A mentor of mine and I were playing phone tag. I needed advice. I was at the cusp of possibly of getting a big break into the industry of my dreams, and then the entire industry came grinding to a halt.
Not that I was surprised. I mean, the 2020's are what? Late stage capitalism? When climate change comes home to roost? When AI renders us all obsolete? The precursor to the next civil war? The tipping point of the actual Handmaid's Tale?
You get it; you're here with me. No matter on what side of the aisle you stand, you feel it.
When this happened, was on vacation, the first vacation my family had taken since COVID. We were at a beautiful, albeit only regionally known beach, and I was doing my best to relax. I suggested some times I could get on the phone with my mentor, didn't hear back, threw my phone on the bed, and went on a beach walk with my mom.
And, about an hour into the walk, I spotted a shark, only a few feet off shore, paralleling the beach in about four feet of water. It was probably fourish feet long. Then there was a second shark, this one about five and a half feet long. And I had seen that shark the day before, in the same spot. In fact, when I had seen the bigger shark previously, I had interrupted a couple sucking each other's faces to let them know they might want to keep Bow Wow (a Chihuahua) and Fluffy (a dishwater-colored toy dog with slick fur) out of the water for a bit.
My mom and I watched the sharks, waiting for them to do something even more exciting than simply gracing us with their presence, and eventually the light shifted, turning the water thick green, and we lost them.
We kept walking, eventually turned around, and on our way back, we saw them again. We watched them, waiting for their fins to break the surface (they did not), waiting for them to launch out of the water (that didn't happen either), to catch a fish (nope), to catch a bird (definitely not), to swim at our toes, just tickling the surf (thank God, no).
Eventually, they disappeared, this time ducking across the sandbar into the "deeper" water, where it was probably all of five feet.
We walked back toward our chairs. We'd been coming to this beach for twenty years, and had only seen a shark once in a blue moon. This year we saw multiple sharks, the same sharks most probably, several days in a row. My mom and I both agreed, seeing those sharks was very, very cool.
I got back to the house, went upstairs, realized it was past when I offered to be available. I saw I had missed a text from my mentor.
I called the mentor, the call was sent to voicemail, then he called me back. I immediately apologized for missing the-not-at-all-agreed upon, but merely suggested meeting time.
"I lost track of time. I saw a shark," I said.
"Of course," he replied, "that happens all the time. Actually, I don't think that happens at all."
And we continued our conversation. But the comment lodged under my sunburnt skin.
Why do we live in a world where things like people punching flight attendants, Congressional dysfunction to the point of shutdown, wildfires that burn down towns in December, and the flags at half mast for yet another mass shooting are not blinked at, but me seeing a shark is the thing that makes someone question my narrative?
Stopping to watch those sharks was the best part of my day. And maybe that's what the 2020's need. Not stopping to smell the roses, but stopping to watch the sharks.
The future is now.