“Spend a lot of time at the ocean, because the ocean forces you to dream.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent part of my summer at the Jersey shore. My memories of those special times span years and years, and they never fail to bring a smile to my face every single time I think about them. From what I’ve been told, I loved the shore from the first time my parents took me there — before I was old enough to crawl, let alone walk on the boardwalk, build a sandcastle on the beach, or swim in the pool. My grandparents owned a condo in Ventnor, and I can say without hesitation that some of my best and most special memories from my childhood were made there. I’ll never forget rollerskating on the sundeck with my sister, eating a banana fudge pop under the pier on the beach, holding tight to my parents’ hands as I jumped in the waves, going to the amusements in Ocean City, “swimming” in the pool in one of my brand new floats … the list goes on. I used to count down the days until our shore vacations each summer (a week in July and a week in August — I looked forward to them the entire year!), and it was all I could do to fall asleep the night before we left. I simply couldn’t wait to be at the place that wasn’t only a special part of my summer, but a special part of so many family memories.
But things change. Times goes on. To say I was crestfallen when my grandparents sold their condo is an understatement. I was fourteen, and those two weeks in Ventnor were easily my favorite part of every summer — my favorite part of every year. I sat and cried when my parents told me that the sale had gone through, wanting so badly to believe that what I was hearing wasn’t true. It’s been more than eleven years now, and I still get a pang whenever we walk by the building that used to be such an important part of our lives. And even though I may not get to swim in that pool or sit on that sundeck anymore, that’s okay. It’s okay because I made so many special memories there, memories that I know I’ll carry with me always. And now? Now I get to make new memories every year when I go to the shore with my family. We may not go to Ventnor anymore – now it’s usually Stone Harbor and Ocean City – and we don’t sit under the pier with our dripping ice cream treats like we used to or rollerskate until we’re giggling so much we almost fall over. That’s okay, though, because time goes on. Things change. Things evolve, and so do we. But in the midst of all that, it’s nice to have a tradition you can look forward to every year. That’ll always be the Jersey shore for me. I love spending time with my whole family there, and I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to make new memories at the shore with a family of my own, to instill that same love of the shore in my own children (prince charming, where are you already? I’m ready for my happily ever after!).
For me, the shore is a place to go to get away from it all (and if you know me, you know that’s virtually impossible for me to do. There are times when I actually have to force myself to relax and take a break, because I just want to keep working and pursuing my dreams until they come true). The shore’s always been the one place that I can go when I have a million and one things weighing on my mind and just let go of them all for awhile — and I’ve done just that several times these past few years. It’s not just a special place for me, it’s an inspiring place. It makes me hope. It makes me dream. It makes me believe that anything is possible. Sitting there on the beach and looking out at the seemingly never-ending ocean, your mind wanders. It wanders to what the future holds and all the possibilities that lie before you. Spending time at the ocean, at the shore, forces you to dream — and I love that. It makes you feel small, but at the same time it makes you realize the infinite number of possibilities that lie before you, if you can only figure out a way to reach out and grab them. It doesn’t just make you consider your dreams, though — it makes you determined to make them all come true.
Being at the shore has always inspired me, especially with my writing. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting on the beach in Ventnor, writing the beginning of my Bat Mitzvah speeches. I was so excited to start those speeches there, to be able to sit and write as I looked at the ocean. Fast forward twelve years in time to last summer. I had just finished my first book the month before and was writing the second. There was nothing quite like sitting in the condo we rented and writing as I looked out at the ocean. I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear how much I truly adore writing – and that’s true for any time and any place. Writing is my passion, and it fills me with incredible joy no matter where I am. But to write at the shore? It’s even more special, even more inspiring. I can’t quite explain it, other than to say it’s my happy place. It’s my place where all is right with the world — and add writing into the mix, and I’m as happy as the six year old version of myself, sitting on the beach and trying to finish her banana fudge popsicle before it melts all over. In fact, I’m happier than that. I may not be at my grandparents’ condo in Ventnor anymore, but I’m at the shore and I have my dreams that I vow every day to pursue until they turn into my reality. I literally had to force myself not to write or work on my books while we were at the shore this year. It was nearly impossible, but I knew I needed the break. After working on this nonstop for almost two years now, I knew I needed some time to put it to the side and just relax … even if I didn’t want to. And, for me, that speaks volumes about how near and dear this is to my heart. Ask most people if they’d rather relax or do work, and the answer would be obvious. Ask me, and I’d tell you that writing and working on my books at the shore is relaxing. That said, I forced myself not to open the Word documents, not to go through my book of literary agents, not to write the next chapter in the third book. I forced myself to take a break from it all … but I never forced myself to stop dreaming. And, sitting there on the beach as I looked out at the sunshine glistening on the ocean water, making it sparkle like thousands of tiny diamonds, my thoughts wandered just like they always do. They wandered to my dreams and how determined I am to make them come true. They wandered to my books, to my quest to get them published, and to what an incredible gift it would be for me if I one day get to make writing my career.
And even though it’s nearly impossible for me to relax? Even though I had to force myself to take a break from it all? I’m glad I did. They say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” that when you’re away from something, that’s when you realize how much you love it. Not writing for two weeks was incredibly difficult to me (so glad we had a few days in between our shore trips so I could squeeze a chapter in!) … but it was also important. I came back refreshed, rejuvenated, and with an even stronger sense of determination. I literally couldn’t wait to start writing again, and I cannot put into words how thrilled I was last Wednesday when I got to open up my Word document and start the next chapter. Sure, I know the journey to get my books published is still going to be a long one. But I refuse to give up. I won’t stop until I make this happen. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be blessed enough to sit on the beach at the Jersey shore, gazing out at the ocean and allowing my thoughts to wander to how truly amazing it feels to have my dream of being a published author come true. After all, “the ocean is made up of drops. If the ocean is made up of drops, then anything is possible.”
The ocean will always force me to dream. The Jersey shore will always be my happy place. What’s yours?