor, which were both counteracted by the sweet juiciness of the corn and peppers.
There was still a little room for something else to eat, so I ordered the steak tacos, which came with three mini tortillas wrapping marinated meat, avocado, cheese and cilantro. (Sorry I forgot to take a picture!) I devoured that as well. Can’t go wrong with steak tacos! Here’s a tip for hotel dining: go to the happy hour for your meals! What normally would have been maybe $40 – 50 by myself with the regular prices was only $20.
That night, I admit I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. It’d be cliche to blame the one glass of wine I had, but honestly, I was beating myself up for not taking better care of myself mentally and emotionally. Why had it taken so long to treat myself to a weekend like this? Pamper myself and reward myself for all the hard work I had ever done? Why did I constantly work around the clock and never celebrate the small wins of life? The cogs of my mind work so strangely that I always find myself swimming in these emotional pits. I spent a good amount the night with the TV on and crying into my pillow. The trip thus far aimed to be pretty relaxing but I couldn’t get 100% relaxed cause I kept worrying about everything waiting for me back home. I wished that I had done stuff like this for myself more often so I could be in a place of complete zen and relaxation. I know I’m only 26, and I have a lifetime to make amends, but in that moment I was unhappy with myself.
The next morning I ordered room service with a traditional breakfast plate in bed: eggs over-easy mixed with hash browns and bacon. Can’t beat a classic! I was still hungry so I went downstairs to get a coffee and a dessert! The downstairs open area was filled with people for a mother’s day buffet—which you had to register for beforehand—so I sat at the bar and ordered a pan cookie with vanilla ice cream. An older couple sat next to me and ordered their food and actually struck up a conversation with me. This almost never happens. When I’m in an environment where I’m alert and ready to converse—say, for networking—no one wants to talk to me. It’s always in these instances where I’m reserved, keeping to myself, people unexpectedly talk to me. Not that I’m complaining cause it was a pleasant conversation—the couple was visiting for the week from Chicago to attend their daughter’s graduation. The husband asked if I was there for business or pleasure to which I answered pleasure, that this was a weekend getaway birthday gift to myself. He wished me happy birthday and my server who overheard wished me as well. When all of our food arrived, the couple was gracious enough to offer me some of their pizza, but I was so stuffed from the huge cookie—I couldn’t even finish it.
When I checked out, the same receptionist woman was there and she said to me, “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” I told her that I had just turned 26, and she was shocked, “You look so young! I thought you looked way too young to be a VIP member of the Hyatt, let alone stay by yourself for an entire weekend!” Normally I don’t take compliments well, especially when people think I’m younger than I am, but this actually made my day. Her pleasant surprise felt so genuine.
It’s amazing how much happened to me in just a day and a half. In the end, I’m glad I stayed at a hotel close by to me and basked in all it had to offer, instead of driving or flying hours away to only use it as a place to sleep. If I was still living in Los Angeles, I would probably stay there again, to treat myself. On this short stay, the biggest thing I promised myself walking out the doors is to work harder to love myself more. Upon arrival, I wasn’t quite sure how to be with just myself cause I’m so used to catering to other people and ensuring their comfortableness that I didn’t know what to do for me. I used to be afraid to get lost in my crazy thoughts, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to truly reflect cause it will uncover things you might be burying deep inside that need to come out. Nevertheless, spending quality time with yourself—whether it’s a weekend getaway or even a day trip—can help unwind and continue discovering yourself.
Original date: May 14, 2017