904 - Swimming in the Ocean

That’s what I did with my Saturday. In the morning, right after I woke up, I gave myself one goal: swim in the ocean.

My wife and I had planned a beach trip with our little boy and my brother, and I recognized that old familiar hesitation. Beaches are full of sand and salt and wind. The water is cold and choppy and full of malevolent creatures. More often than not, over the past few years, I’ve opted out. Even if that meant finding an umbrella to sit under and read a book.

Life is too short, I thought, to spend energy on things that are so tedious and potentially upsetting.

Needless to say, I haven’t taken many beach trips recently.

Two things motivated me to make that goal on Saturday morning:

1) I don’t like the person I become when I default to my comfort zone.

2) I remembered that I used to LOVE swimming. I was a fish when I was a kid, and I’ve tasted the private glory of open water.

Not that I looked forward to it. But I made the commitment and then tried not to think too much about how awkward and uncomfortable it is to apply sunscreen.

When we got there, I pulled off my shirt, performed that greasy ritual, and headed straight for the water.

The Pacific was still the Pacific. Cold. But, to the day’s credit, the water is at its level best at the end of August. With gritted teeth and some exhilarated determination, I splashed into the breaking waves.

And then, obviously, I had a wonderful time. My brother and I body surfed for quite a while (I only got slammed into the sandbar a couple of times), and then ventured past the breakers and kept on swimming. I felt like I could go forever.

At one point, a chopper flew overhead, and then a lifeguard boat pulled up to ask us if we were OK. We shouted yeah and put our thumbs in the air, feeling a little embarrassed by the attention. When we made it back to shore, there was an ATV and a gaggle of other lifeguards, one of whom greeted us and asked that if we were going to swim out past the shark nets, please let one of them know beforehand. My wife then informed me that they had blown the whistle after us a bunch of times early on, but of course we hadn’t heard them.

In a word, we had an adventure.

It’s amazing how sad comfort zones look from the outside.