“These are the times that try men’s souls.” When activist Thomas Paine saw the hungry, tattered, and all-around pitiful state of the continental army in 1776, he penned these famous words to rally the disheartened troops, dudes who were merely committing treason and sacrificing life and limb in an unwinnable war against the most powerful empire on earth. Imagine what T Paine would’ve said about a challenge as monumental as intentionally not surfing during hurricane season.
My personal struggle is entering its ninth month, and my soul is in for some serious trials. The tropics are on fire. Cristobal just lit up the coast, and more waves are coming. If we could string together a year full of Septembers and Octobers, Va Beach might deserve consideration as a halfway decent surf spot. Like the continental army, I’m in for the fight of my life.
My little odyssey is nothing compared to what ‘muricans undertook in 1776. I’m hardly deserving of recognition from anyone, other than maybe my family and the guys at First Street who each caught a few extra waves in my absence. Still, it’s tough. People tell me all the time, “I can’t believe you’re not surfing, that’s crazy!” I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced.
That realization popped up and bitch-slapped me like it was an unpaid pimp. The toughest task I’ve ever undertaken is trying to avoid riding a wave for a year. My hardest part is still ahead, and there’s a solid chance I won’t make it. How sad is that? When I think of all the tough shit that people do, I feel like a total douche.
Assuming I was the wimpiest sumbitch I know, I asked around. No one I spoke to has done much to challenge themselves either. Some have struggled through school or with a workout regimen, but that’s about it. As it turns out, the comfort zone sucks all of us in, and it doesn’t let us out.
Surfing was my comfort zone, and once I learned how to stand up, nothing I did in the water seemed like a challenge. Paine went on the add, “Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right ‘to bind us in all cases whatsoever,’ and if being bound in that manner is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth.” Now go back and replace “Britain” with “the ocean” and tell me it doesn’t ring true.
Why are we so attached, as a species, to what comes easily? You’d think, given our ability to outthink other animals, we’d recognize the importance of stepping outside our little boxes.
We love our instant gratification, which is a nice way of saying we’re a bunch of lazy fucks. We sleepwalk through the day, plop down after work and don’t budge until the next morning, when we do it all over again. We’re slaves to comfort, and our servitude keeps us from doing anything great.
I cannot say that I’d ever really stepped out of my comfort zone prior to this year. As frightening as it was to become a landlubber, I believe the results have been worthwhile. The only habit I’ve picked up is writing, something I’d given up on. By documenting real life for the first time, I’m hooked. Staying dry has led me to dredge up my past and to admit things to myself and whoever stumbles on my blog that I never would have said otherwise. And by doing so, think how much money I’ve saved by not paying a therapist.
While I’m still in control of surfing rather than the other way around, I want to urge YOU to step out of your comfort zone. Embrace uncomfortableness and see what happens. Don’t quit surfing; that’s just stupid. But step out. Do SOMETHING.
Don’t take it from me. Another famous American, Teddy Roosevelt, said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.” Teddy was a sickly kid whose courage led him to greatness. He was a badass with a big stick, so listen to him.
I’m a realist. I know that the number of people who’ve been inspired to action by a blog post is precisely zero. You’ll get to this point, flush the toilet, and wash your hands of the whole idea. And you’ll live, at least a while. And dying in your bed, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back and tell our enemies that they can take our lives but they can never take our freedom!