1. You are small.
Looking out over the ocean and into eternity filled my soul with the vastness and understanding that I am a tiny speck of a much greater Universe. Golden cliffs dropping off into the ocean and magnificent pods of dolphins frolicking in the crashing waves gave me the greatest sense of God that I have ever felt. The nature of life kept moving each day, regardless of what was happening around it. Nothing I was going through would stop the earth from turning, the waves from crashing, or the sun from setting in its majestic hue of splendor. As I stood still on the sand captivated by the colors, sounds, and smells, allowing the waves to engulf me and in their rhythm, I was able to breathe life and be content with what was.
2. The joy of receiving.
I remember many years ago someone saying to me, “You’ve got to receive.” These words have always stuck with me as a daily lesson. Being an east coast native, I grew up thinking I needed to do for myself, or I was somehow a failure. Of course, I should always do for others, but accepting “handouts” wasn’t something an independent person did. California showed me what a blessing it is to receive. People share with you because they want to share with you, and not because you are somehow beneath them, but because they love you and want to share some part of themselves with you. When I allowed myself to open up to receiving, I experienced the gift of vulnerability in its loveliest sense.
3. That humility is freeing.
California has a lot of economic problems. I can say that because I was jobless and almost homeless while living there. But while living there, I also met some of the most amazing people. I met people who lived in million-dollar neighborhoods and owned Ducati bikes and drove cars that I will never be able to afford. But the people I came to know and love the most were those who had no home, job, or name. I will always remember the man who sat on the bench looking out over the waves eating Cheez-its until the cops made him leave because it was “bothering” the residents of our affluent neighborhood. Why will I remember him? Because he always said “Good Morning.” He always smiled and he was always at peace. I will remember the woman who asked me if I would buy some diapers for her baby because, just as she needed them, I once needed and could need again.
Getting to know these people that others shunned was humbling and freeing, and I will never forget them.
4. How to let go.
It’s funny. Like most everyone who moves to California, I expected fun in the sun and a grand life. Yet that’s not quite how things played out. My life there lasted only five months; and by the time I left, I was jobless, penniless, and basically homeless. But what I gained was a sense that nothing in life is permanent. Things come and go. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we want them to, and that’s okay.
I learned from living in California that life is a lot like surfing. You paddle out. You set up for the perfect wave. It catches you. You stand up and feel a sense of complete and utter blissful freedom for a split second. Then you lose your balance and fall. You let go and let the waves take you. In that moment of surrender, you know that everything is going to be okay, no matter where life takes you.