My back has been in pain since we hit Ohio, but now I no longer care.The sounds of the highways and road rage have been replaced by seagulls squawking and waves crashing against the shoreline.As we arrive at my grandparent’s small summer cottage, I can smell the all-too-familiar salt air and watch as Aga and Gaga get off their white wicker chairs to greet us on the lawn.I let my feet down carefully, knowing that they will be met with the uneven sharpness of the gravel driveway.After unpacking and giving hugs, my brother and I walk across the street to the water’s edge.Not much sand is left on this worn beach and the old sea wall is crumbling, washed out and eroding after enduring years of hurricanes and waves crashing against it with tremendous force.Long Island Sound looks more like a mud pit than the inviting ocean I remember from years past and bigger, fancier houses now line the shore, making my cottage look uniquely small.
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None of that matters to me, however.Clinton is the place I come to relax, unwind, and remind myself of what really matters in life.Away from the business of my classes, the drama of my friends, and the responsibilities of life, I find myself relaxed and calm.Looking at the waves, I remember my childhood and the many summers I have spent standing in that very spot on that faded wall.
Here, everything is so familiar.It’s warm, comfortable, loving.I know everyone, so the nervousness I feel so often about interacting with strangers is gone. Here I don’t have to hide the fact that I am different from everyone because everyone knows.No one will judge me or belittle me here if I fall or are unable to do something.The people here just take me how I am.They don’t place a value on me for what I do for them; they value me because I am me.Here, I feel like I am good enough.Here, I feel like I am always welcome.
It is in that small, wood paneled cottage, I bathed in the sink so many times after early morning swims.It was between the first and second sandbar I first learned how to swim.I learned how to fish off the stonewall at high tide.I learned how tides work and how the moon impacts the sea.Gaga taught me how to drive a boat one night at low tide.It was here that I learned that my dog can swim, although she really prefers not to.I learned the danger and enjoyment of sitting on the wall on the Fourth of July, surrounded by people who I love, watching a thousand fireworks light the night sky in celebration.I learned that some people should never wear bikinis.I learned that seaweed will not swallow you.I learned that you shouldn’t go kayaking on a windy day.
The things I learned in this small town in New England have stayed with me all my life.The moments of fun in the sun with my family and close friends, however fleeting, have shaped me.The late nights and early mornings have been safe havens for me as my life has become busier through the years.The events and time I have spent here have become some of my greatest memories.Here, away from the destruction and judgement in my life I have been able to find myself and more than that, understand both myself and my purpose.
Sitting on the wall, my feet banging against the old concrete rhythmically,I watch Andy.He is with my cousin, hunting for crabs in amongst the rocks that used to make up the jetty.Moving my attention to two small children playing on the sandbar, I smile, knowing I am home.