For someone who spent most of her life living close to an ocean, whether it was the Indian or the Pacific, being landlocked in the Grand Canyon State has taken a toll. There is something about the ocean that has always provided a sense of calm. A sense of home. A sense of perspective that remains unparalleled. Perhaps driving through the vastness of the red Arizona desert may come close but it is definitely not the same as breathing in the ocean air with ones toes in the sand and conversing silently with rolling waves.
Last weekend I headed west to San Diego for a friend's wedding. I had not visited the city in nearly a decade. Much had changed from how I remembered it. The random one-way streets reminded me of San Francisco. The wedding, of course, was beautiful. I met people who I had only ever heard about. There were faces to the names. I caught up with old friends in their new lives. Questions sparked conversations. What do you do? How do you like Arizona? So you're going to be an academic?
The answers to those questions should be straightforward but as I pondered them some more, they were not. After politely responding during the various conversations with strangers, the questions lingered in my mind well into the night. Do I know what I do? How do I really like Arizona? Had I really thought through the decision about being or not being an academic? I decided it was time to see the ocean for some answers. Or, at the very least, some perspective.
The next morning, I headed southwest toward Coronado. Going over the San Diego-Coronado Bridge I spotted the thin blue line of water and instinctually smiled. It was familiar. It felt like home. Walking along Ocean Boulevard, the sound of the rolling waves brought me immense joy. I hurried along the wall of neatly stacked rocks and made my way toward the water.
I walked along the sandy beach for a while. I spotted a couple unsuccessfully trying to get their little girl to step into the water. After screaming in protest, she was allowed to go back to building her sand castle safely away from the threat of wetness. I passed by a group of people doing push-ups while a man with a whistle around his neck yelled at them. I was sure those people had paid money to be there and endure that sort of motivational Sunday sermon. I saw a man with a metal detector sifting through the sand for coins. He had found a few already.
I sat down a few feet away from a lady relaxing on her beach towel. It was a little past nine in the morning and it was 75 degrees. I couldn't remember the last time it had been 75 degrees at nine in the morning! I smiled to myself at the thought of having to drive back to the Arizona heat later that day. It seemed only slightly ironic. I watched the waves rolling in and out. I watched a few surfers. I watched as the sun peeked in and out through some grayish clouds. I patiently waited for the ocean to speak.
In the quiet through the rolling waves and the white noise of other ocean-goers, the ocean insisted: do something that matters and something that makes you happy. If you're fortunate, it will be one and the same.
After all, that is exactly what the ocean has always been.