After my divorce in 2003, I moved to California. I was 44, my 19-year marriage had just ended, and I was finally able to live where I'd always wanted to live—by the beach. So, after a year of so of watching from the shore, I rented a board, and with some instructions shouted from a friend, I paddled out.
I bought a board that very day. Ten years later, I still get a few surf sessions in every week, year round. I've found that time in the water is one of the best places to clear your head and your heart so that you can truly listen to yourself. The best advice anyone gave me about learning to surf was, “don’t even worry about the first year,” which, over time, has proven to be a very wise strategy for anything challenging out of the water, too.
Here are some surfing lessons for relationships:
1. If you want to surf, you have to get wet.
You can watch all the videos, take lessons, or read books, but time and practice are the real teachers. Same with relationships: you can read all the books and articles you can find, but socializing and dating are the only ways to discover what you want in a relationship at this time in your life.
Surfing has, undeniably, been the most difficult thing I’ve ever learned to do. I committed to getting out in the water a couple of times a week no matter what the conditions were. Eventually, I was riding waves and having a great time. It's been helpful to think about dating with this in mind: you have to date or get out there to meet people. There will be bad dates and uncomfortable times, but with patience and a willingness to keep trying, the right partner will show up.
2. Everyone falls.
The best surfers I know have bad days, get surprised by a wave, or simply misread a wave. Relationships are as fluid as waves: there are bad days, people behave in unexpected ways, and sometimes we misread people.
3. Conditions can sometimes change rapidly.
What started as a session of perfect waves can quickly turn into a jacked up mess of shore breaks in which you're bound to get hurt. Lesson here: get out of the water when conditions exceed your experience. Need I say more about relationships? When something feels uncomfortable, it is. Get out, no need to be polite, just exit.
4. Timing is everything.
Seeing the wave develop outside, watching it build, and paddling into the power of the water gives you the gift of riding the wave. When the timing is good, you get great rides and you feel on top of the world. When the right person comes along, and you’re in the right place, it can be magical.
5. There is always another wave.
Someone snaked your wave? Shame on them.
The ocean does not stop making waves. When a relationship is meant to be, things happen.