I watched the two old naked guys emerge from their normal spot under the trees, cross the sand, and dive into the surf. After a quick dip, they emerged from the sea with broad smiles and walked slowly back to the shaded spot from whence they had come.
I had been coming to Little Palm Beach — a clothing optional beach — for six or seven months now.
“Man, those guys have got it figured out. They hang out on the beach all day, take a swim when they want to, and do whatever they want. What a life! I wish I had their life.”
I shifted on my beach towel to get more comfortable and to better facilitate my tanning.
Pause, two three.
“Wait a minute. I have their life.”
I had moved to Waiheke Island in the early spring, a fifty minute bus and ferry ride from downtown Auckland, because I had found — thanks to my girlfriend of the time — an inexpensive flat in which to live not far from Little Palm Beach. It was the perfect place for the final long hard push to get my thesis done.
I worked tirelessly for four months on my thesis, went to the beach for my breaks, and, late at night, I drank red wine, eat popcorn, and stubbornly read Ulysses. If I wanted to, I could get to the city easily and, when I wasn’t visiting her, my girlfriend could visit me.
Then, after I submitted my thesis, I had enough savings to continue working on my other writing, going to the beach, etc. I was living in an introverted paradise and, until that very moment, I hadn’t realized it.
Sure, by no means was my life perfect.
My relationship with my girlfriend was often rocky, the looming deadline had been a source of stress, nevertheless, if I had looked at my life from a different perspective, I would have seen that I was leading exactly the kind of life I had always wanted! I was waking up when I wanted, working when I wanted, on what I wanted, and tanning on a clothing optional beach in the time between.
And it was only in that moment, when I saw my life reflected in the utopian life of those old guys, that I really and finally got the so often spoken cliché about the importance of perspective.
Yes, yes, I know we’ve all heard it before but until you’ve actually had the experience of your entire world spinning on its axis, you don’t really get it. And yes, yes, for many people, there is no perspective from which the brute fact of their misery will be transmogrified into a half-full happiness, however, for most for us in the ridiculously wealthy West, we live nowhere near the threshold of absolute misery. There is, I think, really no plausible reason for any of us to look upon our lives with a half-full gaze.
Have you ever had the experience when — all at once and of a sudden — you realized that this moment, event, or life was much better — or worse — than it had previously seemed?