The lessons in life I cannot learn myself, I learn from the ocean. One such lesson is the importance of listening to your body – say, when it needs a break. Usually, being tired does not mean something is wrong: it does not mean you have some life-threatening disease, an unknown condition, or affirm your doctor’s suspicions that since you’ve been abroad, you must have Malaria. This confuses symptom with disease – being tired because you’ve been doing tiring activities is not a symptom, it is the problem, and usually, it’s time to slow down – not continue pushing ahead, taking a “break” by replacing surfing and diving with similarly strenuous activities.
But I don’t slow down. I live what my friends call a 0 to 100 lifestyle, meaning that I have two speeds: full-speed ahead or complete defeat, and there is no in-between. I’m either full-charger-status having the time of my life, or collapsed submissively on the ground with no steam left to burn. This week, I hit the ground.
I won’t go into the details, but what I will say is that despite learning this lesson countless times, I’ve mastered the art of delaying rest by manufacturing brilliant excuses: I got two hours of sleep but seawater will wake me up. If I use enough duct tape the sores will heal. I’m sick, but surfing makes me so happy that I’ll get better. It’s this list of excuses that brought me where I sat this week – land, watching and forcibly resting, while my friend surfed.
Entering the ocean is a privilege, and every time I push it, I’m not only disrespecting myself, but a very large and powerful ocean to which I am just a lucky visitor. Disrespecting the ocean in this way usually leads to repercussions: illness and injury and ultimately, the worst punishment of all: time out of the water. Nothing makes you remember your respect and appreciation for the ocean more than being sentenced to a mandatory break.
A wise Australian man once told me, “A kick in the arse is a good step forward.” The ocean has wholly and truly kicked my arse the last seven days – time usually spent in the water has turned into time spent changing dressings and resting, as I hobble around town with mummified feet and a poor explanation – but I’m just happy it finally let me catch some waves today. Less-than-epic conditions became instantly spectacular, the crowd made me smile, and the water felt more soothing than ever before.
Sometimes, to move forward, we have to sit back. Great things in life come from pushing ahead, but some of the best moments come from slowing down, taking a look around, and appreciating the places that life lets us go. Here’s to listening to our bodies and keeping them healthy, so they’re ready to handle the rigor of a world that is as unpredictable, wild, and unforgiving as an almighty ocean.