This past weekend I headed east on route 64 up the coast of Virginia to Ocean City, MD. I was supposed to spend the weekend in New York with a close friend and then Jersey with family, but when that fell through, I opted for a quiet, sunny weekend at the beach with my grandma. It’s actually never quiet because she lives on the boardwalk, but that’s beyond the point. It was late night walks on the boardwalk, people watching, sunset boat rides, seafood dinners, long morning runs, hours with Mark Twain, and dozing off under the sun. My phone hasn’t been holding a charge well and my grandma has no interest in paying for the Internet, so I was forced to unplug and disconnect.
Traveling back to a place I have spent so many summers in every different season of life puts the demands of right now off on a nightstand with a bookmark to return to when I wake up. It’s like taking a step outside of my world and peering down at it knowing I have the complete power to grow and change any part of it if I want. It is empowering and delusional at the same time. It’s remembering life can and will change. It’s a set of parts and tools, but the step-by-step instructions need to come from experiences. You need to collect them and write your own manual.
Getting away reminds you of the dynamic nature of life. A consistent place that knows you at 7, 13, 15, 22, and 26 remembers things you forgot about. Like 48 hours of drawing organic chemistry reactions staring at the ocean for sanity, passing tests you were terrified to take, staying up all night talking to the boys in the condo next door, the first time you remember being called beautiful, or the police coming to the door because you thought it was funny to throw poppers at people on the boardwalk, the first time you had a run-in with the law. More recently, it’s been a place to read, run, and connect with family. The glasses of wine, sunburns, and chocolate covered strawberries are safety, comfort, and confirmation.
It’s the reminder that the size of your problems now is just physics, time, and distance can and will shrink them and you’ll do better to remember that. It’s realizing you can add numbers, letters, degrees, and medals to your name over the summers, but contentment has less to do with collecting success and more to do with recognizing connections and moments.