Some of my earliest memories in life are of Nantucket Island. (Yes, I am the man from Nantucket; no, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.) I lived there with my mother (who, by the way, managed to raise me single handedly with only a GED under her belt for education and without any support from my father) for about 7 of the first 10 years of my life. I was very introspective as a kid, and I don’t just mean introverted; I really sought to understand and master my own emotional and spiritual side (even if I didn’t understand it as such at the time).
If you’ve never been to Nantucket, it’s an island about 30 miles off of the coast of MA and only 24 miles all the way around. It’s essentially beach all the way around without much as far as develoments go in the middle. You don’t live on the Island without learning to appreciate (and respect – several tourists per year get caught in the undertow every summer) the beach, real beaches without buildings and tacky tourist traps, in all sorts of weather. (To this day, I prefer the beach, by far, in the Fall.) I spent my fair share of time on the shores just listening.
Now, I consider myself more spiritual than religious; I think it is awfully presumptuous to say any of us really have a grasp completely on who God is, though in this context, I will say that I am just as certain that He exists now as I was then and that He never stopped speaking to us. While I respect your right to refute that, that time I spent as a child, listening on untamed shores bore fruit later in my life. Promises I was assured of then carried me through dark times I faced as a child, a teen and even as an adult.
The beach has been a touchstone, of sorts, ever since. To me, if freedom could be bottled and carried around, it is there. The ocean is the Earth’s heartbeat, and it has been beating steady longer than humans have walked the planet and it’ll keep beating steady as long as this rock still has any life left in it. All of the concerns, cares, anxieties, etc. fall away as soon as my feet touch sand, the roar of the waves and the seagull’s song hits my ears and that smell of salt water touches my nostrils. 25 years later, I am still standing in the shallows wondering how far I can sink if I stand there long enough, and, of course, not staying long enough to find out, wishing instead I could just wander the ocean’s floor uninhibited.
The ocean itself speaks, if you listen, whispers of exploits never heard by human ears, reminders that adventures have not gone out of style and that other lands still call to us to explore. (It doesn’t matter if they have been explored already… just ask Christopher Columbus!) 😉 We have this beautiful planet to traverse, and everytime I make that first step into the ocean, I am reminded of the scope of our lives in the big picture. It humbles me. It reminds me of just how small the things I let hinder me from moving on are and how artificial and empty those worries are.
But it also encourages me. I may be only a vapor, just a speck of paint in a masterpiece, a single note in a grand symphony… but why else would I be here if not to shine, as I am, to resound in eternity in a way unique to me? As long as I’m breathing, there is still hope, still ground to stand on to push to be more than a moral man, a “nice guy”. Please don’t let anybody say at my funeral that I was a “nice guy”. Let me be the guy that kicked the right asses, took ground nobody else thought could be taken and left a legacy worth following. I don’t even mind if a few thought I was deeply nuts; I’ll be happy to settle for “mad genius”. But I know that, without that time spent watching the sun rise over the Atlantic (“good morning, world”), I’d forget my own face, so to speak.
However and wherever you need to go to rise above your immediate circumstances, find it, make it a discipline to go as often as needed. Encourage yourself to be dangerous, tread ground beyond your routine. The world, including your family and friends, need you to be the best you possible.