Yesterday I spent time at the beach. I sat alone on the sand, read and watched, and then went to a movie. By myself. While I was hesitant to do this, I ignored the voice telling me I should feel lonely and listened to the one telling me to do what I wanted. I felt the cold ocean on my feet and watched people parasailing, and then settled into the sand for some reading. As I tried to get through a chapter, I couldn’t help but watch all that was going on around me.
I had started in a fairly empty stretch of beach, but people began to close in around me. I was close to midway between the two piers that stretch into the water and mark off the beaches. I was immediately back in my childhood. On a visit down here, I took off on a walk with a friend. We rarely saw each other, but managed to have fun when we did. Maybe it’s just the way kids are. We walked along down the beach, talking I’m sure. The next thing we knew we had rounded a bend and were nowhere near our parents’ sight. In my mind we walked for hours, but I’m sure it was no where near that long. I just remember walking, no destination in sight, no fear, no timetable. We were probably 10 or 11, and despite how beautiful she always has been, I can oddly remember feeling no insecurity as we walked along in our swimsuits. We had an adventure, inadvertently, and that quite afternoon is both fuzzy and salient in my memory. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, what we saw, but the feeling of setting out, of going, of disappearing, is more vivid than my lunch yesterday.
As I left this memory, I noticed two things I have never seen before. I saw a seagull in the water. It was not flying above the waves, or pecking through the sand, but standing in foam that rolled in. It let the water wash over its feet and lifted them to stay in place as the sand rushed back out with the wave. It stayed in the water, something I have never seen before. Another gull joined it, and then they both flew away, but for that one moment, I was seeing something completely new and unknown to me. Then, moments later, an orange balloon rolled through the foam. An orange, inflated, latex balloon just rolled along and then out of the water. It blew across the sand and down the beach. I wonder if anyone else saw that balloon. It sounds like something Alice would have seen, beckoning her to a land of imagination. Nevertheless, I have never seen a balloon at the beach before.
As I sat and watched the water, I noticed a young boy out in the waves. He stood, letting them wash up onto his torso. I am in middle school, standing in the water with my mom and youngest brother, raising onto tiptoes as each wave broke on my knees. I watch him alone in the water and feel for him. Then he’s joined by another boy, neither of which could have been more than 11 or 12. They stood in the waves together, pulling long strands of seaweed out and whipping each other. They twirl them around and jostle each other in the surf. Then I notice a man on the shore. He’s taking a picture of them out there, of the moment. I can’t explain why, but it brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t a baby’s first day at the shore. It wasn’t an engagement shoot. It was simple and quiet–unextraordinary. It was a desire to capture this moment, this day, this child, just as it was. I can’t explain why, but I have such deep love for those children and that dad even now.
After the beach I went to the mall to see a movie. I have not done this on my own before and it is something I have dreaded. I have feared the loneliness and embarrassment that would come from sitting alone, worried that everyone would stare. Poor, pathetic girl who has no friends. Poor thing has to go to movies alone. So sad. On the contrary, I was much less anxious than I thought I would be. At the mall, parking areas were blocked off for a skateboarding expedition. While it made maneuvering the area a little tricky, I was less annoyed than normal. This was something else, something new, that I have not seen before. I watched for a moment before going into the movie.
All of this is to say that, as I sat and let my mind wander, I realized that I am every so slightly closer to my goal. I had plenty of road rage and almost slapped a couple of people in the movie, but I saw new things. I know, deep inside, that I want to continue to see new things. I want to experience more, to see more, to know more. I want to see New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Time Square on New Year’s. I want to see the glow of the Vegas Strip and the Northern Lights. I want to cook and sew and plant a garden. I want to do and be more. I started writing to change my attitude, to get some perspective. I wanted to learn to love people again, to find joy in the world. I’m still dissatisfied with my job. I’m still lonely in my crappy, over-priced apartment. I still don’t really feel like the me I used to be happy with. Yesterday I really enjoyed being here. I have a long way to come, but I have hope. I have seen a glimpse of what life can be like, of the adventure and joy it can bring. I have been reminded that this process and road are long, but there is progress. Somewhere, in some way, my attitude is changing. That’s really all I can hope for.
“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” —The Shawshank Redemption