Life is all about rolling with the punches, this I´ve learned. How do you respond to a setback? You need to have a balls-to-the-wall attitude towards everything you do, and if things don´t work out you still maintain that mentality.
Here´s an example from today.
I was working until 3 pm, and upon finishing I would head to the ocean to meet a couple of the other workers, where we would go surfing. When 3 o´clock rolled around, I packed up my things, grabbed my board and shuffled on down.
Now, since the waves are so large on the Osa Peninsula, I have often found that getting past the breaking waves is, in fact, more difficult than the actual surfing itself. In fact, I’ve had sessions where I never make it passed the break.
So today, I entered the water, immediately getting my feet cut, scraped and battered by the thousands of baseball sized stones that are carried back and forth with each wave. This I’ve taken to be an unavoidable constant, a sort of penalty you pay in order to surf the renowned waves of the peninsula.
I ventured a few feet out, hastily hopped on my board, and started paddling. Almost instantly I was met head on by a wave and was thrown heedlessly back into the rolling rocks. With some fresh scrapes and bruises, I hopped back on my board and tried again, same result.
I watched how the Ticans (local Costa Ricans) approached the wave head-on. They would dive under and gracefully reappear on the other side of the wave a few seconds later. This I couldn´t seem to fathom, let alone master. Every time I attempted, I would be carelessly picked up by the wave and promptly deposited somewhere near the shore. So not only would I make no progress, rather I´d find myself back to where I started, usually with an unhealthy amount of seawater intruding into my sinuses. The whole process was quite disheartening.
I´d try to convince myself that I was just experiencing a series of abnormally large waves and try again. Same result. And again. Same result. And again. Same result.
Today alone I must´ve withstood a beating from sixteen different waves, all of which would bring me right back to my starting position, like some cruel board game.
Eventually, I decided that my fight against the ocean was a mismatch and that, giving up and retiring to shore might be in my best interest. But here’s the thing, just because you’ve decided to leave the water, doesn’t, in fact, mean you’re safe. You don’t get to decide when you’re done with the ocean, that’s her domain.
I was carried back and forth with the tide a few more times before I finally got my footing. At that point, I dropped my board which got sucked into the tide itself. Fortunately, it is attached to a leash which is attached to my ankle. That ensured that, when the tide came back in, the board came right back to me, knocking me off my feet in the process. I was once again sucked back into the tide and the punishment continued. I tell you I have never felt so helpless.
Finally, I made it to shore and positioned myself at what I thought was a safe distance away from the ocean. I stood there for a few seconds pondering my own incompetence when, as if trying to underscore my inferiority, a wave came crashing in, picking up a thick piece of driftwood and swiftly depositing it into my right shin.
“YEEEOOOOOW” I screamed out in pain.
I couldn’t believe all this was happening. It was like being a fish flopping around out of the water, but more pathetic.
I eventually retreated to higher ground where, as if nature itself was conspiring against me, I got my leash caught on a branch, and stepped on a cactus.
It took all my forces to retreat to the path that would lead my languid self back to the innocuous comfort of my room.
Before departing I stole one last glance at the ocean and took note that the waves had in fact subsided, if just for a few moments. Before I had the chance to dissuade myself I was in the water and paddling out. And here´s what happened next.
I caught a wave.
I mean, I surfed a wave, quite deftly too, I might add. Whereas before, all the waves I had ridden were caught head on, so the already broken wave would push me straight into shore, where, after a few seconds of stability, I would progress to standing.
This wasn’t like that.
This time I caught the wave on the angle, positioning myself always a few feet ahead of the crashing white cap, cutting and carving, and riding it all the way. It was incredible.
I was in such an ecstatic state that I hardly took note of what one of the guys was trying to say to me.
“Viste el tiburón?” meaning “Did you see the shark?”
I didn´t see the shark, nor did I care that much. I had already fought a brutal battle with nature and persisted. I knew she could have vanquished me then and there, in a rather gruesome fashion I might add, but I think she had proved her point.
I´ve learned a lot of lessons in life through persistence. When life throws punches your way you roll with them. You be smart, you be brave, and you take chances. And though you can´t avoid the trouble, the pain, the misfortune, or the discomfort, you can dictate how you respond to them. When your chin is held high, and your faith persists, that is when lessons are learned, clues are revealed, and growth is achieved.