What is known to be the week of unimaginable amounts of alcohol, major sun burn, and bikinis so small your 13-year-old sister shouldn’t even be able to fit into them turned out the be quite the opposite for me—unless you count the bathing suit bottom I’ve had since middle school, the sun rash on my inner thigh, and the single spontaneous shot of tequila we took on the strip. After catching up with a few high school friends in DC, I traveled south with three of my college friends to spend the week kicking back on the beach in Clearwater, Florida. It was my first and last tropical spring break, but believe me, it was no Panama City. There were lots of old people and ice cream shops. We watched sunsets next to families and shared peanut butter and jelly donuts and went on walks to nowhere. The wildest party we had was falling asleep after too many crab legs. But we laughed a lot. We even cried a little. We talked, and sat in silence, and smiled, and made memories. It was a wonderful time.
My favorite part about getaways and vacations (aside from the fancy stationary pens they leave you in hotel rooms) is the brain space it grants you. Staring at the sea and the sky makes you think. I did a lot of this. Staring out a car window also makes you think. I did a lot of this too. Also—I’m just a sappy, thinky person. So naturally this blog post makes a lot of sense. Here’s a run down of what ran though my brain this past week. I hope you get as much out of these moments and realizations as I did, or even come to your own truths. Let’s start shallow, like the questionable pool at our three star motel.
1. Phones suck.
I don’t understand why we are addicted to distraction. I don’t know why we choose the people on our screens over the people right in front of us. I constantly evaluate whether I am going to burst from the amount of news and entertainment and blogs and emails and updates that I want to (and feel like I have to) read. But when I put my phone away for an entire day while we were here, I remembered what it’s like not to question any of that. And it rocked.
2. Phones rock.
I love sharing my experiences and thoughts with the world. I love being able to take notes when something cool happens and email them to myself so I can write blog posts like this. I love capturing moments with lenses, and seeing what my friends are up to on the other side of the world, and being able to let my parents know I’m safe. I hate Apple maps, but I am grateful every time I open it that I don’t have to unfold a blanket-sized paper one. Thank you, technology.
3. Walks are the best.
I forgot how much I love these things! You get active! They generate thought! You see cool things! You smell the roses! They make you feel like typing sentences with exclamation marks!
4. So is the sun.
Sunshine doesn’t fix everything, but it fixes a lot. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so weird and unmotivated lately, but then I remembered it’s because I’ve been spending the past month with my head in a hood stomping through snow and cursing at the cold. Sunshine feels good and it reminds you to be grateful for life. It recharges your soul. When there’s sun, take advantage of it. Where there’s sun, go. I like to think of it as a natural medicine or herb or drug. Get the D. (But use protection, specifically sunscreen, thank you and you’re welcome)
5. Things can be mended.
Bad things happen. People will hurt you, intentionally and unintentionally. But I know two things. One, people make mistakes. Sometimes really big ones. And two, people can change. I know these things because I’ve done both. The second was a result of the first. Humans suck, and you and I are not excluded. But humans can also be really great, too. Forgiveness is hard, but it is important. And I’m still learning. The third thing I’ve learned may be the most important, and that is that things can be mended. Broken friendships and relationships get better with time (key word is time). But know that while some things fix themselves, a lot of things things don’t fix themselves—at least not at first. It involves communication, and effort, and proof that that person is not just trying to make things better for the heck of it, but that they actually want things to be better.
6. Mending looks different every time.
No scar or crack heals or gets filled in the same way or in the same amount of time. I’ve learned that you can’t put an expiration date on hurt.
7. Some people just won’t get it.
Every situation is unique. Some things mend differently than others, and not everyone will understand. And it’s not your job to convince them.
8. What people think of you is not a reflection of you.
It is a reflection of themselves, or where they are at in their head or day or process. I’ve discovered that when people are being rude, it’s usually because something has happened to them. If a person says something mean, it’s because of an experience they’ve had or a perception they’ve created in their reality that isn’t necessarily true of your reality (Thank you, The Four Agreements). When someone is acting annoyed or irritated, they are dealing with emotions they may be handling or hiding. I know that doesn’t really make what they say or do any better or less hurtful. But it helped me stop questioning myself and my actions when I realized this. There is something that person has to figure out for themselves. Let them, and you go on with yo bad self.
9. Sometimes what other people think of you is a reflection of you.
Are you noticing patterns?
10. Your parents are your ultimate teachers.
Stop right now and go thank (or give thanks if they are no longer with you) your parents for being them. I don’t care if they are or were the best or the worst—they provided you with a foundation for your life to mold and learn from. I am infinitely grateful for mine. I have realized so much about myself and my habits; who I want to be and who I don’t. How your parents raised you and where they raised you is a part of your life story—more than you even know. I realized this while talking to my friends this week. This is my moment to tell the world that my parents are fantastic, fantastic people. I love them not only for giving me life, being in my life, and providing for me in life, but teaching me what I know and how I know it.
11. Nature is talking to us.
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m 21, and big waves freak me out. But I noticed something: the big waves were never as scary as I thought they were when I swam straight into them, or turned around and rode with them. But they were always scary when I ran away and hope they didn’t hit me. Nature is always trying to tell us something. Catch my drift?
12. Seagull attacks are a real thing.
A seagull literally took a bite out of my friend’s sandwich. I couldn’t make this stuff up, folks. But what was really fascinating and infinitely less upsetting was the evening we watched a 12-year-old boy play with a flock of seagulls by leading them with a single Cheez-it. Magic. At first I was terrified for his life, then I laughed with him, then I was transfixed in pure awe. It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen a very long time. I felt liberated through this little boy; he was having the time of his life. He was so innocent. So free. The most amazing part is that he was in control, and he didn’t even know it. This made me think about my own life.
13. The times you feel the most lost, you never actually are.
This is a common theme in my life, because I’m graduating and I’m scared and sad. This would not be the first time, but I’ve realized that this is probably going to happen a lot in life and I am okay with it. I started thinking of all the transitionary periods in my life. I look back and realized I got through all of them. Every single one. And the best part is, when I think about where I am now, every “next” stage turned out even better than I imagined it. I felt lost, but now I realized I never actually was. I was just scared. The plan for our lives is already mapped out, and even better than we know. A friend told me “If you don’t feel lost, then you are safe. And if you’re safe, then you will never grow.” Fear is a sign that you are putting yourself out of your comfort zone, and that’s where all the good stuff happens. Guess what? Everything is going to be okay.
14. Light follows.
Just like the seagulls, light follows. Or at least—that’s what we thought. We watched the sun set every night. The first evening, I noticed the reflection of the sun in the water created a path of orange light leading straight to my feet in the sand. I smiled to myself. A sign from the universe just for me, right? The second evening, my friend Meredith said something about it. I told her I was thinking the same thing yesterday, and we shared the moment. The third evening, we noticed the path of light led back to us yet again. All of a sudden, it was not cute anymore. I walked down the beach to solve the mystery. As it turns out, the trail of sun traveling across the water directly to my feet followed me wherever I went. It followed everyone. I was pissed! This was supposed to be a sign, what the heck! I returned with the bad news. They gasped in horror. Then we laughed for a long time. I felt so stupid. We were mad the magic wasn’t ours. But then I realized that wasn’t true. The magic was ours; it everyone’s. And that made it even more real. The world doesn’t revolve around me. It doesn’t revolve you. There’s enough light to go around.
The world is a big place. But the sun will find and follows us wherever we go.