Mentally I am here.

There’s this meme that’s been going around Twitter lately of tweets that read “mentally I am here,” captioning some sort of photo, usually setting up something humorous in nature that expresses one of the many depressing vibes of 2020. But as for me, mentally, I am here.

It was the end of August in 2013. I was on vacation down the shore with my aunt and younger brother and was just beginning to come out of the deep, post-college, “shit I’m an adult now” depression that had plagued me ever since I graduated at the end of 2012, but which had especially affected my summer.

Long days of lounging poolside in the sun with my family were followed by evenings cut loose on the boardwalk, my nightly spending money from my aunt in my pocket waiting to be spent on whatever treats or entertainment I wanted. Many 22 year olds would use this as an opportunity to get wasted, but not me.

I bought delightfully unhealthy fried sweets and played my way through the arcades, as one does at the Jersey Shore. I also spent a large amount of time just wandering through the crowds or strolling to the more residential ends of the boardwalk, looking at the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy the previous fall with a melancholy eye.

Here is an ancient video from my defunct YouTube channel that I wrote and filmed on this trip!

But the first thing I did most nights was sit in the sand as close to the sea as I could while staying dry, watching and listening to the crashing waves while the never ending carnival of the boardwalk thrummed distantly behind me.

Being by the sea has been a balm for my soul my whole life, even before I knew to call it that, and this time spent quietly thinking and dreaming and occasionally scribbling away in a little notebook, was what I needed the most. And since this was my first extended beach trip since I’d received my DSLR on Christmas in 2011 I took so. many. photos. I had a list of photo opportunities in my mind that I wanted to pursue and I checked them all off.

The weekly fireworks show.

Playing with fancy settings like shutter speed by the lights of the rides.

Snapping what I could see on a walk down the jetty.

And in a little place by the part of the inlet where people fish during the day I took a whole series of these sunset sky photos.

I don’t think I can adequately put into words the feelings of freedom and satisfaction I got from my nightly wandering. I think it possibly had a lot to do with feeling in control for the first time that year. I got to determine where I went and what I did. I didn’t have to worry about the unemployed mess my life at home was, especially because my aunt was generously giving me spending money. She didn’t care what time I came back to our motel room because I was never outrageously late and she never asked much about what I’d been up to. I think I just really relished not only being my own person, but being a person who felt like I had options and possibilities.

Seven years later and this is still one of my favorite photos of myself.

I think my mind has drifted back to this particular trip now because 2020 has been a year where I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over my life, which is a sentiment I’m sure is shared by much of the world.

I know I could revisit this location now. The town still exists, after all, and I still make day trips there to this day. But I can’t go back to the feelings I had on that trip, especially given the current pandemic. I confess, I did venture down to this town back in July, and it was an incredibly odd experience. So I suppose, in the meantime, if you need me, mentally I will be here.

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