Lately I’ve been fascinated with sea glass. It seems to be a repeating theme in my life the past few years.
It’s the title of a poem I wrote for my senior poetry class in college.
I even started my own personal sea glass collection when I road tripped from Colorado all the way to Maine with one of my best friends this past summer. I keep it in a bottle on my windowsill.
And just the other day I learned there is a a place in Fort Bragg, California, the location of a former dump, called Glass Beach. The beach is literally covered in sea glass. This is the result of years of dumping by people who lived in the area. People would throw their trash over the cliffs and into the water below. Eventually initiatives were created to clean up the area and what was left over are piles and piles of “trash glass.”
I’m not sure what I like more about it, the physical appearance of the glass itself or what it represents.
Maybe it’s the fact that it seems to be an example of recycling at its finest. Maybe it’s the English major in me that I like to turn everything into a metaphor. Or maybe it’s finding beauty where you would least expect it.
There’s something about the concept of taking something broken and then after it has gone through hell, crashing among waves, getting rubbed raw by the sand, it becomes something smooth, and beautiful. Something of value. Something to be cherished and admired.
There are three people who treated me pretty poorly (that may be an understatement) in my life I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to, and if I did they would probably look at me like I’m crazy. Each of these people hit me like a wave, and a few of them seemed to keep hitting me over and over again but I kept getting back up. They dumped emotional garbage onto me, hardened me and softened me all at the same time. But I realize now that it’s all part of the process.
My roommate from my first semester of my freshman year of college hardened me. Before I met her I was pretty naive about the way I saw other people. I was a little too trusting of people, and not in a good way. I’m all for being open-minded and not judging others before you get to know them–but I hadn’t yet learned that sometimes when you do get to know a person, it’s okay to let them go. It’s okay to not be friends with everyone. Not everyone is going to like or understand you, and as my mom puts it “not everyone is going to know you the way you want them to know you.”
This was the first time in my life I encountered people who didn’t like me, just because this one girl didn’t. I was introduced to behavior I had only seen previously in movies; behavior I thought didn’t exist in real life. It was like my life was a scene out the movie Mean Girls–and let me tell you, it sucked. But sometimes when I think back to how this girl made my life hell for a couple months of my life, in my freshman year of college (when at the time it seemed like the most terrible thing in the world) I want to call her and say thank you. Hardened.
Another roommate, from my junior year of college, softened me considerably. Previously to living with her, I felt like I was a pretty pessimistic person. I always seemed to dwell on the negative, even when I really had nothing to be upset or to worry about. Then I started living with her and every single problem or disruption to her life was a tragedy that could never be fixed or resolved.
There was no hope. There was no silver lining. Even when I tried to coax her out of her “my life is so miserable and I will never be happy” mode. She would purposely isolate herself and then complain to me about being lonely.
I tried, I really did, to help her. And I struggled with a lot of guilt over not being able to ‘fix her.’ I stressed myself out because I thought that if I couldn’t help her or if I didn’t support her enough, I was a bad person. But then I realized that I couldn’t help her. Some people don’t want to be helped, or if they do, they expect a savior. I’m just one person, I can’t help a person who doesn’t want to be helped. I can only do so much. And a person’s happiness should not be dependent on other people.
Since we moved out, this girl deleted me from Facebook and removed me from her life entirely, not that I wouldn’t have withdrawn on my own. But I still think about her from time to time. In fact, she inspired one of my best poems titled “Sea Glass.” I’ve thought about sending her a copy with a note saying “thanks,” but I don’t think she’d believe I’m being sincere. I am though. I want to thank her for showing me how I don’t want to view the world–with a cracked and unrepairable lens. Smoothed.
She says she’s on the verge again
while she tip-toes across the blistering roses
trying not to press too hard
on the petals beneath bare feet
I watch her struggle to build a base on these
but I’m not sure she can
her palms are red and raw
from fingernails scratching soft skin
with each clenched fist
I hope one day she’ll try to see the beauty in things broken
like the way sand smooths slices of green bottle to sea glass
or the sharp grace to glass shattering
but now she drips pools of herself onto the dirt
that I know she’ll trip
and I can’t save her
for she’s just out of reach
humming curses as she slips underneath.
The third person was a not-quite-love in my life and knowing him polished me in a way. He showed me what it’s like to not be in love, but to be so close that at the time you swear you are. In fact, when I think back to the time I spent with him, in my head I refer to our story as my “not-quite-a-love-story.” He made me realize that every relationship you have with a person has low points and high points but it’s important to make sure the highs outnumber the lows.
He was the first boy to buy me flowers, give me butterflies and the first boy to literally make me blush just thinking about him. He said some of the sweetest things that a person has ever said to me, things I pretended I didn’t want to hear or care about. I thought he was my one, my penguin, my lobster. Until he just wasn’t.
Looking back, he was consistently inconsistent with the things he claimed he felt, in relation to how he acted. He also probably made me cry more than anyone else I’ve ever met. And I probably gave him too many chances, which just dragged out the whole ordeal even longer. I know everyone says that they don’t regret the relationships that they’ve had in the past but I can honestly say that I don’t regret it. Sure, I might do some things differently if given the chance. But as a whole, I’m happy from what I learned.
I know now it’s okay to ask for what you want, and if someone can’t give it to you, it’s okay to walk away or wait for someone who will.
And if someone really is the love of your life, he or she will catch you when you fall, not drop you without a second thought. Sometimes late at night when I hear a song that reminds me of him I want to call him. And I want to tell him that in a weird, twisted, reverse-psychology sort of way he made me realize my own worth–as clichéd and ridiculous it may sound. Polished.
Each person has her own personal waves that seem to knock her down over and over again. But it’s what’s left over that counts. There are a few things I’m sure of in life: nail polish chips, scars fade and life goes on.
And when I look at my bottle of colored sea glass sitting on my windowsill, with the sun lighting up each piece, reflecting shapes onto my bedroom wall, I’m reminded that it’s the bad experiences that harden, soften and polish us and it’s a beautiful thing.