These thoughts sparked as I chugged up a hill on a narrow calle, damp with drizzle, lined by bright houses, pocked with potholes. Up from hours of surfing, in steely smooth waves, and bouts of spattering rain, which dipped the tropical temperature to only just a little chilly. Nothing the warm Caribbean couldn’t comfort. Hours in that soothing sea.
And now I was heading home, contemplating my business, running numbers as I downshifted, as I crawled my creaky car over speed bumps, as wafts of exhaust crept through old rubber seals to find me in my seat.
“Should I get my own office this season?” I debated. It could make sense with how much I pay to rent a room.
But the idea didn’t sit right.
A businessman once told me he gauged the stress of his life by how many keys he had. I glanced at my ignition, my key-ring held nothing but a fin wrench, two extra leash cords, a small carabiner, and a single key, which started my car and opened its doors. Not even a house key…my shack doesn’t lock.
An office someday might feel right, but today it felt like just another key on the ring I wasn’t ready for.
I glanced in the rearview mirror, the ocean now far below. I scanned my massage table and sheets, expertly arranged around my surf suits and snorkel gear in the small hatched back of my Suzuki.
“This works,” I thought, contentedly. “And I don’t have to change it until it doesn’t anymore.”
My shoulders ached from hours of massaging and hours of surfing. I pulled out onto the ridge, onto the Carretera 413, the narrowest of all numbered highways, and headed for town, planning my take-out order at my favorite restaurant. A Beyond burger (no bun), tostones with garlic butter, and a fish pincho (flounder…what was the Spanish word for flounder again). I smiled to myself. I had a favorite restaurant, and I knew the menu.
It was a lot of food, but I figured I’d earned it. Tonight I would feast, and tomorrow I would work more. I marveled at my stamina. Two months ago I cringed at the thought of entire days filled with activity, not to mention day after day of that. Such are seasons. In the lazy winter it’s hard to conceive of the summer push.
But it crept up on me. The first week I gave three massages, surfed twice. Then five massages, and some bigger waves. Then ten, twelve, fifteen, and three straight weeks of head-high swell. Suddenly I’m busy again. Busier than I thought I wanted to be. And loving it. Just another season, fading in and out.
As I rounded the overlook of the lighthouse, and the stormy horizon where the sun usually set, my thoughts dipped deeper, as they often do, to review my progressions through time. To marvel at milestones I had marked or missed. Milestones like staying put, like starting a family, like working hard, like saving money, like trading freedom for focus.
Milestones I usually feared.
Feared equally their arrival, as the thought that they never would arrive. Feared commitment, feared change, and feared falling behind, as I slipped past stages where certain commitments are usually made.
I never forced them. OK, maybe I forced them a little…but they never held. Not for me at least. Not until the time was right, the place was right, the work was right. Not until I was right, ready for the milestone. Even as I wondered, a lot, if I should be pushing a little more, settling a little better. Even as the “will I ever,” looped incessantly through my brain.
But as I looked back, at the twists and turns behind me, I realized that commitment just kinda creeps in. That I don’t need to do all the deciding. It will either be obvious, and sweep me away without a choice, or it will take its time, easing its way into my life, so that I don’t even notice the subtle shift. Or I do notice it, but it feels good, because I have been prepared.
Like now the focus feels better than the freedom. The quiet feels better than the wild. The old phase fades from something I could never let go, into something that pales compared to what’s up next.
And then one day I realize I have a favorite restaurant. Or that I’m attached to a town, not because it was love at first sight, but because it grew on me, and I grew into it. One day I wake up and find my direction suddenly well developed, not because I decided but because I didn’t resist. I find that I have a career! Not because I planned it, but because it just bumbled along, just kept working out, never not feeling right. I find I have a home that’s become my own, and a favorite way to drive to the beach, and a least favorite pothole, and a web of budding friendships, and a cat who just appeared one day and slowly slid her way onto my pillow.
I panic a little at the developments, then I sigh and relax, even as there are many more decades of milestones I must contend with. Because by this point I’ve got some experience behind me, and judging by history, I don’t really need to worry, I don’t need to push. Most decisions won’t be as hard as I fear. Many of them I won’t even get to make.
Most of the time, if I stay self aware, what’s right will be obvious, and if I follow what really feels right, and don’t lag too long on what is just comfortable, I will develop how I should, and I won’t fall too far behind.
And most of the time, I won’t even have to consider commitment. Because most of the time, commitment will just kinda choose me. All I have to do is surrender.