I am a girl of the ocean. The evidence is so overwhelming that I can’t deny it any longer. I have never found a peace quite like what I feel when I am underneath the surface of the water, eyes wide, breath held. Perfect stillness. Perfect silence. Perfect weightlessness.
The joy I get from this lifestyle is boundless. At first light I paddle out into the waves, my personal morning meditation in motion. I sit on my board, water lapping at my sides and watch the sun break through the clouds. When the wind rips through in the afternoon I take my kite and jump off the tips of the waves, my own playground, feeling the release of my anxieties and my insecurities on each landing. When everything aligns perfectly, I swim in awe alongside some of the most majestic creatures that I have ever encountered – manta rays, sharks, dolphins, whales. When the world is too much for me, I swim furiously out into the ocean as far as I can until the fear racing in my heartbeat calms my soul. And when my head hits the pillow exhausted at the end of each day, I dream of setting sail across oceans, to begin a lifelong voyage surrounded by only the ocean and it’s powerful forces.
Yet, I did not grow up by the sea, as one might think. I did not learn to surf when I was 5 years old. My parents did not infect me with the ocean bug as a child. I grew up in middle class British suburbia. We had to get in a car anytime we wanted to go anywhere. I learnt to swim in an overly-chlorinated pool at the local leisure centre. We went to the beach once a year on vacation. So the salt-water that runs through my veins is not an outcome of my influences, it runs far deeper than that. It connects to something far more primal within me.
I remember the moment I first felt that surge of the ocean’s pull from within my ribcage. I was 14 and going on one of my very first dates, to the movies. He was a nice guy. He picked the film. A surfer chick flick. To be fair, all he really wanted to do was make out. Sadly, he didn’t get the chance to. For 90 minutes I was held captive by the visuals of the ocean, the force, the sound, the power, and mesmerised by the girls that lived and breathed it, their sole purpose to surf on it’s waves. I left the cinema shaking. Shaking because I had encountered a force so powerful within me that I never knew was there. Shaking because something inside me had woken up.
In that moment I had stepped out of my skin, out of the walls of my family home with the south-facing garden, out of my small town in South-East England and my prestigious high school with highly-regarded university options and career paths, and I had understood that I was just an animal existing in a vast nature. And I realised that none of the complex webs they would try and spin through my head could ever compare to that.
Has anyone ever asked you what your spirit animal is? I like to sit and ponder it. Is it a bird that soars high above the clouds? Are you a creature of the mountains? The forest? The snow? Where is it that you feel an all-encompassing sense of belonging? A feeling as if, just maybe, you’d lived there before in another lifetime.
I beg you – look around yourself now. And ask yourself, is it your true calling to be there buried deep within the concrete jungle? Does the sight of the pavement and the glass buildings ease your soul? Do the busy streets set your heart ablaze with the sense of the present moment? What values does this world that you choose to inhabit impart on you?
Sometimes I sit at the waters edge and watch the horizon for hours and hours. Just looking, and listening. Unable to tear my eyes from the infinite in front of me. The ocean has so much to teach me, and yet with no words. How to be humble. To be patient. How to listen with more than just my ears. It tells me when I am not healthy, not just in my body, but also in my mind. And fundamentally, it shows me how insignificant I am. How tiny. How irrelevant. One moment I am here, and the next I could be gone. Just like that. Swallowed by the ocean.
All our lives we are taught that we are important. That we are special. That the world revolves around us. That we can do anything we put our mind to. That we can climb to great heights and achieve great success. And without a powerful force of nature alongside us to guide us, without that endless horizon in front of us to remind us of how small we are, just maybe we will begin to believe it. Just maybe, we will lose sight of our fragility. Lose sight of how impermanent life is.
And we will forget that our life is just one wave that ebbs and flows so beautifully but so briefly. And we were not meant to buy it, or to own it. We were meant to swim in it.
We all come from the sea, but we are not all of the sea. Those of us who are, we children of the tides, must return to it again and again, until the day we don’t come back leaving only that which was touched along the way.