I’ve always been drawn to the ocean. It’s as though a life force pulls me toward it. I’ve never been able to encapsulate why exactly. It’s just something I know. It’s a place where my heart is meant to be. In my most recent trip seaside I felt something I never have before: a need to define this pull and understand what it is.
Because then I would better understand myself.
The astrology-minded would offer an explanation from the stars: you’re a Pisces. A fish. Your soul was born of the ocean and that’s where it is most at home. Just as the waves simultaneously rush to grab at the shore and are snatched back out to sea by the pull of the tide, you are constantly pulled in opposite directions. In this way, the ocean may be the only force that understands you fully. You connect with its energy. This idea definitely resonates with me.
I am constantly pulled in opposite directions.
My younger, less self-aware, self would tell a different story. It’s the experience. The sensations. The grit of the sand on my skin sloughing off all the roughness polishes away the roughness in my mind and heart too. The richness of the sand turning from dry to wet under my feet allows me to sink in and just be present. The sound of the waves rushing in drowns out the doubt and worry in my ears. The sounds of laughter and music playing under umbrellas wake me up to the carefree nature of life and turn me away from the trouble. The vibrant contrasting colors of the sea and sand offer a reminder that sorrow and strife can be present in a joyful moment, and perfect beauty and bliss can exist during troublesome times. It’s easy here for me to be fully present.
Connecting to my senses and experience and staying in the moment is the best way to turn away from the nagging anxiety that always lives inside.
But this time I noticed an important metaphor. One that meets me right where I’m at with a lifelong internal struggle: the agony of possibility. Possibility is a blessing, but we all see it and handle it differently. Some believe they never have any options available to them and they need to catch a break. They are trapped. Waiting for their possibility to come along. If you are a person like this, you may feel that you are only ever faced with challenges. Insurmountable challenges. And just when you get one thing figured out, life knocks you over with another. It’s like looking out at the waves and seeing them as nothing but nuisances that will knock you down. Something to brace yourself for.
But look closely, or you’ll miss the opportunity in the challenge. A wave might knock you down, but you will learn something, grow stronger, and be better prepared for the next one.
Others are looking for the perfect possibility and wait for it. They see plenty of opportunities, but none of them are THE ONE. So they wait. Then the next, better opportunity comes along, but it’s still missing something. So they wait again. They are trapped. If you are one of these people, you may find yourself analyzing every chance that comes along, searching for the ways it will fall short. But every wave has the potential to knock you down, or not take you far enough. They all look the same and have the same odds. It’s not which wave you pick, but how you ride it that counts. There’s no perfect opportunity. If you spend your life waiting for the dream job or the perfect relationship, you’ll always be disappointed.
No matter what you start with, you have to invest in it to make it grow into what you’ve dreamed of.
To me possibilities are as endless as the waves of the ocean. They never stop coming. I can’t choose which wave to ride because they all look incredible, and I have a need to know how they each fit in a bigger picture of my life. I did this when I chose both my undergraduate and graduate schools. I had a hard time choosing which city to live in because I was trying to picture my whole life there and all versions of my life had potential. It took me awhile to choose a major and a career because I could see myself doing so many things, and I didn’t know which one would fulfill me for a lifetime. Feeling like I need to commit to these choices forever and plan out my life keeps me stuck. I’ve tried to solve the problem a variety of ways. Waiting for something to make the decision for me and close a door. Setting up a pro and con list and over-analyzing every aspect of the decision. Looking for signs from God to point me in the right direction. The result? Many times I end up missing out on the opportunities because I was paralyzed by fear of choosing. I’m trapped. My need to see the big picture and have a plan for everything stops me from jumping in. But watching the waves come into shore is a powerful reminder.
Life never stops to wait, but rushes onward with or without you
When I’m in the ocean, I don’t think about which wave to ride in. I watch them all, see one that looks good, and freely decide to try that one out. I don’t worry about injury or failure. I don’t try to picture what the outcome will be. I just enjoy the ride for what it is. I don’t expect it to last forever. When that wave ends, I just catch the next wave, the next exhilarating ride. I would benefit from living my life the same way. Not worrying about which path to choose, but just focusing on what feels right, jumping in, and going with the flow.
Tonight I had an opportunity to go salsa dancing and I took it without worrying that I should be preparing for the work week. I made three new friends. I connected with each of them over different things and now I have new doors open to me. One of them dances in competitions, and when he asked me to dance I panicked a little because I’m not at his level. He sensed my nerves as we took our first steps and told me not to worry about a thing. So I didn’t. It would have been completely alright if I failed and looked like an idiot, but instead he took my dancing skills and confidence in them to a new level. Yesterday I probably would have told him no because I worried about keeping up and it was later than I wanted to stay out. I would have gone home and missed out on an opportunity for growth. But today I took my own advice and jumped right in.
So here’s the message for all of us, regardless of how we approach opportunity.
Challenges are opportunities to open new doors, grow us, and make us stronger. Embrace them. Opportunity isn’t perfect. If you see one in front of you, take it. Don’t analyze it. Invest in it. You will be richly rewarded by investing in a flawed opportunity. It will take you places you’ve never dreamed you could go. And finally, there doesn’t have to be a plan to choose an opportunity. It doesn’t have to fit in a bigger picture. If it feels right it will take you somewhere you are meant to be and may never have seen coming.
So don’t you worry ’bout a thing…