what the ocean taught me

Kelly Torres

I was lost. From the month of January until June, I wasn’t present. I was held captive, unable to breathe. I felt like I was running a marathon, constantly gasping for air but only enough to fill my lungs for my next step. Almost as if I was engulfed by darkness, perhaps a chokehold around my throat. My feet wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. I was running further away from the little girl who used to wake up every morning excited to live the next day. 

Gasping and gasping, until finally I was still.

My feet had stopped moving. The darkness was releasing its grip around my throat. Finally, a breath. A full, beautiful breath that entered my body and nourished it. A breath where I didn’t feel like I had to fight to stay afloat. Stillness in the mind and body. I look down at my feet; they are now submerged in blinding, white sand. The sun was reflecting off the water, off the sand onto my face. I felt bright. Free. Light. The beach. It’s the place that finally let me breathe. 

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It became my home for the next two months. Every day, I woke up at 7:30 to spend my first three hours of the day enjoying the beach. It became a sanctuary. My mornings consisted of the following: I woke up, hopped in my car, and 20 minutes later found my way to Greene Street. It’s not an area that’s crowded, it sits right before the boardwalk. It’s the hidden gem of the side street beaches in Hollywood, FL. A gem because it has a shower right at the entrance that, no tourist knows about. I would park my car across the street for free parking and make my way to the rising sun. The many overarching mangroves trees provide shade for the 30 yard wooden walkway, only allowing a small glimpse of sunlight to shine though. With each step the beach becomes more visible.

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It was truly the first moment I took time for myself. No responsibility, no stress, no people to please. Just me; just living. What a weird concept, I thought, “You’re telling me life can always be this way?” This simple yet this fulfilling.

I became a beach bum, a local, as others would say. Most people could tell by the new shade of bronze I became, but my soul speaks louder. I grew, I accepted, and I loved myself in ways I never have before. The power of the ocean. She humbled me. She reminded me how small, how little of a piece I am on this vast planet. 

It's my medicine. The sun finds a way to kiss every inch of my body. All the dark that consumed me is turned to light. My worries seem to vanish, and my heart seems to dance. Within five steps, I can feel the soles of my feet soaking in the positive energy from the sand. The salty air is welcoming while the waves are making music, crashing at a steady rate. These are one of those rare moments where I don’t want my feet to stop. 

The beach never judges. I can do yoga, yell, sing, dance, scream at the top of my lungs. The beach is accepting. She taught me to follow my passions, taught me to have fun alone, and taught me how beautiful this world could be. The beach was the home I always needed.

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I sprint to the water. It’s ice cold but refreshing; the type of cold you oddly don’t want to escape. The waves wash over my body. It’s freeing. Here I am, just a tiny spec floating in a catastrophic world. Each new wave that passes over washes away more and more weight off my shoulders, to the point where I feel light. Like an actual physical light as if I am a sunbeam in the middle of the ocean. I stay in until I get prunny. It’s almost as if my fingertips are adapting to become an amphibian; able to live in water and land like a frog. 

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I make my way back to my towel. Lying flat on my back, I disconnect from my phone, from my thoughts and allow the sun to heal. The saltwater soaks into my skin, touching the deepest parts of my being. 30 minutes can go by, and it felt like my eyes were only closed for 5 seconds. Once I find stillness within my mind, I come back to reality. Coming out from this trance is as if I’m traveling through dimensions and I’m coming back with all the answers to my problems. 

Life feels timeless on the beach. As my morning comes to an end, I make my way back towards the towering mangroves trees. Stopping at the shower, I rinse off the sand while enjoying the best view of the beach. You can see everything. The downtown skyscrapers are miles away from the waves crashing in ahead of me. I take my last deep breath as little specs of saltwater find their way onto my face for the last time. Home.