My Q&A With the Sea
As I stood on the cliffs of Land’s End – the Westernmost point on the UK’s coast – I looked out to sea. Just a few small miles away was Cape Cornwall. There, the current pulls the ocean southerly to France or northerly to Wales. I stood and listened to the salty water crash against the rocks. Gulls flew overhead and swept down into the crevices of the earth. My hair whipped and stung my face and eyes. A few dinghies floated along, indifferent to the wind and impending rain. I stood where the land ended, dropped off, and fell into the sea. And on the other side of the Atlantic, out west, was home. I couldn’t tell which direction I was going – either pulled by the current towards Philadelphia or knocked back to land in England. It wasn’t a matter of indifference, either. Rather, it was a matter of not knowing.
I’m not sure what the next step is just yet. As the months get warmer (at least as warm as they do out here in England) the question of, “So what are your plans after this year?” keeps popping up. I’ve drafted a few different answers for different audiences. “I actually don’t have anything set in stone yet and I’m seeing what opportunities come my way,” doesn’t sit well with most people. It’s usually followed up by a, “Okay, so does that mean you’re going back to the states?” Quite frankly, my answer doesn’t sit well with me either. I like knowing my next steps.
I did however know that it felt good to get out of London. It had been far too long since I left city limits. I’ve been so swallowed by school recently. It was getting to me. So I booked a train out to the West to visit my friend and fellow Jack Kent Cooke scholar Stacey De Amicis. (rather Dr. DeAmicis as she just received her PhD!) While staying in her lovely home in Plymouth I experienced some truly breathtaking places. I’ve always been content by the water, but these were no regular beaches or bays. Jagged granite jutted into crystal blue water, surrounded by rolling green fields, ancient stone circles, stunning plantlife – all the while breathing in the freshest air I’ve had since living here. I loved the sound of my wellies sinking into the mud beneath me and feeling a bit of rain on my face without the worry of, “oh god, is this going to give me a skin rash or something?” If the rain in London was like the bar wash swept up at the end of the night, then the rain out west was like that, but put through the Mary Poppins of Brita filters. What I’m saying here is…there was fresh air and clean water.
And it’s the little things like that which make all the difference. Or people who smile back when you pass them on the street rather than avert their eyes and hope you’re not another charity worker with a clipboard. I was reminded what it’s like to be surrounded by people who look outwards toward the horizon all day rather than their feet, wristwatch, or keyboard. In simplest terms, it was lovely and refreshing.
I went to the coast with the intention of clearing my head a bit. I did, even though I didn’t come any closer to a conclusion on what’s next. I remembered a friend telling me before I moved out here to, “go make your world bigger.” I try to keep that with me. It’s easy to get lost in the madness of a one-year Masters program in a massive foreign city (trust me, London is foreign). I am making my world bigger. I’m meeting really great people along the way and am being afforded opportunities I would have never imagined for myself a few years back. And an education on top of all of it. (Really, Jack Kent Cooke, thank you for believing in the value of education enough to fund my work – as I would have given up on the idea of further education had it not been for my scholarship). As what’s next draws closer, the best I can hope for, is to take in what’s now.
On a rather blustery and “weathery” day (Common out here in the UK “springtime” we saw heavy rain, hail, wind, and sun) a young boy of no more than 5 or 6 ran up to Stacey and I as we were looking across the water over towards Mount Edgecumbe. He yelped, “Look! Look!” and pointed towards the sea below, telling us in great detail how the sea swelled up and pulled away. Then, as a large naval cruiser passed us by he excitedly told us all about what different ship names meant before running up the hill back towards his father. As he scurried off I thought, “ah, to be a sponge.” Maybe that’s the best way to look at things – see the world with the wonder of a kid, even as the immense pressure of adulthood looms, and that incessant need in our 20s to “find ourselves.” Be excited to learn. Point to the things that excite you, shout it out with enthusiasm, and share it with people, even if you’ve just met them on a hillside. (Someone in Hampstead Heath or Regent’s Park might think you’re insane, but maybe you’ll luck out and meet a fellow sponge).
And now back to that incessant paper….