The man probably noticed I was on my lunch and assumed I had money to spare. I never wear suits, but I don’t look poor either, I was dressed in a long sleeve shirt and some jeans. I hadn’t been to the beach for months, maybe even a year but today something compelled me to escape from the events of my day. So, on a whim I got in my car and drove the 20 minute drive to the beach. My so called “hard” life consists of working a relatively relaxed 8 hour job with an hours commute, doing homework 4-5 nights a week and an introverted personality; that about sums it up. He approached from the road, slowly entering into my periphery, while I was reflecting on what had transpired throughout the day. I thought very little of it initially, but as he closed in on my location I began to notice the man’s disorganized appearance. It was 85 degrees yet he had three jackets on, his hair was matted and his face looked as if it had been at war with the sun most his life. I could see that life hadn’t panned out the way intended, yet there was an odd aura about him; an aura of warmth and happiness that pierced through my uneasiness.
I was taught to be polite to everyone as a child so as you sat on the rock near me I sparked a conversation. “Beautiful day” was all I could come up with, being an introvert conversation comes hard, but this was all it took. In a calming voice that I didn’t quite expect the man responded with “you should have seen the sun rise”. This is where one of the most defining conversations I’ve had in my life began. My ship of self-pity was soon to be smashed against the cold, rocky coastline of corporate reality, and there was no way to save the captain.
The conversation was no more than 10 minutes but how it evolved from a simple act of politeness to something that transformed my thought process is something I will remember indefinitely. The sunrise was something I hadn’t seen for more than 5+ years, not for lack of seeing the sun, but for lack of actually seeing the sun. My life consists of deadlines and price quotas, rush hours and busy meetings; I focus on the dreams of corporate America. Stop and smell the roses was a sentence that I couldn’t compile in my mind, the roses died a long time ago.
The man spoke to me about his dreams, his loves, his losses, and his life as a homeless man. He expressed his disdain for the modern day American, the nine to fiver who forgets the world exists. This man watched the sunrise, saw animals graze in fields, people step over him, and the sunset every single day not to mention the thousands of other things in between. He knew when it would rain WITHOUT a cell phone, he could tell you what hermit crabs ate and when they went under the sand and why. This man was experiencing what Mother Nature left for us; and he was happy.
At one point the man expressed that he sometimes wishes for a life like mine, co-workers who complain, deadlines to make and money to be made. He told me he wishes for it but he would never last in that life, hell, he hadn’t lasted in it. His reasoning for modern day failure was simple; he was a dreamer. He loved to experience the changing of seasons, the colors in the sky, the smell of the wind, he loved it all.
By the end of our short correspondence I found myself enlightened and at the same time upset. Upset that I hadn’t seen the sunrise despite being awake every day when the sun comes up, driving, worrying about being late, getting in trouble, etc. Before leaving I expressed my wish to experience the beauty of the world like him. His response was undoubtedly one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard, he replied with “We can’t change where we come from, but we can change where we go from here”.
…We can’t change where we come from, but we can change where we go from here…