In Too Deep
I hadn’t swam in the ocean for years until he asked me if I wanted to go in.
“I’m not going to get in too deep,” I said, standing with no more than my ankles emerged in salt water that was warm enough to bathe in. I wanted to be protective of my contacts—I drove us down the twenty-two blocks that stands between my little apartment and the sand. I wasn’t a very strong swimmer—I refused to put my face in the water when my mom signed me up for swimming lessons at four years old. My lungs aren’t the greatest—I had breathing issues throughout junior high, still can’t blow up a balloon or blow out all of the candles on a birthday cake. Not too deep, I said. Not too deep.
Eventually we stepped out a little further, letting water splash my calves. Another few steps, my knees. A really aggressive wave splattered drops of the ocean across my hips.
“Far enough,” I said. “This is far enough.”
But there was a massive amount of seaweed floating around in that shallow zone. Massive as in you could not untangle yourself from one strand without another one grabbing on. We tried going a hundred feet to the left, a hundred feet to the right, tried moving forward, tried throwing it out deeper. That seaweed was a stage-four clinger, always right back where we didn’t want it.
“Let’s just go out a little bit further,” he said, grabbing my hand. The few swimmers out in that deep spot where your hair gets wet and sometimes you have to swim through a wave but your toes can almost always find ground weren’t worried about any seaweed wrapping itself around their bodies like a girlfriend wanting to cuddle in below sixty-degree weather.
He led me out a little bit further. The waves were getting bigger but we bobbed over them before they worked themselves up to crash. I wrapped my legs around his waist so he could keep my eyes from burning and I used them to look out for the families who started to get a little braver and a little too close with their body boards. I unwrapped myself from him and swam around, letting my face get wet and my brave get a little bigger.
I’ve tried to go in deep before, once. I remember being sucked under a wave and not being able to find my way back up. All I could feel was pressure and this feeling that I was stuck. I couldn’t have been there more than a few seconds, but I was ready to give up. This is it, I thought. I’m in too deep. There wasn’t brave, there wasn’t fight, there wasn’t someone I could hold onto knowing that they’d pull me back to the surface. It was only as simple as this—I was in too deep.
There are some things I cannot do without going in too deep. Analyzing relationships with boys I can’t decide if I like, ordering a pizza by myself, watching Parks and Rec or Friends on Netflix, and stalking other women on social media. And by that, I mostly mean stalking gorgeous women on Instagram. Recently it’s been an NBA dancer named Savannah who has impeccably clear skin, an incredibly toned body, and this really cute hat I now really want to buy.
I can spend hours—probably days if I had them—scrolling 149 weeks back in this girl’s profile just to compare her perfections to my flaws. I send screenshots of her posts to my best friends, saying, “This girl is literally perfect.”
Yes, I say literally in the wrong context about fifty times a day in a group message with two of my literally perfect best friends.
This doesn’t just happen sometimes. I can find a new girl to stalk at least once a week. It doesn’t matter if I have a crazy busy day, if I just accomplished a long-term goal, if I spent the last twenty-four hours with people I love or if they’re still in the room across from me. My life can be full, but I still want what someone else has. I get ankle, knee, hips, and chin deep in the perfectly photographed lives of people I don’t know until I feel like I am nothing and have nothing. I delete Instagram from my phone at least once every couple of months because I have a better grip on the fact that what I’m doing is wrong, and it’s all fake, and nobody’s life is what they put on the internet, but still I found myself sucked under a wave of clever captions and hundreds of likes, and I don’t try to fight it. I give up, I give in, and I throw around the word “perfect” as if it was an adjective that actually exists. I drown in pressure and lose all of the things I have built and worked for in my life to jealousy—happiness, accomplishment, acceptance, confidence. I wear them all buttoned on my shirt one day and toss them all in offering to the Instagram models the next. And there is nobody, no single person on this planet—no matter how dearly I love them or how hard they try to make me see life in its real form—who can pull me out of the wave.
But there is a book. A book that I would wrap my legs around so it could hold me above the waves to keep my eyes from burning. A book I rarely read and desperately desire to know. A book that holds the wisdom and heart of a God who is the only one capable of untangling my heart from the seaweed and growing my brave just a little bit more. And when I open His book, and I try to lose my hours to reading and learning instead of stalking and envying, there’s always a surface to rise to.
I’m always just looking for a surface. From that mountain of work, that off and on person, that dwindling number in my bank account, that homesickness, that jealousy. Sometimes I just need a clearer surface to rise to.
I think we all just need that surface sometimes. The thing we can wrap our legs around and count on to hold us out of the waves. Maybe life is nothing more than finding that thing or that person or that place that brings us back to the surface when we’ve given up after spending too much time fighting the waves.
I’m in too deep. I’m in too deep.
I say it all the time.
But there—I know I don’t always see it—but the surface isright there.