I could practically hear my friend Amie giggling through the text. She sent me an image of a note she had scrawled and left on someone’s windshield. She noticed this someone heading in to the café to grab the requisite morning jolt in a cup. Arrested by whatever makes up that funky alchemy responsible for drawing one human to another, she took matters into her own hands (literally). The outcome remained fuzzy at worst, thrillingly hopeful—a scene from a Romcom brought to life—at best.
I laughed when I saw the photo. There was a part of me that thought, well this is very Amie: a total baller, someone who moves through the world with sweetness and swagger; she is a woman who owns her skin with unapologetic pride because it was not always her own. I fist bumped the air. This felt like a win for all of us who talk a good “carpe” game, but balk or stall out completely when it comes to follow through. Making shit happen, it turns out, is not as neat, fun, and safe as it looks on those beautifully curated Instagram photos where sunsets kiss the lips of the Grand Canyon and Northern Lights spiral over night skies in New Zealand. We all look at those things and want to be in those moments, because really what we want is to drink in the feeling of arrival; we want to breeze through the hardest part, which is making the first move, so we can hurry up and enjoy the blush of satisfaction.
The reason we carpe or not is exquisitely personal, which does not make it ideal for pretty Pinterest graphics and inspired Instagram posts—the slick guideposts of our purposefully sanitized reality. It means that the “doing” is not the scary part, the thing that cranks up our sweat glands and keeps us awake at night is knowing that the choice-go or stay, do or don’t, make the call or blow it off another day—is on you alone. The weight of that responsibility alone is enough to loop us up in knots of iron.
Amie texts me again days later. “Coffee date with note guy!” it reads, accompanied by a small army of emojis: grinning face, goofy face, blushing face, thumbs up, hearts, and stars. Damn straight, I whisper. No matter what happens with this guy, she’s already richer. Her bravery in action is a thing of beauty.
I remember the first time I went to the beach in the summer. Until that time, I had only been off-season, waddling around on the rocky jetties bundled up in stocky coats. I was about twelve and had gone for the day with a girlfriend and her family. The shock of the icy Atlantic made me squeal and hop around. The surf batted me as easily as a tennis pro knocking balls at practice, the sense of being out of control was kind of exhilarating.
But the sensation I recall as the most alien and surprising was standing at the edge of the shore where the sand was made smooth and thick from the rhythmic stroking of wave after wave. My feet sunk into the sand that seemed more like cement. As the water roared in and quickly receded I felt it pull on my ankles. It was as if the ground beneath me scurried away along with the water. I glanced down to make sure I was still rooted in the same spot. A few times the waves were so powerful that they caused my knees to buckle a little, threatening to drag me into the current if I gave just a bit more and let myself be swept into the surf.
We let our feet sink deeply into that viscous sand where we believe they’re secure. The tide charges in with its attendant energies and begs us to play, to move even a fraction of an inch to see what happens. In that instant we can burrow our feet deeper to secure our footing, gazing out at the horizon—safe, still, waiting. Or we can choose to heed the call, to acquiesce to the pull, and to join in as part of the current that powers our lives.