I always find myself right back here.
The home I grew up in is about a three minute drive from the nearest beach with a wide view of Lake Michigan. I drove there all the time for sunset or to dance in the sand or to just stand and stare for a while, when that was all I was capable of focusing on. I would hop in my car and blare Jesus jams all the way down the winding road, down the bumpy dirt path crowded with trees and forest, where herds of deer bounded beside my rusty car making its slow way to the water. I don’t live at home anymore, but whenever I find myself back for a visit, I’m back in the car making my way to the waves.
I always find myself right back there.
There is something so alluring about this specific beach. Perhaps it’s the familiarity. Or the fact that I almost always have the beach to myself. Maybe it’s the way the water is a different hue of blue every time I see it, always crashing waves or calm stillness. It could be the way that the sunsets are somehow more beautiful when it’s freezing out, when the sand chills your toes to the bone instead of blistering them with heat. Maybe it’s the sky.
But I know what it actually is. It’s the way this place reminds me of where I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go.
I can see the ghosts of my past selves on this beach, each slightly different, each with varying levels of maturity and heartbreak and experiences and living under her eyelids.
I sit down in the middle of the small stretch of sand. The swelling waters roar in front of me. The sand slopes up to a peak behind me, with two gazebos on either side of the hill.
I look down the sand to my left where a mountain of rocks jut out from the water. Sophomore me is sitting on his lap on one of the rocks, the chilly water lapping up to kiss our toes. The sun is still warm on our legs despite it fading fast. I’m cupping his face with my palms and looking at him as if he’s everything good in this world. He was a senior. My first love. Full of innocence and hopefulness. His hands snake around my waist to hold me closer and he grins at me as I brush his hair out of his face. He’s warm, but I still shiver.
My eyes wander away and follow junior me through months of the year, as she wanders through the warm fall months with a different boy, transitioning through the cold holding him as he takes pictures of the sunset and of me because he is captivated by details, by my details. I follow junior me all the way up the sand dune to late November where he is kissing me sweetly and asking to be my boyfriend, and I'm happily saying yes.
They disappear into the waves.
My eyes find the gazebo. I’m a senior now. A different boy is doing ridiculous dance moves in front of me. My laughs fill the warm summer air. He pauses his dancing occasionally to place his hands on my cheeks and kiss me deeply. I can taste his smile. He feels like home.
My eyes trek up to the parking lot. The same boy is sitting in the car with me, gripping my hand tightly, telling me he isn’t sure this is what was best for both of us. Tears stain my cheeks. The sun sets in front of us.
And I see every moment in between. I see myself come alone a million times. I see myself collapse into the velveteen sand and sob. I see myself learning to dance through the water again. I see my heart open up again. I see myself move forward. I see myself falling. Again. And then it repeats.
Like fast-forwarded scenes of a movie, I see all of this as it catches up to the moment I’m in now. Sitting in the frozen sand, staring out at the turbulent lake waves, chilled air pricking at my cheeks. And I know why I always find myself right back here. This place reminds me of where I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go.
It reminds me I am in exactly the right place. I am not a moment ahead or behind. I am exactly where I need to be.
It reminds me that I have really ugly stumbles and falls. And that staying on the ground for a while is okay. But eventually, no matter how much time it takes, you have to get up and start walking again.
It reminds me that some of the things I thought were the biggest roadblocks of my life, the most important problems and moments, will feel so unbelievably tiny in time.
It reminds me that missing people is okay.
It reminds me that no matter how far you stray, you’ll always come back to the home you’re meant to be at.
It reminds me that sometimes the things I want aren’t really the things I need.
It reminds me that sometimes I have to go down the darkest roads to return to the light and truly appreciate it.
It reminds me that I need to be grateful for even the lowest points of my life, because there would be no way to grow without them.
It reminds me that I am strong. I am qualified. I am enough.
It reminds me to find the astonishing beauty in absolutely everything.
It reminds me to truly be thankful for the time I have with some people, because they will not always be there. Some people are just destined to leave from the very start.
It reminds me I have control over my emotions. My reactions. My own health. I hold the reigns.
It reminds me to never wait to say I love you.
It reminds me of why I am alive.
It reminds me of where I’ve been. Where I’ve yet to go.
To look forward.
I stare at the waves. They will never become boring. They are rhythmic. They swell, grow, crash, disappear, rebuild.
Just like us.