I first wrote this essay seven years ago – and in the
last month or so the quote which inspired it has tapped
my shoulder, urging me to remember, to reconnect.
So I listened.
I smiled at the recollections. I revised. Now, I share
When I was in high school I moved from the safe,
comfortable town I was raised in, to a place
completely across the country.
There were hardly two towns as different as
Glen Ridge, New Jersey and Dana Point, California.
All my life I had been raised by my Western Parents
that New Jersey was unfriendly and cold. I was not
at all prepared for the arctic tundra of the
tropical beach community that awaited me.
Beautiful in outward appearances, that’s true!
I will never forget my little fifteen year old
spirit walking by the bench in front of school
"Hi!" I said brightly to the girl on the bench.
("Might she be someone to sit next to during
lunch hour?" I hoped.)
She looked right through me and mumbled a "hi"
I would write very optimistic and newsy letters
to my Northeastern friends. "Wow, I can see the
beach from Dana Hills!" and "I rode a boogey board
for the first time today." and "Did you know our
school has a surf team and the teachers
I would write long letters as I perched on a
hillside, overlooking the ocean. I spent many
afternoons there after school. The sun kissed my
cheeks and the wind hugged my skin, keeping me cool.
When it was really clear, I could see Catalina Island.
I was profoundly lonely for human connection, soul connection
with skin. I missed what I left behind on the opposite side
of the country. I found that connection through moving my
pencil across the page in lengthy, newsy, upbeat letters.
We didn’t have the internet back then, instead bulging
envelopes traversed the country, crammed with news
and photos and love.
Over time I grew to love my new surroundings. I found
a group of friends. I got a great tan, and even occasionally
spoke with the trademark Southern California "fer sure". One
thing I knew for certain.
I did not want my life to be filled with people who looked
past or through other people. I knew I wanted to be among
people who did not just envelope themselves in beauty.
I wanted to be among people who knew what true beauty
means. How it feels. How it smells.
It is more than twenty years since I graduated from Dana Hills
High School. Most of my classmates have no idea where I am.
I have never attended any of my reunions. I have only kept in
contact with one person.
In my mind's eye, I can see myself, at 15, looking out over
the serene Dana Point Harbor, with the words of Mark Twain
dancing in my waking dreams.
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the
things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw
off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the
tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
In the twenty years since I left Dana Point permanently, I have
been many places. I have studied at the United Nations. I have
interviewed countless PhD's and scholars. I have appeared
on TV and radio, on a film documentary and been in countless
theatre productions. I have been published extensively. I
have had two babies die. I have had three babies live. I
raised a young woman who later left our family, and now is
sort of, kind of, around again. I have had a marriage fail.
I have performed my own poetry. I have posed for raw, ethereal
photo shoots. I have lost too many friends to cancer. I have
watched my brother as he is dying. I have witnessed my parents
come back to life and romance in their retirement.
I have touched lives in ways only I could. I have discovered
that within the darkest depths of despair, joy can be found.
And now, I am reenergized about my coaching career, stepping
out boldly in new ways with my creativity.
I am once again sailing away from my safe harbor. The sun is
kissing my cheeks. The wind is hugging me. The tradewinds
are pushing me, filling my sails. I am exploring. I am dreaming.
I am discovering.
In Julie-esque fashion, I am coming alongside others, encouraging
them as they throw off their bowlines. As they sail away from
their safe, comfy harbors.
Is the sun kissing your cheeks? Is the wind hugging your skin?
© 2000, 2007
Julie Jordan Scott