Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you'd better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone
For the times, they are a-changin'.
Some days you seem to wait for forever. I have waited for the day that exams end since they started six weeks ago. I have waited for the day I can leave College since the middle of March. I have waited for the day I can go to the beach and dance in a dress and swim in the sea since I was fifteen. On the last day of June, the day came.
I met Lottie and Tom and Jimmy and Yueyang at the station, and we caught the train to Cromer and met Kim at the other end. We walked down to the beach and there was mist just rolling in on the horizon. I took photographs and Alice and Naomi arrived and made sandcastles. The tide came in so we sat on the promenade and Rachel and Ben joined us.
Naomi and I fetched her car while the others fetched chips for tea. We wove our way around the one-way system and parked three times before deciding on a space. Jonny joined us with his guitar, and as the sun slipped away the boys (literally) dragged me into the sea.
It only felt cold when we came out, and Alice lent me one of her dresses because I’d used up all my dry clothes. We watched the lights come on and sang songs by Dylan and the Kooks, and then went back to Rachel’s to watch DVDs and sleep on sofas.
I’m not sure what it is that pulls me back to the beach, as regularly and as violently as the moon drags the tides back and forth across the sand. Perhaps it is its magnitude. Perhaps it is important sometimes, at points when it would be easy to assume that you are unstoppable, to remember that you are insignificant. To stand at the edge of the earth and see something which is so effortlessly greater than you are. Is it not, in some ways, a relief to know that you cannot compete with the roll of the waves? Your successes and failures, the outcome of the exam you sat not six hours previously, are only relative.
On the sand you are swallowed by your surroundings. The vast expanse of sea and sky, broken only by the cliff face and jagged groynes, seems endless. The wet sand creates a distorted mirror image to duplicate the vast landscape. But close your eyes, and you realise that the sea has invaded every one of your senses. There is salt on your lips and sand grains under your fingernails. The air smells sharp and bitter, and the sound of the waves will never stop. When I was talking to Alice on the shore, her voice was lost as soon as I took more than a few steps away. The wind snatched it and the waves engulfed it, churning our conversation under the swell of the surf. It ate us.
Perhaps also, though, it is important to be able to look out at the horizon with salt water around your calves, and to clench your fists. Here is an opportunity to remember that despite your insignificance, you are free. You are freer now than you have ever been. And, if you are free, imagine how powerful you are.
The tides are changing. The line where sea and sky meet is smudged by the mist, and between me and it there is nothing but waves in which I can swim. I am standing on the shore of what comes next, and following the waves towards the horizon.