Some of my favorite memories revolve around the ocean.
In high school days, my friend Tim would come over and wake me up at 6am or so. He’d pull me out of bed and we’d drive to Pismo Beach and hit the cold ocean waves.
I was a boogie boarder; surfing was too much of a commitment.
When Megan and I moved back to the area, I knew sooner or later I’d have to face Poseidon.
There are many beaches in San Luis Obispo County. Pismo is famous; Avila is second best and pretty good for boogie boarders. Grover has a lot of people, and Shell is just too rocky. There’s Oceano, but it’s choppy and nobody goes to Oceano.
The less people to embarrass myself in front of the better; I went to Oceano.
First, there is the issue of the wetsuit. If you’ve never put one on before, let me explain. It is the single most difficult thing you will ever do in your life. It’s like putting on someone’s skin who is two sizes smaller than you.
For shy kids like me, Oceano has bathroom stalls to change in. They’re tiny, lightless, and the locks are all broken. The door may or may not have swung wide open with the wetsuit stuck around my ankles.
After taming the wetsuit for what seemed like an hour (think Tommy Boy in the airplane bathroom), I met my wife back at the car. “How’d it go?” she asked.
“I think hurt my back.” She laughed. “No seriously,” starting to stretch, “I think pulled a muscle.” She laughed louder. Somehow, yes, I managed to hurt my back while pulling on a wetsuit. A new low. I don’t want to talk about it.
“Well don’t go in the water,” she warned. “It’ll make it worse!” I looked over at the choppy blue surf. She had a point, but I was already here, and my wetsuit was on. It’s not like I’m getting it off anytime soon. If I didn’t do it now, I never would.
So I ran towards the shore. And I ran. With each step, the sand felt colder and the air tasted sweeter. I reached the waters; my feet burned from the cold, and seized my thoughts. Soon my waist was covered, then higher.
So cold. So cold. Don’t think about it.
I cursed myself, the waters that now held my life, Obama, anything I could think of. The first three minutes dragged; I needed to go numb.
Soon, my thoughts became verbal. I started yelling phrases that didn’t make sense. Fart Cough, poop magnet. Cold help Siren Tonk! AHHHHHHH!
A wave slapped my face, and a rush of memories came over my eyes.
I saw Tim; we laughed over waves and cursed the cold water together. I watched the sky, from years ago, turn to day as seals broke the surface of the water, right next to me. For an instant, I saw who I was five years ago.
I saw what was important, and what wasn’t.
Reality returned, and happiness came with it. For the first time in my life I was proud of where I came from. More importantly, I was happy with who I became. I was happy with what I’ve chosen to love.
My wife, our future, God’s plan, the ocean.
I caught my first wave. As it did so many years ago, everything made sense.