When In Doubt, Just Get in the Water


Two weeks ago on the day after I finished teaching my summer classes, I drove seven hours to the beach. The trip was planned to be a week-long vacation, but due to complications, I could only stay one day -- 26 hours, if we're being precise -- before I had to drive home again.

Twenty-six hours isn't a long time to squeeze in a vacation, but I milked it for all it was worth. I slathered on sunscreen, browsed magazines, read a novel, and listened to waves as I reclined in a beach chair. I enjoyed a few evening hours at Funland on the Rehoboth beach boardwalk with family. I ate a crab cake.

But the best part, hands down, was when I swam in the ocean. I love swimming in the ocean. The salt, the spray, the feeling of buoyancy, the power of the current, the thrill of a wave cresting -- everything about being in the ocean reminds me I'm alive. I resist getting into a pool that's too cold, lowering myself down a ladder tentatively, holding my arms aloft, standing on tiptoe.

But the ocean? Cold will not deter me.

So I swam. I ran into the sandy froth, clumsily hurdling the low breakers before diving headfirst into an oncoming wave. Every nerve in my body registered the coldness, but I didn't care. I didn't think. All that had been weighing on my mind -- the semester grades I had just submitted, the long drive behind and ahead, the difficult complications that had truncated my vacation from a week to just a day -- were shocked out of my system.

I just swam. I floated on my back, closed my eyes, and spat saltwater out of my mouth when waves lapped over my face. I swam and dove and jumped and splashed -- and after some time, I wasn't cold. I wasn't stressed. I wasn't aware of much except the rhythmic sound of the pounding waves, the salt on my lips, and the sunlight glinting off thousands of swelling tips of wavetops stretching toward the horizon.

When in doubt, just get in the water. The ocean has a way of reminding you that you're alive and alright.

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