I’ve lived on the gentle, lapping shores of Lake Michigan my entire life. The trees on the edge of the ravine that winds it’s way around Sheridan Road block the water from view most of the time, but the lake is always there, waiting. When you pull around the corner of Seahorse Drive and the sudden expanse of the deep blue water bursts it’s way into your conscious, something special happens. Something magical.
The lake has a way of calming us down, helping us to forget our problems, and letting us relax. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve habitually headed to the beach, whether it was sunny or snowing, warm or freezing cold. I can’t count the endless hours I’ve spent jumping and splashing through the waves, trying to catch that giant fish that will inevitably get away, or simply lying back and letting the warm rays of the sun wash over me. The beach is where I went to hang out with friends, fall in love, and grow as a person.
In all the years I’ve been going to the beach, there’s one strict rule I always follow: I never swim where the lifeguards are.
Now this belief may seem counter-intuitive. The lifeguards are there to help. The lifeguards are there to save lives. The lifeguards are there to pull your three-year-old sister out of the lake when she puts her head in to look at the fishies and forgets about the need to breathe (which will inevitably happen). But the lifeguards are also there to make sure that when you enter the ice-cold, crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan, you stay inside of the buoys. Inside the buoys where the water never gets deeper than three feet. Inside the buoys where there are no sandbars. Inside the buoys where there are no waves. Inside the buoys where no inflatables are allowed. Inside the buoys where you can’t explore, discover, learn, or think for yourself.
Sometimes in life you have to break the rules. Sometimes you have to cross boundaries. Sometimes you have to forge your own path, take risks, learn from your mistakes. Because otherwise, you might spend your life standing in three feet of water at the edge of the buoys, slowly loosing all feeling in your toes, and wondering what else is out there.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.