As I sat at the beach today, watching people anticipating incoming waves, scoping out the size and potential for each, the eagerness in their faces resonated with me. I remember so well, as a child, staying in the ocean for hours on end, excited by the waves, strategizing how to best handle the really big ones – and enjoying the thrill of that perfect ride.
Even when a giant wave took hold, wrestling me into its powerful presence, leaving me a bit scared, a bit discombobulated, I never quit. I kept going back for more.
That’s what struck me today too. That combined challenge and thrill, no matter how big the wave and the kids especially kept going back for more, again and again.
That’s not true for everyone I saw today – and it wouldn’t be at any other time.
Some of us are content to sit on the shore, to build carefully planned-out sand castles. To bring the ocean to us instead via pails to fill dug-out holes and elaborate waterways, safely on the sand.
In time, we learned the tide could come up and swiftly swallow our handiwork whole. For those who feared the ocean’s power, to begin with, this had to be a terrifying reality of the destruction only imagined before.
If you were one of the kids who sat on the sand, maybe you watched the others on their boogie boards or those simply body surfing in the spray. Did you envy them their carefree behavior or think they were crazy to exhibit such a lack of caution with the waves?
As someone most often chest-deep in the ocean, always past the desired up-to-your-waist-only-please put forth by my parents, I remember the icy plunge diving headfirst into oversized Humarock Beach waves, over and over again. I recall the feeling of coasting smoothly astride the softer tall waves, generally found in the aftermath of a behemoth monster that, just prior, crashed violently over our heads.
Do you remember being tossed and turned, like some errant piece of seaweed with nothing to cling to or be clasped on by? Water rushing up your nose, taking away your breath and bringing a sting to your sinuses, throat, and eyes?
Did you then head to shore, to the comfort of your towel, perhaps even your mother’s arms? Or did you shake it off; sure you wouldn’t let another catch you off guard?
Yet no matter how well-thought out your plan was for the next big one, in spite of the best preparation, you learned that we don’t have much control when and where that wave will break. Sometimes it’s timed perfectly, gently washing over us giving us a bit of a chill at worst – and other times, we’re too close to do anything but brace ourselves for what’s to come and do our best to stand firmly on our feet or at least stay afloat as the wave rushes over us.
But still, for many of us, we stay in the water, sensing potential challenges. We’re almost disappointed when the wave is suddenly small and far too easy to manage.
I’m reminded today, that while the smaller challenges can indeed provide a smooth, satisfying outcome and experience, it’s the bigger ones, the waves that can go a million different ways, that can provide us with the greatest thrill of all – and more satisfaction than an easy ride ever could.
That’s always the one that makes me feel most alive, and in realizing that simple truth, it certainly explains a lot for me.
Lessons sure present themselves at the most interesting times, even during a peaceful afternoon at the beach.