Sorry about the radio silence lately, but I have been busy on a whirlwind visit to Canada. I’m back in the Land of the Rising Sun now for Japan 3.0, and will likely have a few Canada vs. Japan stories coming your way, but for now this article has been on my heart to write and share with you all. Enjoy!
Sandcastles Never Last. If I ever write a book about my life this will probably be the title. It’s become rather something of a theme for me, a way of seeing the world, of guiding my own life, and of observing the lives of others.
Sandcastles can be small projects made just for fun, or award-winning epic endeavors intended to be admired by all. But regardless of their scale or the effort put into them, they can never cheat the tide that comes to wash them back to sea. And if you do try to cheat the tide and build yours beyond its reach, it will inevitably crumble away anyways without the moisture to sustain it.
This is something I have to remind myself of often, whenever I worry about how I don’t have a master life plan like so many others seem to: a 5-year, 10-year and 20-year set of goals to be worked towards. I don’t know for certain what I’ll be doing even a year from now, never mind what country I’ll be living in. I’m almost 28 years old now, and my sandcastle seems to be lagging behind a lot of the other kids my age – kids who already own their own homes, have their own kids, and are well into developing some semblance of a promising career. Returning “home” to Canada for a visit brought this to light in a new way, as I saw how everyone’s lives had progressed while I’ve been playing in the waves on the other side of the sea.
I don’t have any problem with not having a bigger sandcastle, so to speak. I seem to like building little ones and letting the tide wash them away even as I’m working on the next one. And of all the things adults have told me about my life as a wanderer – and by adults, I mean people at least a generation or more above me as I know I’m an a legitimate “adult” as well now – one of the things that stands out overwhelmingly is the sentiment, “I wish I could have done what you are doing now, but I never had the chance and now it’s too late.”
The idea of living for the next step has never appealed to me – we go to elementary school to prepare for high school to prepare for university to prepare for a career to prepare for retirement to prepare for… what exactly? The tide to come at once, finally, to wash us away? The happiest post-retirement age people I’ve known are the ones who didn’t sit back and wait for the tide, but kept going, kept building, kept creating and kept experiencing. And so I’ve always been attracted to ways out of this cycle – traveling, for example. To many it seems like traveling means putting “real life” on hold. But to me it’s as real, and as temporal, a sandcastle as any.
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
I don’t believe entirely that everything is meaningless – I think our experiences and relationships are laden with meaningfulness, albeit in a temporal sense. Fleeting moments, shared experiences, even family and friends come and go; the memories stay with us but even they fade with time. From a larger perspective, everything on this side of eternity is chasing after the wind, building sandcastles only to have them washed away, sooner or later.
Some people may find this a rather depressing perspective. Or perhaps, deep down, even a terrifying one – if you spend your entire life perfecting your ideal sandcastle, I can see why the suggestion of its imminent demolition might be a fearful prospect. On the contrary, I find it hopeful. The tide doesn’t discriminate; it takes the bad with the good. Sorrow from the death of someone close to you, for example. A broken marriage, or a series of them, as is the case with many people in my life, and probably with at least a few people in yours. I’ve had a lot of sandcastles crumble in the past, and I’ve mourned for them. But there are always new sandcastles to build. And with sandcastles, it’s the fun of building more than the finished product that counts.