When I was 17, I counted down the days until I could escape from Small Town, New Jersey.
I went to school with the same people since I was in diapers, and we all knew a little too much about one another.
Going away to college screamed “fresh start," and I was more than ready for a clean slate.
I spent the summer following graduation soaking up the sun on New Jersey’s popular shoreline — a place where people vacation, but a place I call home.
The days came and went, and despite the flocks of people who came to the shore to enjoy a little slice of sandy heaven, I felt like I was trapped in hell. I needed to get out.
In August, I packed up my bags and headed eight hours south to my college. I didn’t know a single soul, but I thought I was doing the right thing.
Despite what I originally thought, the drama didn’t stop in my high school hallways. Some girls were just as mean in college, and the boys were just as immature.
My days were jam-packed with papers and tests, and I was desperate for the beach days I once considered boring.
It took me a few months away from home to realize no matter how far away I traveled, the beach would be my constant.
I found that regardless of how much I took it for granted, growing up at the beach was genuinely good for my soul:
1. The tides teach you to accept change and remain optimistic.
Though I know change is inevitable, it scares the sh*t out me every single day. I’m a creature of habit, and I take comfort in consistency.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it’s that change could not care less about my comfort level. Change will happen regardless of how prepared I am.
In growing up at the beach, I’ve come to accept change for what it’s worth.
Tides vary from highest to lowest at various points, just as we all do in the span of our lives.
When the tide is low, I know better waves are on the horizon. When I’m at a low point, I rest assured the best days of my life are yet to come, so long as I find acceptance in change.
2. You learn to appreciate the small things.
You know that extremely exhausted cliché that goes something along the lines of, “You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone?”
This statement has resonated with me at two points in my life: When my grandparents died and when I moved 500 miles away from the coastline.
Being unable to drive to the beach at my leisure made me appreciate its most minuscule aspects.
I now appreciate the way the hot sand feels compared to the cold sea breeze.
I appreciate the way the salt water leaves its print on my skin after a swim. I appreciate the vitamin D and the blond streaks it leaves in my hair.
I appreciate the small things I spent nearly 18 years overlooking.
3. It forces you to slow down in this constantly moving world.
The best thing about the beach is the spotty cell service.
Some of my fondest memories revolve around technology-free beach days spent building sandcastles, catching up with family, (pretending to be good at) swimming, etc.
Regardless of what is going on in my life, the combination of waves crashing on the shore and the cool breeze that comes off of the ocean makes it impossible to stress.
Growing up at the beach has made it so difficult to believe we live in such a materialistic world.
4. It gives you something to feel proud of.
Despite how many times people compare my home to the botched reality TV show, "Jersey Shore," I will forever be proud of where I come from.
Few people are privileged enough to spend their lives living in a postcard. Even fewer people are able to say their backyard is a beach.
Because I go to school in the middle of the mountains, I'm used to people being jealous when I tell them I live at the beach.
I won't lie: I bask in every minute of their jealousy. I feel like a proud momma when I talk about my home!
5. It will always welcome you home with open arms.
I miss the beach every single day. I miss how it calmed me when my life spiraled out of control.
I miss the friends the beach gave me during my childhood. I miss the salt air filing every inch of my lungs.
Regardless of how many times I abandon the beach, after a long break, it will always be there to welcome me home.
I can’t say that about too many other things in life. For that reason alone, I’ll never be able to move too far away from the coast.
Here’s to you, beach. I’m sorry for leaving you when I was 17, but I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you.