Yesterday, in celebration of another beautiful southern California day, one of my oldest/dearest friends and I decided to pay a visit to Venice beach, our old stomping grounds. It had been a long time since she had made her way to the Westside from her newlywed home in the valley, and even longer since I had last made my way home from the east coast. We were both ecstatic to be away from our respective sweltering homes, and comforted in each other’s company in the way that only old friends with infinite shared childhood memories are.
Laying out as best we could on our narrow beach towels (why do we always forget the large blankets?!), we breathed in the ocean air (and much too much whirling sand) and reminisced about the good ol’ days: long bike rides on the beach, backyard pool parties, sneaking out to buy candy from the corner store, meeting silly boys with sillier agendas at the neighborhood park, and countless other shenanigans growing girls encounter. With each memory came the silent mutual understanding that every moment from our childhood had to happen in the exact way that it happened for us to become the twenty-somethings we are today. We shared a knowingness that every single life experience we’ve had, both “good” and “bad”, has contributed to the lovely women we’ve grown to be. And I felt enormous gratitude for just being.
Sitting in that moment of clarity, the ocean breeze rushing by, the waves crashing just yards from my wiggling toes in the warm sand, I saw a glimpse of children building a sandcastle and remembered one of my earliest visits to that same beach. I must have been no more than 5 years old, and I was playing in the sand with some beach toys. I remember very distinctly that the red shovel and matching bucket were my tools of choice for all my hard work beach digging (so much sand, such tiny hands!). I remember marching so bravely into that freezing ocean, waves crashing at my little knees, in an attempt to collect muddy water (and hopefully some hidden sandcrabs) for a sand creation of my own. I had just filled the bucket halfway when the angry current sucked the mighty shovel right out of my tiny hands. I tried to run in after it, but I was no match for the thieving waves pulling my beloved red shovel further and further from my grasp. I watched helplessly as it quickly disappeared into the abyss, never to be seen again. And no matter how hard I cried, that shovel never did return to me.
It was in that moment that I learned my first hard life lesson: “Life sucks”, literally. Oceans suck up shovels, favorite toys are lost. That’s just the way it goes. But the magic happens afterwards, when we decide how to move forward with the suckiness just presented to us. We can continue to cry about it forever, lamenting that lost shovel and all we could’ve built with it, or, we can wipe our tears, bid that loyal shovel adieu, and start digging with our hands. I don’t think I ever dug a better hole than that very day when my lovely shovel disappeared.