It is a lonely day when you realise that you are the only one truly responsible for your own wellbeing. You, like everyone, must eke out your own small corner of happiness in a world that is inexplicably vast, and noisy.
I imagine it is a lot like constructing a sandcastle. Tragedies (or waves) will always venture too close. At times they will warp your sandcastle beyond recognition. And when the worst waves hit—the ones that wipe out entire sections, entire meticulously-constructed rooms—your friends and family will gather amid the wreckage to help you to put it back together again.
I am not sure if there will ever come a moment when you are able to reconstruct the sandcastle on your own. Maybe you will always look around and call for help to whoever is on the beach, whoever is close enough to hear you, whoever wants to hear you.
Maybe one day you will wake and realise that those you thought were there to help you maintain the castle were only kicking over great sections while you weren’t looking. I’m not sure.
But what I’m sure of is that the sandcastle is populated by individuals who are flawed but whom you love, and is maintained by a job with which you are satisfied. It may not be striking in its beauty or even particularly innovative in design. Like everything, it is impermanent and will one day blow away. But if it is good, then I guess you’ve done it.
When we were younger, my sister and I had a game we’d play at the seaside where we’d hold hands and jump over the waves as the tide rolled in. This never seemed to grow old. Sometimes they were taller than we were, and threw us off balance.
Once, I was sucked underneath by the current—I saw only blue and green and swirling sand—and emerged with a bump on my forehead, horrified. It was a momentary but absolute loss of control.
I know people who, at the first sign of a large wave, would dismantle their sandcastles into pails and relocate to a place further from the shoreline, far from everything and everyone but safely away from what they believe could hurt them.
I know people who, standing in the wreckage of a beautiful, felled castle, would call out to no one.
Sitting on the beach in a rainbow swimsuit, years ago, I constructed a sand replica of the Eiffel Tower which I was quite proud of. My mother dutifully snapped a photo. I eyed the sea with suspicion; the waves were always there, and are still there. (Ten years later I visited the real Eiffel Tower, and took a similar photo.)
It was only much later that I realised it was not about avoiding the waves at all, but learning how to rebuild.