Just as I begin to get bored living in Maine, I'm reminded of why I moved here. This afternoon, I decided to make an impromptu trip to Long Sands Beach in York, Maine. I needed to do some surfing. I've been feeling really bummed since getting back to Maine from Vegas and NYC after Defcon and HOPE; I'm having a “what am I doing here?” crisis. I'm tired of cool tech companies going out of business, my favorite shops and restaurants closing for lack of revenue, and prospective clients wanting to pay me in stock options instead of my hourly fees. Half of my friends have already left “Vacationland” for places called “Job Land,” which is in the D.C. area, Seattle, or Silicon Valley.
Just as I was thinking about what life would be like in Job Land, I caught a glimpse of the glittering ocean as I headed east toward the beach. Some of the weekenders coming north from Boston were already hitting the beach, but it was far from crowded. I found a parking spot immediately, got out on the walkway, and looked out on the long, sandy beach toward the lighthouse on the point. Slipping into my wet suit and grabbing my board, the wet sand between my toes and the SPF 50 on my face smelled so much like August.
When the ocean is regularly as cold as it is here in Maine, you just can't stop when going in. Totally go for it. I took a running start crashing into the waves. The cold water on my face felt like a slap, but I liked it. With eyes burning and hair wet with salty water, I kept paddling for the white water. Still thinking about my dilemma, my agitated thoughts were: What am I doing here in Maine? I could be in D.C. going to see the newest exhibits at the National Gallery, driving my convertible into the city on warm, summer nights and dipping my feet in the reflecting pool at midnight while earning way into the six figures during daylight hours. Or in Seattle earning the same and hanging out in coffee shops with that rich, deep ground coffee aroma permeating my senses, having fresh fish sandwiches at a seafood bar in Pikes Place, or hanging out with people like Dark Tangent or my friends from Microsoft.
Unsuccessfully trying to duck dive my board under a huge wave, I get smacked in the face with white water. I'm reminded: In Maine, I can only drive my sexy convertible for 4 months a year. My giant SUV is far from the sleek profile of my convertible, and even with that hulking SUV, I still sometimes cannot get up my driveway in the February snow and ice. And I've seen every new exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art. I've been to every night club and wine bar in the Old Port and it just doesn't do it for me anymore.
Finally, beyond the breakers, I inhale the salty air and rest my head on my board. With seagulls soaring overhead, I spot the lighthouse in the distance beyond the ocean mist. The angled sunlight shines down into the clear, emerald water and I see bits of seaweed and fish deep beneath my feet. My board slightly bobs up and down as small waves push beneath me. Turning around, I see it coming as I get sucked backwards. The wave rises five feet above me from trough to peak. I'm in it. It's on.
All hands and feet churning the water, I'm determined to make it and not get pummeled in the breakers. Thinking: It's Friday afternoon at 4 PM. No stop-and-go traffic on I 95, no line-up for the waves, no cares anymore and there isn't anyone else out this far. I'm alone and it's just me on the board in the cold ocean. The wave picks me up suddenly and I glide toward the beach. The vibrations from the water beneath the board and the roar of the breaking wave is totally exhilarating.
Maybe I cannot hangout in Pikes Place anymore, maybe I get burned coffee at Dunkin Donuts, maybe I love and hate my SUV because it can haul ass off-road and fit my long board and snowboard inside, maybe I miss the Seattle crowd and will never hang out with Dark Tangent, but I have a hacker/lawyer/techie crowd I meet at Javanet in the Old Port, maybe I'm just missing Defcon and HOPE and the city lights and fast nights.
But it's Friday afternoon and I'm surfing, alone, in the warm sun and don't care about the maybes anymore. Ask me 6 months from now how I feel and I'll write you a response from the top of a Maine mountain with my snowboard strapped to my feet and a steep, fast decent with jumps ahead of me in the crisp mountain air. And that will be on a Monday or some other work day.
I'm not in a cubicle, I make my own schedule, I love teaching in a tiny computer science department at a big state university and I live on a lake in the woods just 1.5 hours from Boston. For now, it's all good if the bills are still (mostly) getting paid. Sure I miss the city, but on days like today, I'm reminded why I chose to live here. Sure wish I could have both lives--work week urbanite and weekender in the woods—I'm working on it. But for now, I'm working online, watching the sandy, sweet smelling wax on my surfboard soften in the sun outside and planning to go kayaking on my lake at sunset.