Recently, while in Washington, I had a bit of time to kill. I took the advice of a friend and headed to a park in search of seals. As a Colorado girl living in the Pacific North West I am overly optimistic that any sight of the ocean will also bring with it hordes of marine life. I parked my car, found the first path that seemed to head in the right direction and set off through dense trees.
The first clearing I came across was a small green pond, covered with a thick layer of algae. It was disappointing to say the least. I started walking around it, trying to reorient myself toward where I thought the ocean might be when I noticed a man sitting, staring at the edge of the pond. I looked again at the pond, thinking maybe I'd missed something exciting ... but I hadn't. This guy was fixated on the edge of a discolored pond for seemingly no good reason.
Now, there's a time and a place for, "Oh, but to see the beauty in everything is such a gift." This is not that time, and definitely not that place. Instead, I found myself wondering how often I'd done this — settled at the edge of a dirty pool when the ocean was within walking distance. Sure, this guy probably didn't know how to get to the ocean, it would take reorienting to a new direction. It might have even take retracing his steps or starting at the beginning of an entirely new trail (it did). But, this pond? It couldn't even compare to the blue expanse that was within reach.
Lately, I've been watching friends head to the ocean — open coffee shops, go to medical school, move to a new country. They saw the pond and recognized that to sit awhile might be comfortable, that the trail ahead of them would most likely be a difficult one. But, they keep walking, feeling the salty air on their skin drawing them forward.
Others I've watched struggle to visualize the end goal. I've noticed as they take the first step — recognizing that they're sitting in front of a mediocre pond and that they might need help to stand up and start toward the clear blue — free from addiction, depression and stress.
These friends, and my own experiences, are a reminder that in both the good and bad we must take optimistic risks and those risks will inevitably take effort. The trail might be incredibly unclear and we might have to start at the very beginning. Heck, we might even pass up a place that seems perfectly good. But ultimately, we must ask ourselves, "As long as I know the ocean is close by, why would I settle for the pond?"