The summer I was six years old, my parents took me to the ocean. I spent the week dipping my toes in the waves and chasing sandpipers. When I came home, I told my best friend that the king of the sea had made me an honorary mermaid princess. I showed her how I swam with my legs crossed at the ankles and pretended to live in castles under the sea.
There’s just something about the ocean — the wide, flat expanse of it — that opens my mind to long-forgotten possibilities.
A few weeks ago, I again found myself at the ocean — crammed into my too-tight, skirted purple bathing suit, perfect for my chubby post-childbirth body. I ran on the beach with my elder son, chasing seagulls and waves, trying to ignore the fact that certain parts of my body seemed to bounce two beats behind the rest of me.
I dove into the surf, tasting the salty water on my lips when I came up for air. The sun sparkled on the waves, blinding me for a moment. Then, buoyed by the warm sea, all the dreams of what I could be rushed back with alarming clarity. Suddenly I knew I could be a marine biologist and talk to dolphins, just as I’d dreamed of doing when I was 10. Maybe I’d dust off my SCUBA gear and explore a shipwreck and discover gold and treasure. I could stop eating chocolate pie for breakfast, and start working out! By next summer, maybe I could even apply to be a lifeguard.
When I stand on the shore early in the morning, alone with the sea, I begin to believe again that I can be anything — even a mermaid princess.