TL; DR: A lazy day of fun in the sun. We drive from Hollywood Hills to Malibu catch some waves off the Pier before driving to Palm Springs, and Donna does some soul searching. Evening plans are turned upside down when we receive thrilling news from an industry icon (and personal hero).
Coming back down from yesterday's stratospheric heights required more than just a long evening of checked out, nighttime passenging. After squeezing all four vehicles into the tight, 90 degree driveway of our rented mansion in Hollywood Hills (another instance of rocking accommodations that we could only stay in because of our group size) shortly after midnight, and after giddily exploring its many rooms decorated with over-the-bed inspirational posters (below) and funky monkey art (also below), we plunked our butts down outside on the patio beneath searing hot heat lamps and began to decompress.
We spent the next two hours flipping through photographs taken during the unbelievable day we'd just had, as though we all secretly felt that unless we reflected on every tiny detail at great length we would wake up the next morning to discover that it never happened and it was all just a dream. But eventually the need for rest became a bodily compulsion that our wired brains could no longer deny, and we all went to bed.
It probably doesn't come as a surprise to learn that everyone slept in the following morning. And when people did finally start emerging from their respective dens, they were wearing sleepy faces and wrinkled pyjamas. So Michael and I took advantage of the quiet morning to decorate Bones in RS finery (gold Carrera side stickers, Project Feint wheel).
We took our time. We paused frequently to let our fingers brush against each other's hips whenever we were near enough to do so. We worked on Bones together, helping one another as though we were a well-oiled, manual, 2.7L naturally aspirated air-cooled machine (har har). And when we misstepped and bumped into each other unintentionally (while scraping our knees on the pavement and catching our nails on sticker backings), we seized the opportunity to kiss. It was an idyllic and blissful morning.
Our slow morning became a slow afternoon, and we spent it splashing around in the heated outdoor pool (Brittany schooled us all with an epic front flip from the roof into the deep end). When we finally bid goodbye to Hollywood Hills we followed it up with a leisurely drive to Malibu Pier where half of our team (Michael, Brittany, Mike, and Greg) suited up in well-used (stench-ridden and threadbare) neoprene skins, and rented boards to catch some waves. Gnar.
With toes nested in the cool sand, I found that my thoughts were as fluid as the ocean that stretched out in front of me. I was cerebrally buoyant, and my mind journeyed down paths that I hadn't explored in years.
In full transparency (and to provide some context), these past few months at home have been difficult. One might go so far as to call them miserable. Not because I haven't been happy with how things are but because of some lingering reason, an Eeyore-worthy cloud of doubt that refused to leave me alone, that I've been unable to put my finger on. My current heightened sense of serenity, a state of calm that I can only attribute to having lived through a a highly emotional situation (yesterday's Turbo debacle) that allowed no space for me to dwell on all the stresses that normally occupy my mind, gave me some much needed perspective.
Hypnotized by the expansive sky,
...and the rising and falling swell that was followed by long lulls during which no waves rose at all, I realized that the unrelenting ocean mirrored an emerging pattern in my own life. I realized that my highest of highs coincided with when my work had clear purpose that I believed in; and that my lowest of lows occurred when my sense of purpose and beliefs were out of sync. The time in between (the misleading calm that often obscures an underlying riptide current) was when I was heads down, doing whatever needed to be done to get me to the next high.
What disturbed me about this pattern wasn't that my lowest of lows corresponded to my failures (that's to be expected, right?), but that they corresponded to the times that I'd failed myself.
The first time I failed myself in a Big Way was when I failed to get my SCUBA certification during my final year of undergrad. Without my certification I couldn't be the underwater archaeologist that I'd always dreamed of one day becoming and had worked toward for years. But here's the thing: I'm terrified of being underwater in open water, I find being cold and wet the most uncomfortable feeling in the world, and I'm not a strong swimmer. In fact, I chose to pursue underwater archaeology because it was A) pretty -excuse my french- fucking awesome, and B) it was a serious challenge and if I could do that then I could do anything.
But try as I might, no matter how hard I pushed myself to become a better swimmer and no matter how hard I pretended to be alright with being cold, wet and miserable, deep down inside I knew I was fooling myself. And when, sick to my stomach with fear, I went up north to Tobermory with the Hart House Underwater club (with whom I'd been training for twelve weeks in order to certify in the barely-above-freezing waters of Georgian Bay), I secretly worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. Deep down, I wasn't even I sure wanted to.
My first dive went swimmingly well (if you ignore that I Bambi-splatted on the poop deck of a national relic shipwreck) in spite of my intense discomfort and gut-twisting terror. (You can't hear underwater. You can't breathe. The water closes in above your head and you're left entirely alone with questions like: What if I panic? What if I forget all my training? What if I can't clear my ears? (A fear that's been with me since my first flight.)) My second dive took an unfortunate turn for the worse. I succumbed to performance pressures because I loathed being the one person to hold everyone else up. I didn't want to delay the instructor, my substitute diving partner (my actual diving partner with whom I'd been practising couldn't make it), so I did the one thing you should never do while diving. I rushed. I misjudged my ability to clear my ears, pushed myself, and went down too fast.
A sharp pain sliced through my head, splitting it in half from ear to ear, and my mind blanked. In a flash I became entirely convinced that I'd blown out my eardrums, and that surely I'd rise to the surface and find myself deaf or permanently damaged. So I panicked. All of a sudden I couldn't remember right from left, up from down, and the hand signals I'd been practising for weeks got all jumbled up in my head. I didn't know if thumbs up meant that all was good, or that I should rise, or that someone's head -most likely mine- was about to pop off.
My instructor and partner, a hearty cold-bearing adventurer and accomplished underwater explorer, could tell something was wrong with me. But I couldn't tell him what because I was still underwater and trapped in all-consuming aloneness, the kind you imagine exists only in outer space. He motioned at me to remain calm, to relax and take my time before rising, but it was too late. I'd already started spiralling in exactly the way I feared I would. All I could do 20-ish metres underwater was blame myself for getting into this situation, for losing my cool and being unable to perform under pressure, and I shot up to the surface.
When the instructors and senior divers gathered to make sure I was alright, I told them I felt fine. I pretended it was a small thing, that it was all just a misunderstanding. I explained that my "mild nervousness" melted away the moment I cleared my mask of water that felt so cold it was like I'd been given a face massage with a paddle covered in needles. I took a deep breath, told myself to try again, and went back down. But I couldn't make myself go any deeper than 15-20m; my ears wouldn't clear, and I was too frightened by the pain I still felt to take the time I needed to make it happen. I came back up, and tried to go back down again. After my fourth failure at descent I was beside myself with grief and disappointment.
When I cleared my mask for the last time before climbing out of the Bay, the water inside wasn't icy fresh. It was hot and salty, and tasted like how I imagined shame would. I remember the flavour of my own body's salt on my lips, and I remember the burn of acid that my churning stomach had spewed up into my throat. To get my certification I had to do at least two more dives to a depth that I couldn't reach. And if I didn't get them done that weekend I would have to come back.
I was the only one of twelve who didn't get certified that weekend; and I was the only person in years that the club had to fail. Everyone who I'd trained with was kind and sympathetic, especially the three instructors that I'd come to regard as friends and mentors. They reassured me that not all was lost. That I could work on it. They told me that tight ear tubes can be taught to take repeat dives, it just takes time and practise. They welcomed me to try certifying again at a later date at no extra cost. I pretended to be bummed out yet optimistic. I let myself believe that my ears were broken because it was easier to believe that a physical limitation dashed my dreams, than it was to believe that I just wasn't tough enough to see my dreams through. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone my secret, that deep down I worried it was my fear that held me back; that I felt ashamed because I couldn't keep my shit together when it counted most.
Now, I understand that my failure wasn't not getting certified. My failure was not forgiving myself for making a mistake. I didn't understand then that I was pushing myself outside my comfort zone for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be something I wasn't, and the only way I knew how to figure out my way was by trying to become that thing. When I was met with failure I blamed myself, and put the dream to rest.
I've never told anyone that story. I didn't realize I was still bothered by it until I looked out at my husband paddling away from me and the shore, and berated myself for not being brave enough to handle the cold. I told myself that I should be out there with him, bettering myself, becoming a better surfer (who doesn't want to become a better surfer?!).
And then I realized that I was making the same mistake that I made four years ago. I was failing myself by not forgiving myself but this time in my pursuit of my dream of becoming a published author, hence my inexplicable misery.
These past months have been miserable for me because -in complete non-blaming transparency- my head's been stuck up my butt. I've been blaming myself for all the mistakes I've been making (and I've made many, many mistakes). Which isn't a brilliant approach, I'll be the first to admit, because I know that making mistakes is the road to success and that really, a success is just a mistake with a silver lining. In addition to that, for the first time in my life, I'm pursing something for the right reasons. At heart I'm a writer. I know that now. I'm not trying to become something I'm not; I'm trying to evolve the existing version of myself. Exactly how like Brittany, Michael, Devon, Mike, Taylor, Miles, and Greg are doing. Each one, entrepreneurial spirits like me. People who have signed up for a lifetime of pain -of putting the best and worst bits of themselves out there on display for all the world to see, time and time again- because they believe in evolving the existing version of themselves, too. I count myself as exceptionally fortunate to be here with these people because there's so much I can learn from them.
In the end, surfing was short-lived. We were back on the road by 7pm, enroute to Palm Springs. But at 9pm, a third of the way there, a dream came true. Mike received a text from Magnus Walker (he met Magnus for the first time a few months ago and they swapped contact details), who he'd been communicating with sporadically throughout our trip. Magnus' text told him that he was available to meet us at 7:30 the next morning. But where we were staying in Palm Springs was four hours from LA, so that meant we'd have to turn around and drive back in just a few short hours.
Stick to the plan till the plan changes -an entrepreneur's mantra.
Mike worked his Hollywood magic and managed to cancel our reservations without incurring any fees, and as Magnus -an inspirational creative entrepreneurs, one who has years of practice putting himself out there in all sorts of mind-bendy ways- would say: We turned around and put pedal to the metal, and drove back the way we came to find a hotel in downtown LA.
(Teaser for tomorrow's post about our day spent with Magnus, below)
Ok, and another: