Shine Bright

"Fine light in the beautiful sea, I chose to be happy..."

I had just enough time to take a quick shower, throw on my 3 year old Forever 21 denim bathing suit, and put some Hicks Edge Control on my baby hairs. We ran 3 blocks from the Amora to the ferry at Circular Quay. By the time we climbed on deck, I was out of breath - not sure if it was because of my respiratory system or because of the view. The iconic Opera House, the hanger designed Harbour Bridge, the aquamarine glass high risers - it all had me stuck in awe for a moment. The feeling reminded me of how my heart jumped when we first arrived in Egypt and sailed in a private boat along the Nile. As the dark blue waves rippled under the sun, the reality of how beautiful life is began setting in. I was up too high to see my reflection in the river but it was there, whether it was visible or not, a part of me was there and is always going to remain, just as it abides in places as far as the Indian Ocean and as wide as the Mediterranean Sea. One day, I'll sit my grandchildren down and teach them about each body of water that I ever went to; I'll teach them world history - the different struggles, triumphs, and truths that all of those oceans, rivers, and seas have seen. It will be an honor. 

I stayed on the top of the ship in solitude. I found peace as I spent the entire ride looking down at the water and up at the sky, silently praising and thanking God. I mean really, what else was there to do?
When we arrived at Manly Beach, we had no idea where to go. As usual, I let Shelly handle the directions, I was too busy taking in the scenery. The pier almost put me in mind of Miami's Ocean Drive because of the boutiques, restaurants, and busy crowds of half naked people but the mix of pine trees and Palm trees was the reminder that we were not in Florida. I'd never seen pine trees on a beach before. Rows and rows of dark green needles, soared higher than some of the Heaven height barks and branches of the Palm trees that they stood across from. I felt like I was witnessing a beauty pageant in which the pine was competing with the palm. But the trees were so graceful, standing with the upmost confidence in both their purpose and presence, totally unfazed by each other's beauty. It was symbolic to us as humans: we can be as tall in life as we want, letting our talents take us high as they can and never have to compete with anyone at all. 

The water wasn't as blue as the water in Thailand or even in Jamaica but it still had its own appeal. It looked cold and I was mentally preparing myself for what was coming next. 
"You're late, just go down there with him - the instructor has already started his lesson."

"Okay but what about our wet suits?" Shelly looked at the owner of the Manly Surf School with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. Her eyes were big and her smile was far from concealable. 

"You're late. You don't have time for a wet suit. They are very hard to put on and the lesson has already started." The direct tone and thick accent in his voice reminded me of Gena Proctor, the middle grades director at my school. I felt like I was in the hallway, listening to her chastise an 8th grader for being out of uniform. I hate getting in trouble, so I began to put my things down and head to the instructor on the beach. Sometimes I am so quick to concede. 

"I am really sorry for our lateness. We literally just got off the plain and came straight here. It's my birthday and I want a wet suit. I'm sorry, I'm only going to be able to do this once. I only turn 30 once. I need the full experience." I was a bit embarrassed yet proud of Shelly's ability to fling the same forwardness back to the owner. She may have walked into that small yellow house with the enthusiasm of a little girl but there was no mistaking the fact that she was well beyond a fully grown woman, who had no problem speaking up for herself. She knew what she wanted and she determined to get it. 

"Fine. But it's going to take time away from your lesson. Here. Put this on. Don't zip it until you get down to the water. The boards are already down there." 

"Thank yooouuuu!!" Shelly's doe like demeanor returned, filling the entire room with a vibrant joy, as we all helped each other put on our suits and head to the shore. 

We were greeted by Fernando, "the coolest surfer that Spain has ever known." He taught us everything we needed to know. 

"You just have to feel the energy of the waves. Connect with the energy." 

I loved how he said that. It felt so spiritual .. I knew I wasn't going to be a pro but I at least wanted to know that connection he was speaking of. 

The water was warm but the waves were not friendly. Every time I got close to one of them, I would try to hop on my board, paddle, and jump up - but the first time, Shelly got caught in the wave and came crashing in to my rib (ouch!)... Then, I was sure I was about to ride again but nope, that wave rode me honey, all the way back to the shore! Fernando saw me struggling and finally came to help me. When the next wave came, I hopped on, paddled, and jumped up to ride that thang! 

"I'm flyinnnngggg!" The crisp air went threw my hair and I move forward to go faster. "Woooooooo!!!" I screamed and surfed all the way to the shore. I was so proud. I looked up and Meekz was flying too. She was a natural. Shelly, not so much, but she looked good in the pictures :) 

When we got back to the Harbour, we  noticed an ebony brown hipster chick, wearing a blue surfer dress and brown knee high sandals. She sang beautifully, as the lightening soared through the sky. It was about to pour but she was unfazed. 

"Come on Val! We don't want to get stuck in the rain!" Shelly was getting annoyed with me. I was taking too long. I knew it was her birthday but I couldn't move. The words of that song, in that very moment, were as soothing as the sound of the soft rain that began hitting the ground. 

I used to love that song, it's still one of my top 5 favorites of all time ...even though I've heard it a million times, "I chose to be happy" resonated with me like never before. Being happy is definitely a conscience choice. Sometimes I forget but I couldn't ignore this waking dream of a message that I was receiving from the Universe. Im so grateful. Grateful for this trip, grateful for my blessings, grateful for my happiness. 

For dinner we went to the Waterfront restaurant in the Harbour. It was beautiful at night. Shelly wearing all gold and Meekz in all white, two perfect birthday dresses. They looked so classy. Everyone stopped to stare. 

We all enjoyed our food and after we were finally done eating, Nikki arrived. She met us at the restaurant. We were expecting her earlier but something happened to her flight when she was leaving Dubai. We were tired from our long day of surfing and extra jet-lagged but Nikki was not allowing us to go to sleep.

"You will not look back on your 30th and say you went to sleep! No way!"

We took a taxi from the restaurant to a really nice bar on George called, Establishment. The restaurant looked like a greenhouse. The walls were covered in green ivy leaves and the ceiling was made of glass. 

"Can I have a gin and tonic, 2 vodka cranberries, and a water on the rocks?" Nikki ordered a round for us all. The water was for me. 

"Okay can I do my toast? Cheers!!! To my queens because I love y'all and this is going to be a year of love, health, good friendship, wealth, and just happiness all around!" Nikki led the way, being the first to raise her glass. 

"Yasssss!" We all received her words. 

"So I want y'all to say this with me: 
Champagne to my real friends
Real pain to my sham friends 
Now drank motha-f*cka drank!!!"
The laughs were endless for the rest of the night... We talked about everything that single women in their late twenties and early thirties talk, marriage, sex, and shoes. We didn't think about work, no one mentioned anything that could get too serious - we just wanted to laugh and have fun. It was our first night in Australia. I still can't believe it - I'm in Australia!!! 



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