The ocean waves lapped calmly on the beach. Susie's skin prickled as the cool evening air blew softly around her. She knew she would be burnt crimson by morning and hate herself for sitting out all day.
But she had to think. She was at the beach to get away from her life, to step back and examine things from outside of herself.
Only it had taken hours to get outside of herself. There was a lot of Self to shove out of the way to get to the exit.
First, she had to leave her boyfriend behind her. She didn't even bother telling him she was going. She left her cell phone at home. She just got in her car and drove. She knew he'd be frantic, calling everyone. She'd have messages on her machine from her friends, her mother, and her boyfriend, each with an opinion of who they thought she should be, or what she should do. But they were not with her now. She needed to shove them aside. Today was about her, not their opinions or advice. She had tried pleasing each of them in turn and ended up a complete wreck.
Once the people were out of the way, she could focus on herself. What was she hanging onto that was not part of her, not really who she was at the core? She went back the basics of herself.
She thought about her childhood. She grew up in a loving home, not rich, not having everything she wanted, but there was love. She was never quite happy though, she longed for adventure and romance. She was always dreaming about faraway places and different cultures. But she grew up, couldn't afford to go out of state for college, and got stuck with an office job not twenty miles from her childhood home.
And work was another hassle altogether. What was she doing there anyway? They were the first company to hire her, recruited her straight out of college. They offered big ideas, solid work, benefits, and a pay she thought was enough. But there's this whole office hierarchy, and social schemes, and triangles, and she wasn't ready to be low man on the totem pole, knocked down, making freshman mistakes and laughed at. And the work itself was monotonous and lowly. She expected herself to do better, in fact, she knew she WAS better than this job.
But she felt stuck by life too. Once she took out the people and the job surrounding her, she was left with her deflated dreams. They encircled her like a cocoon and it was suffocating. She felt like she had disappointed herself.
Salty tears coursed down her cheeks. She got up and waded into the sea. It rocked her like a giant cradle and she drifted back and forth and just cried. Her tears dropped into the sea, salt mixing with salt; twice as many tears as concerns, as hurts, or as troubles in her short life.
When she had nothing more to give to the sea, she considered what was left. She was a shell, she was empty. She was breathing, but not really alive. What was there to live for?
She searched herself, feeling naked, staying up to her neck in the sea water, looking in every crevice of her heart for something worth treasuring. Having all those other things crammed into her heart, forced some of her favorite things back into dark corners. She pulled them out one by one.
The beach. It was calm listening to the sea, but a sea storm was powerful and magical. The lightning seemed to go on for miles across the sky, not just flash between buildings. The sky was purple or black or gray. She wanted to learn to sail or water ski. She wanted to walk for miles on the sand just to watch the waves, feel the sun, and breathe the air. She loved the beach! Maybe she should live here.
She loved the rain. It washed things away, it made pitter patter sounds, and made things look different, brighter somehow. It would rush and beat down one minute, then softly trickle the next. It was fickle and exciting. The rain could comfort, hushing the city sounds and lulling her to sleep, or terrify, stirring up a huge storm that battered the siding and took out trees. Crying was like a rainstorm of the soul, and she felt like her heart had been washed by her tears.
She used to love people, their cultures, their uniqueness, until she worked with them and saw their evil side. She wished for people to hold that magic again and she feared they never would. Not now, maybe not even if she moved. Somewhere there were people out there worth loving, respecting, and learning from.
Her heart ached for lost dreams of travel, slow rainy days, the sea, and universal love, but she didn't cry. She examined these feelings, wrapping them like a warm blanket around her to center herself and remember who she was inside. She grew stronger.
And hope began to blossom.
She waded out of the sea and dried off. She went for an ice cream. She missed ice cream! It was the simple pleasures she had forgotten about. As she licked at the dripping cone, she realized the only way to feel good again was to bring those simple pleasures back into her life.
She could either go back to the old musty job, try to brighten it up, or she could find a new job in a new place, maybe near the ocean. A new place with new people where she could focus on pleasing herself for a while, maybe develop an old talent long locked away.
Suddenly a world of options opened up for her.
As for the people in her life, if they really wanted what was best for her, they would support her decisions because it would make her happy. She would no longer be concerned about what they thought of her.
She was one person in this world, one of many unhappy, restless, and searching people, like a drop in the ocean of humanity.
But now she realized she didn't have to be.