I met him while I was walking along the beach in Laguna Beach. I was on a solo vacation – a relaxing self-indulgent retreat to the warm shores of SoCal in hopes of fixing a broken heart. There he was standing there, smiling, looking a bit dazed, holding a watermelon. I could tell he was very young and probably high, but I thought, “what the hell, this could be interesting.” So I walked up to him and asked, “So…what’s up with the watermelon?” To my surprise, he didn’t say a word, but instead sat down, cut open the watermelon and offered me a slice. I thought it was strange, but also refreshing, so I sat down on the sand next to him.
Although he appeared to have nowhere else to be, I felt slightly embarrassed for taking up soo much of his time; I’m sure he hadn’t planned to sit down with a stranger, share his watermelon and start up a conversation. Maybe he had somewhere to be? Someone to meet? He was clearly much younger than me and so I sat with the realization that maybe he was just being polite, making small talk. After a few minutes I tried to give him an out, saying things like, “thanks so much for the watermelon. You can head out if you have other stuff to do or other people to meet. I don’t want to take up your time.” But instead of standing up and saying goodbye, he looked bummed. He said he thought we were having a nice conversation, but if I wanted him to leave, he would leave.
In that moment I realized I do this thing in life… this thing where I try to give people an out because for some reason, I feel bad they are spending their precious time on me. When I’m at work, I hate bothering people with questions or idle chatter because I know they’re busy, and when I was rock climbing, I tried not to take too long up on the rope because it meant less time the belayer was able to climb. Maybe my behavior is a symptom of our society, always trying to be super-efficient, ensuring we don’t waste the time of others; or maybe it’s just some weird deep-seated issue I have developed over the years. But here was this kid, sitting on the beach with me, sharing a watermelon, talking about big things like the meaning of life, and I was somewhat preoccupied with the thought that maybe, just maybe, he really wanted to be somewhere else… sitting with someone else… and maybe he was just being polite by sitting with me instead. Yup. Definitely a deep-seated issue Haha.
So I apologized and told him I’m awkward, and he laughed and assured me that he had nowhere else to be. In fact, he was going to sleep on that very beach that evening and then fly to Thailand the next morning on a one-way ticket. He went on to explain he had been part owner of a small software company in SoCal (he was only in his mid-twenties, but I suppose it is possible. We were in California, after all), and he got burnt out rather quickly with all that was required of him in the tech field. He realized experiences trumped being stressed all the time, so he sold his portion of the company and promptly bought a one-way ticket to Thailand with very little plan in mind. I was both intrigued and somewhat in disbelief, as he seemed way too young to have owned a company, but even if it was untrue, it was a fun story and so I kept listening. We ended up talking until the sun went down: inklings of freemasonry, musing over the challenges of working in the IT field, growing up in SoCal and the concept of having it all but feeling like you are still searching for more, flat world theory, minimalism….and if I recall, Bigfoot even made its way into the conversation. Needless to say, it was an interesting night.
Finally, as the sun was setting, I got up, dusted off my sandy shorts and gave him an awkward hug (because what do you do after spending nearly two hours sitting on the beach with a total stranger who is flying to Thailand the next day on a one-way trip in hopes of a massive life changing experience?). I wished him luck, hoping he would fine whatever it was he was looking for, and I meant it. Funny enough, I never caught his name.
I still think about “the kid with the watermelon” every now and wonder what he’s up to…if he found whatever he was looking for. I’m grateful for the little moment in time we spent on that beach, simply enjoying each other’s company, talking about life and dreaming big dreams. I wouldn’t have experienced that moment if he had walked away when I gave him the out. Instead he chose to stay, reminding me that I’m worth at least a few moments in someone’s day, if not more.