The ocean continues to be a place of healing and revelation for me.
I needed a little getaway, so I went to Florida a few weeks ago. If you’ve never been to Siesta Key, I highly recommend it. It’s a picturesque little beach town that will help you temporarily forget about the stress and negativity that exists in this world. I didn’t even have a car while I was there. Instead, I paid just $40 to rent a bike for a few days, and I rode it everywhere. My time on this island ended up being a nice escape from reality.
But also a rather painful reminder of it.
When you’re in a new place, there are so many opportunities for adventure, excitement, and making memories. Sometimes I feel like my life is a running sitcom, and this trip proved to be no exception. For starters, my first full day there, I unknowingly used expired sunscreen. For those who are unaware of what this means, the result is zero effectiveness of the original intentions of the UV ray deterrent. For an individual with freckled fair skin, a painful lobster-colored sunburn may or may not be the result.
God bless you, aloe vera gel.
Then there was the food situation. I consider myself a froyo connoisseur. Thus, when I venture outside of my normal surroundings, it is a priority of mine to try different frozen yogurt places (none of which ever measures up to my all-time fave in the Dallas area). I had already tried one place, and while the froyo was somewhat decent, it wasn’t self-serve (huge strike in my book), and it was a bit too thick and rich for my liking. I was looking forward to trying another place I had looked up on Google Maps, even though it was a few miles farther. Both places were in Sarasota, so I had to ride quite a ways to get there, and my path included going over a drawbridge.
I should mention that the bike I rented was a beach cruiser—not exactly a road bike designed to handle much terrain. There’s only one gear, and the braking system is much more simplistic. Riding over the drawbridge, I couldn’t help but start to think of Mario trying to get to the castle to rescue Peaches. I kept wondering if it was going to start moving up and apart at any moment as a result of Bowser’s effort’s to prevent Mario (me, apparently) from winning. More than once, I said aloud “not this time, King Koopa.”
I’m not an actual psycho.
Florida is humid. Like really humid. I was pretty exhausted that day, so I was beyond grateful when I finally made it to the froyo place—that is, until I saw the sign on the door. There were apparently some maintenance issues, so the store was closed. Closed. I felt so defeated. Maybe King Koopa was winning at that point. I biked over to the third-tier yogurt place I had gone to before and then stopped at the grocery store near it for a few things before going back to the island.
I crossed over the drawbridge again safely (you can’t stop me, Bowser), but it was actually a lot less dangerous than the rest of the ride. I was in the bike lane of a rather busy road, when I encountered a divot that I had been able to avoid the day before. However, there was a huge branch in the lane, too, and I had a brief second to choose which one to hit to avoid riding into the street. Almost instantly when I hit the divot, I started veering into that street but was able to steer the other direction at the very last second before I went flying off the bike. Thankfully, I somehow only got a few scrapes, and three of the four groceries that had been in the front basket survived (RIP, Glacier Cherry Gatorade). When I finally made it back to the cottage where I stayed, I was spent. And a little sore and scraped up.
Later that evening, I went back to the beach and sat and stared out into the ocean. It was one of my favorite pastimes when I lived in California, and while it was a different ocean, the serenity felt very similar. I began thinking about all of the things that had happened throughout the trip—including highly unsuccessful attempts at bodysurfing that resulted in some rather gnarly bruising—and I was filled with a simultaneous wave of joy and sadness. I was grateful to be able to take such a trip and make some lasting memories—but it also hurt my heart to continue to have to experience them all on my own. I’m pretty sure that they would have been much more fun and enjoyable if they had been shared.
I value my independence, and traveling alone isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve even made a few nice airport friends who have helped me by watching my bags when I’ve been at the gate and needed to use the restroom before boarding but didn’t want to lug everything with me into a tiny little stall. And I’ve met some interesting people on planes, as well, whom I might not have gotten to meet had someone else been in the seat next to me. In fact, on the way home from Florida on my recent trip, I sat in the same row as a Russian beekeeper and a luxury magazine editor who asked the beekeeper more questions than I could keep up with, but perhaps that’s what makes him a good journalist.
These people are always fun to meet and speak with, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever run into any of my airport or plane friends again. I’d rather have a relationship that lasts and sit next to someone I know will sit next to me for the rest of our lives. Even if his stories aren’t as interesting to magazine editors as those of a beekeeper who claimed to be partly responsible for the invention of almond milk, they’ll be interesting to me.
I wish I could say that my Siesta Key trip was my last solo vacation, but I also might be taking mostly solo vacations for the rest of my life. I honestly don’t know. But I do know that I need to trust whatever it is the Lord has planned for my future—whether it involves finding my lobster or not. Yes, it would be nice to do life with someone who chooses me out of every other girl he’s ever seen or met. However, I can’t let that desire keep me from living and doing the things I love. I have plenty of people in my life who care about me and are my people—the ones I know will stay when it seems like the rest of the world is walking away. I guess it’s like Peter Pan’s daughter, Maggie, sings in Hook: “When you’re alone, you’re not alone, not really alone.”
I’ve had people tell me to embrace this time I have to myself, because everything changes when you’re no longer single. Duh. That’s the point. I’ve had a lifetime of embracing my alone time, so please don’t add to that type of advice for me. We’re all in different stages and places in our lives, and our paths and journeys certainly aren’t going to look the same. I hope that if there’s anything we’ve all learned from this last year, it’s that it’s important to love one another as we are and not always feel the need to tell people how to live. I know that’s it’s important to find gratitude where I am, and I’m grateful for love and for my people who continue to show me what love is and what love does.
After all, love is what the world needs now—and always.