August 8th, 2016 12:42 pm
With much reluctance, I manage to roll myself out of bed at the early hour of five-thirty. Moments earlier had the twinkling of my alarm filtered into my consciousness, rudely interrupting my tranquil dreams. Longingly, I stare at my peacefully slumbering siblings, careful not to wake them as I struggle to disentangle my legs from the grasp of my sheets. My thoughtfully prepared outfit from the night before is near impossible to find, only having the smallest sliver of light emanating from under the door to guide me. After much stumbling around, blind in the darkness, it is finally possible for me to join my parents in the kitchen where I find them gathered around the Keurig with sleepy eyes.
This routine had morphed into a tradition over the years. After sacrificing one lazy morning to see the sunrise for the first time back in ‘09, it simply stuck. Returning back to the small house on the corner of Asbury Street in Ocean City, NJ was a source of great anticipation as every new summer approached. While these beach vacations were a big family affair, the annual sunrise gatherings were limited to myself, along with Mom and Dad; I had found a sense of pride in the exclusive nature of these outings when they began, almost as if each journey were our little secret. When first questioned by my irritatingly curious brother and sister of my whereabouts during these special occasions, it was evident that any inkling of maturity had yet failed to reach me, as I responded with a smirk and knowing glance.
Coffee in hand, we begin our trek towards the dunes, all the while basking in the glare of streetlamps that line the road’s edge. The coastal town I once knew in the daylight is transformed into a setting of unfamiliar means, its characteristically animated atmosphere absent. The absolute lack of honking cars, squawking seagulls, or screams of sugar-fueled kids is quite eerie. Absentmindedly kicking stray stones as we walk along, my mind wanders. Predictions of the coming morning’s doughnut selection combined with inquisitive speculations on the day’s surf conditions are apparently so engrossing that I am startled to realize how quickly we reach the sand.
As I reach the top of the dunes first, I survey the land, pleased to discover that the sun has not yet started its journey into the sky. In the salty breeze, grass growing in the dunes sways back and forth, imitating little dancers, playfully tickling my ankles. A faint pink glow starts to appear on the horizon, prompting us to hasten our movements. Feet sinking in mounds of the cool grains with every step, we stroll down to the water’s edge. Closer to the ocean, sandpipers are congregating just out of reach of incoming waves, scurrying around on their impossibly thin legs. I smile to myself when one swell manages to reach the group of birds, causing them to hurriedly stride away in mass panic. Pulling out my iPhone, I attempt to get a picture of the spectacle but am disappointed to find that all seventeen shots come out blurry. Distracted by my failures of photos, I nearly miss the very thing I came here for.
“Jules! Look- look at the sun,” Dad urges, tapping my shoulder.
At his words, I whip my head around just in time to witness the sun peek out from under the ocean. That paltry sliver of sun is enough to illuminate the entire skyline with a gorgeous orange hue. Mesmerized as the majestic scene plays out in front of me, I pay close attention to the spectrum of colors reflecting on ripples of water, creating a blinding path of light that leads towards shore. The sights, the sounds, the feelings, the moment; it is as if everything is in perfect harmony for those few minutes as the sun rises into the sky to join the clouds, strong and fierce among the wispy and free landscape. Impulsively, my cellphone is in hand, ready to take a picture of the magnificent view. Click. Shutter. Click. My thumb hits the camera button at lightning speed, not even bothering to check what exactly it is capturing. Glimpsing at my parents, technology nowhere to be seen, a look of confusion crosses my face.
“Why aren’t you guys taking any pictures? You could probably get some impressive shots along with me,” I inquire.
“Because… because I want to live in this moment. I want to live now, to take it all in, to experience things through my own two eyes instead of through a cell phone screen,” Dad counters as my Mother nods her head in agreement.
In response to my father’s cheesy declaration of ‘living in the moment,’ I roll my eyes in private, turning back at the rising sun. Typical Dad, making one of those statements straight off a Hallmark card. Thinking nothing of it, I continue to try and perfect a flawless shot for my Instagram feed. Neck-deep in filters and various editing applications and techniques, I have one picture to show for the entire experience, a solitary tragedy of time- forty-five minutes to be exact. Honestly, though, who is the real winner here if I have over one hundred likes on social media in the end? Certainly not my father.
March 4th, 2017 9:27 am
It is only after skimming through one special journal entry I made back in August of 2016 that I finally realize and appreciate the living-in-the-moment mindset my father was encouraging that morning on the dunes. This mindset requires great patience and regular practice- both of which are virtually impossible to achieve in the timeframe of a summer vacation. The difficulty of accessing such a disposition is only heightened by the technologically dominant era in which we live.
The truth is, life is a gift of incredible experiences, chances, people, and everything in between. It is warm encounters with old friends, it is your favorite song playing on the radio, it is watching fat raindrops race down a windowpane…it is watching a sunrise with two people you love. It can also be awkward confrontations, disappointing endings, or days where nothing seems to be happening in your favor; and that’s the beauty of it all. As each day disappears with the dark of night and returns in the rays of a rising sun, I manage to gain more and more perspective on the world, which I have found to be possible only by focusing on every little moment regardless of its positive or negative significance in my own life.
With each new technological advance, I firmly believe that we as a society are progressively losing touch with reality. It was that specific moment where I, incredulously, questioned my parents as to why they chose not to photograph the breathtaking view that I, today, look back on with distaste. I had just stood there, oblivious to the fact that I was forfeiting such a dazzling experience for a version diminished through a small 4x3 screen. To document every waking moment with my iPhone was such a natural response, and unfortunately still continues to be. I would say with confidence that this holds true for the vast majority of adolescents living in the 21st century, a habit of unhealthy consequences that I could only be so lucky to eventually avoid.
Technology feeds right into the extremely busy nature of our 2017 lives. Without a doubt, it has grown challenging to live simply. Our plates have become full with the need to fulfill educational requirements, athletic capabilities, familial obligations; the list just goes on and on. In result, it has become nearly unattainable to calm the frantic streams of thought that disrupt the quietest of times. My parents taught me that this is not how it should be, or has to be, through the demonstration of how they achieved peace by living freely without mental or emotional restriction for that moment, and the next and the next. No attention was paid towards anything else for those few precious minutes but the sun ascending, slow but steady, out from behind the ocean and up, up, up to exist among the great, big, beautiful expanse of blue.