In surfing there’s no worse feeling than the back spray off a wave that has just passed. The refreshing mist that trails a wave and falls on those who watched it go by only adds insult to the surfer who misjudged its magnitude in the first place. More often than not, I have found myself on the other side of some of these amazing waves, asking myself whether the surfers who caught these waves judged correctly or just took a chance and got lucky.
Each time that I feel the back spray coming off the peak of the wave, I am but constantly reminded of many of life’s waves that I too did not paddle for when they came my way. Sometimes I did not make those leaps of faiths out of foresight and others because of fear. No matter what the various reasons or excuses that I may have conjured up, I have felt the weight of the decisions that I have made fall heavier on my shoulders.
There’s a point when you fully commit to a wave when you realize that there’s no turning back. As the wave rises and lifts you up, there is nobody that can help you except the preparation, skill and faith within you. In a sense there is a freedom of the unknown and exhilaration in not knowing whether you are going to ride it to the end or if you are going to wipe out entirely. As sure as I know that I am a mediocre surfer at best, I can say without question that I’d much rather wipe out than not try at all.
At 25, I can see many similarities between surfing and life. Sometimes when I am out there competing for waves and fighting my way for position, I can sense that cut throat competition that I wished to escape in the first place. Other times, I’ll look around and find that it’s only me paddling in the wide open waters. Both extremes comfort me. I can neither accept one or the other at all times just as I cannot have both simultaneously. I must choose my own path and look inward for what it is that I wish to achieve.
I often wonder about my missed opportunities when I see surfers riding a wave that I should have been on. There’s a certain kind of envy that goes along with watching a wave break towards the shore.
I can’t help but be jealous of my former classmates from High School and College whose accomplishments I also see from a distance. I hear that some are starting families, finishing up graduate school or putting a down payment on a new home. Part of me is taken back to that passive observer sitting on his board, watching the waves go by with other people on them.
Three years have passed since I have been in the military and I often wonder whether I made the right choice to join the service. I think of some of the personal and career sacrifices that I have made because of this lofty vision to follow the footsteps of great leaders. As I look back to that naïve 22 year old who raised his right hand, I wonder how much of that young man I have sacrificed at the expense of my own individual goals. I wonder how much of my principles I have compromised due to my own ambitions.
It'd be realtively easy to play the blame game and second guess every decision that I have made. As much as sometimes I'd just assume give up my place in the water, I know that there will always be more waves to come. When it comes down to it, I must take control of my own wave and ride it to the best of my ability. When the ride is over, I’ll make sure to stay on my board and paddle out like hell for the next one.