I Hope You Choose To Surround Yourself With People Like This

From here on out, my close circle will only be people who run toward the shark.

Let me explain.

My father has long held the opinion that if you go into the ocean at a depth past your ankles, you will inevitably be eaten by sharks. It is merely a question of when, not if. Much of my childhood was spent being told to come back from the ocean and rolling my eyes at my dad’s stories about these dangerous man-eating sharks off the coast of Orange Beach.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017. I am 27 years old, on vacation with my then-boyfriend and his family. We are in Destin, the water is clear, and it’s a beautiful Florida day. I think to myself, I’m grown, I’m going to go into the ocean. There are no sharks here. Dad is great, just overcautious. I get to chest-deep water and we’re having a great time. My now-mother-in-law and I are enjoying the last day of a full vacation. I turn toward the beach and notice that a lot of people are running.

Odd.

A frantic father races past me to get his daughter. Ah yes, the overly cautious dad. I know him. Then I see something that makes my heart stop. My now-husband is racing toward me, screaming and flinging unsuspecting children toward the beach behind him. He’s sprinting through the ocean toward me and his mother, and now I know there is only one thing that can be behind me, and judging by his expression, it’s very close. You guessed it–it’s a 7-foot shark, and it’s about a foot and a half from where I’m standing.

That, dear reader, has been the end of the ocean for me.

But you know, as I think about that situation, it strikes me that the people closest to me will always run toward the shark. Obviously, it’s not always a literal shark. It can be sharing the weight of the work-week, empathizing with the challenges of being a working parent, strategizing solutions to personal or professional obstacles. Did your toddler pee on the floor in anger? Shark. Are you facing tough conversations with family about COVID? Shark. Over the past two years, the shark has been a lot of things. But it’s shown me my kind of people, and those people are jumping in the water without a second’s hesitation.

Look, y’all. Life is short. The people in your life can dramatically increase or detract from your quality of life. I choose to surround myself with people who know me and love me enough to give me grace when I need it, call me out when I’m in the wrong, and celebrate me in all of my humanity – joy, grief, and otherwise.

Have you ever tried to run through the ocean? In a straight line? It’s exhausting. It’s hard. There were far more people on the shore, yelling and pointing, than there were in the water actively trying to help. It’s always easier to point and talk. There will always be more people on the sidelines, pointing and complaining about the problem without taking any discernible action. It’s certainly dramatic to be the person pointing, but what are they accomplishing, really?

I am extremely thankful and fortunate to have a circle who will run at a problem head on. These people push me to be better and lift as they climb. As you move through life, who do you want to be? Do you want to sit on the beach or do you want to run toward the shark?

I know my answer.