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Jacques Henri Lartigue, Bibi au restaurant d’Eden Roc, Cap d’Antibes, 1920

In October, the beach was deserted. No remains of the loud, sunny days of summer. No people, no laughter and no music. Just silence. And solitude.

She walked down the beach and enjoyed this unaltered moment of peacefulness. The sea was calm, especially in the morning, and even the cheeky seagulls were on their best behavior at this early hour. The wind was mildly blowing and the tangy smell of salt filled the air. There was no space for words, just for quiet thoughts and existential questions. Looking at the sea, a flashback from her early childhood reminded her of a long-forgotten event.

An inexperienced friend of the family insisted to give her swimming lessons, and though he had the best intentions to do so, he almost drowned her during the first learning session. She sank a couple of times and swallowed too much sea water as she surfaced. The waves washed over her, while she forced herself to remain calm, catch her breath and tread the water. At first it seemed impossible. She was scared stiff and had no skills to deal with this situation. But she kept on trying and trying, until miraculously she synchronized her breath and became almost comfortable with floating in the water.

This whole experience felt big and symbolic, even after all these years. She made it! She was literally pushed in the water and had to learn to swim on her own. She never turned into a great swimmer however, but this event surely shaped her into being a fighter and a survivor. Whenever she faced a similar experience in life, she would pick up the challenge and find a way to make it through.

“Life is so similar to the sea”, she thought. “Some of us are just meant to become great swimmers, while others turn into skilful sailors, easily navigating the restless sea. Some of us choose to be fearless pirates, breaking every rule there is and others grow to be adventurous surfers, waiting for the perfect wave.

In the meantime, some of us never leave the shore, because we are too afraid of the water. It’s just the way it is with life too. Some of us live fully, while some of us are so afraid of living.”

Fear is a loyal friend. Once it shows up in your life, it never leaves you. It sticks with you like glue and it speaks in an “I-know-it-all” voice, tricking you that it has your best interests at heart, which is actually far from being true. Yes, you may get hurt, yes you may get your fair share of disappointments and regrets, but then again, this is how we grow.

This is how we learn. By trying. By actually living, not by merely existing. “Oh, I see it now”, she continued, “Life is exactly as the sea…sometimes it is calm and sweetly peaceful and sometimes it’s wildly furious. But it’s calling out on us, that’s for sure. As life does too. The important thing is to at least try and test the waters. Leaning into our fears always pays off. It makes us stronger. It gives us the belief that we can manage whatever life throws at us.”

Suddenly, the existential merry-go-round monologue stopped, just as she saw her little daughter running towards her, with a big smile and wide open arms. And while running to catch her in a sweet embrace, this last thought came to mind and it felt like a certitude:” I know we all have it in us…Every new experience brings us the opportunity to leave fear behind and go ride the crazy waves of life!”