As we float onto summer, I become giddy like a small child. After an eventful and busy school year with my students, summer is a time for me to unwind, focus on myself, and most importantly, spend as much time as I can in my peaceful place: The beach.
I have memories of myself on the beach as a young child. The most vivid and colorful ones are of my grandmother throwing me into the ocean as a five year old. I recall her saying, “Read the ocean, Lianne! Look at how the wave is going to crash! Swim under it or jump over it! It’s easy! You can do it!” Of course, the next thing I remember is nearly drowning, getting pushed and pulled underwater, scraping my knees on the jagged pebbles and rocks, and generally feeling like I was in a washing machine.
Every summer my family would go to the beach, and each time I would try to conquer those big intimidating waves. “Jump over it or swim under it, you can do it!” I would say to myself. The waves seemed smaller as I grew bigger, stronger and smarter. By the time I was eight or nine years old, I felt I had successfully learned to “read the ocean,” like my grandmother had urged me to. I realized that one of the tricks was to focus on only the wave coming at me at the moment. Just that one. If I narrowed my focus, I knew how to react. But if I looked at the waves ahead, I’d get scared and would panic, failing to see what was right in front of me, and I’d get knocked down. Once I learned this trick, I felt much more confident in the water.
Believe it or not, these experiences at the beach taught me more than just how to navigate waves in the ocean. They showed me how to navigate life. I learned how to be brave, how to take changes, face my fears, and get back up again after falling. As I look back now, I can see that the expansive ocean is much like my life, so vast and intimidating in many ways. Like the waves, the best way to conquer is to focus on what is right in front of me. One thought at a time, one challenge at a time, and one task at a time. Just that one. Although I have mostly mastered the ocean, I am still working on mastering life. And aren’t we all? In some moments, it’s easy to see what’s right in front of me. Other times, I feel like I’m looking out into horizon, missing what is right in front of my eyes. But what I’ve noticed is that life, like the ocean, is a big beautiful gift – especially when you learn how to navigate all those scary waves!
When playing this song for my students, I ask them to picture their peaceful places in their head. After listening, the children draw their peaceful places and share them with the class.