So here I am on a Monday afternoon (or, evening…ahem…) and that’s because yours truly woke up with a monster migraine. Hello, beginning of the week and the inability to function and write a coherent sentence until the pounding-nails-into-my-temples feeling is gone.
I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but I really am not a Monday fan. That was part of the reason I decided to share my chapters on Mondays…you know, to try to make Monday into a day I actually LOOK. FORWARD. TO.
But enough about the fact that it’s Monday. Almost Tuesday now. 😉
Also, you are not going crazy. I promise. I shared chapter one last week…this week, chapter three. I decided to jump around a little. That, and chapter two needs some revisions that my brain wasn’t up for over the weekend. And if I post chapter 26 next week, don’t be too alarmed. 😉
So today I bring you a different one, but this is one of my favorites. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading about the time this clumsy girl learned to surf and the lessons I’ve learned from the wipeouts…and from the getting up again part, too.
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl was learn to surf.
This is a particularly odd choice of goals since I grew up in small-town Iowa where large bodies of water were all but absent. Nevertheless it remained a dream…something I could see myself doing someday.
Before we moved to Indonesia, I only saw the ocean twice. The first time, we were in California for our first anniversary, and not getting killed by the waves? Was my goal. (Let’s just say I had a very unhealthy fear of death by large wave.)
The second time was when we were in South Africa, and the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean hovered in the 40’s, I’m sure. Just sticking my toes in was enough to freeze my entire body…no way was I going to submerge myself in that water!
I really didn’t even have a chance to learn to surf until we moved to Indonesia.
During our five years there, we made just three trips home, and we usually spent our Christmas breaks traveling. During that first Christmas in 2005, we took a two-week trip to Bali, where my love for all-things-ocean was kindled.
We swam, we bodysurfed, we boogie-boarded. We soaked up all that the glorious Indian Ocean had to offer us.
But I was afraid of that sport that required standing and riding a board propelled by ocean waves…surfing looked really, really scary.
So during our first trip, I didn’t try it, certain that I never would have been able to actually stand up on that board anyway.
During Spring Break of our second year in Indonesia, I went back to Bali with a few girlfriends. We spent our days between the beach and the pool, shopping, and eating all the yummy food we could never find in Bandung.
Our last morning there I had this nagging feeling. The whole week, I had psyched myself out of trying to surf, making excuses.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling.
So I hopped out of the pool, followed by two of my friends, marched right down to the beach (which was less than fifty meters away), and up to a guy renting out surfboards. Before I could chicken out, I hired myself a surf instructor and board for $5. (I love Indonesia prices.)
My instructor gave me a quick crash course in how to move from lying on the board to standing, all in Indonesian, of course. (I nodded my head and pretended to understand.)
Two minutes later we were out in the ocean, and as I stood in the chest-deep water for my first run, I felt like throwing up my breakfast. What on earth was I doing?
I carefully climbed onto the board, which my instructor was holding for me, and I watched the wave come up behind me. He let go…and I flew forward, hanging on for dear life.
But did I stand? No.
Did I even try to stand? Hmmm. Nope.
We laughed, he said something to me that I couldn’t translate, and I went back for another run, determined to at least move this time.
Again, I watched the wave come up behind me and felt my heart start to beat like crazy. As he let go of the board, I pushed myself up. I actually got one leg underneath me before I tumbled off the board.
Hey, it happens, and I’m pretty sure I scored graceful points for the somersault I did on the way down.
Third times the charm, right? I grabbed my board and faced the waves once again, determined to get it right.
Same story as before. As he let go of the board, I pushed up with everything I had, and I was standing!
The thing I forgot? Was that one must balance in order to stay ON the surfboard. I was so busy celebrating that I lost my balance, face-planted into the water, and came up sputtering after inhaling half of the ocean.
If you’ve ever gotten saltwater in your eyes, just multiply the pain times fifty or so.
And I was totally mortified that about a hundred people, give or take, had witnessed my thrashin’ wipeout. Sometimes there were just disadvantages to being the sometimes-uncoordinated-but-way-too-brave, white girl who thought she could surf.
Thankfully, I can laugh at myself in the midst of pain, which is probably what saved the day from being a total disaster…because on the next ride, I was determined to succeed.
My instructor had barely let go of the board when I popped up, steadied myself on both legs, and rode that board all the way in. A few feet from shore, I hopped off, looked up at a spectator who’d obviously witnessed the entire scene, and gave him a grin as if to say, You didn’t think I could do that, did you?
I spent the next hour riding wave after wave. Sometimes it would be a beautiful ride, sometimes I’d wobble, sometimes I’d completely wipe out…
But I couldn’t stop smiling…because I was following through on a dream I’d had for myself, and it was a beautiful one. There are few feelings I’ve had in my life that top what it’s like to ride a surfboard into shore.
There were several trips to Bali and other beaches over the next few years, and each chance I had, I’d rent a surfboard for a few rupiah, run out into the ocean, and ride the waves like they belonged to me.
Sure, there were wipeouts and face-plants. (Lots of them.) There were days when I fell more than I actually surfed. A couple times I probably came close to severely injuring myself when I took some hard falls.
But learning to surf taught me a lot about life…because there are going to be those days. Days when we feel victorious as we rise above everything…conquering the things that threaten to tear us down. There are also those days when, no matter what we do, the waves are just too much and they knock us down…sometimes harder than we were expecting.
But no matter what…I’ve learned to always get up and keep going.
We recently passed a shop that had a surfboard for sale, and I joked about buying it to use on Lake Michigan.
The truth is that the surfing part of my life is over, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever hop on a surfboard again to face the waves.
But I know the lessons I learned from those rides…and they are worth every wipeout.
The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.
The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them.