Praia de Sossego: A lesson in activity

"Nailed it," said God, probably, on my behalf. It's not a spoiler because if I can write about it, I obviously survived this journey that should have killed my lethargy-ridden self.

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Xabaka is a wanderlusty futurist who helps aspiring expats overcome their fears of living abroad by providing expert research coupled with real life experience.

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June 2019

I’m too thirty for this, I think rapidly. I haven't yet hit 30, but I think I

My friend Fagner is far ahead of me. Nature’s most highly favored son, he’s not a Capricorn but he’s G.O.A.T. on these wet, jagged rocks that we’re trying to cross to get to the other side of the beach.

I cling to the slick stones for dear life, sandals in one hand and a fist full of rock in the other. I would have preferred to walk around the rocks, but the dark ocean waxes and wanes threateningly at what would be knee-level if I dared to step into it. I did not endure my Saturn Return just to die at dusk on some dark rocks slippery from ocean spray on an empty Brazilian beach! I think at it, eyeing its woody flotsam and overwhelming seaweed that threatens to strangle my ankles and drag me to sea.

Praia de Sossego on Ilha de Itamaracá
Photo composite of smaller wet, jagged rocks near the actual larger wet, jagged rocks we climbed. Praia de Sossego/Ilha de Itamaracá, 2019.

We are in Praia de Sossego on Ilha de Itamaracá, a beach on the island off the coast of Pernambuco in Northeast Brazil. An hour and a half north of Pernambuco’s state capital Recife, it’s one of the beaches that are passé to Northeasterners, but coveted by Southern Brazilians, who travel north for their vacations. At this hour, the sun has already set and the full moon is rising but its light and pull aren’t all the way there yet, so the beach is dark and the waves are heavy on the shore.

By the time I finish my thought Fagner is already halfway to the other side, his dark curls bouncing with every step he takes. His practiced feet and nerves of steel carry him deftly from one rock to the next as he pushes himself with dizzying swiftness over the obstacles. He’s so sure-footed and I’m not even sure I have feet. Mountain goats want to know his secrets.

He looks back at me over the widening gap and I put the thumbs up, instantly regretting that my need to seem in control put me slightly more off balance as the weight of my wet sandals –which would be nothing were I on solid ground, mind you – threatens to pull me down the hill of rocks and into the maw of the waiting sea. I don’t know if I’m imagining things, but I blink and Fagner has already leapt off the rocks and onto the sand of the other side, waiting for me to get there.

“Precisa que te ajuda?” Fagner calls, preparing to come back and guide me.

Maybe it wasn't this dramatic, but this is how it looked in my head. Image courtesy of Stein Egil Liland.

“Não, obrigado!” I’m determined to do it myself. I do toss my sandals to him though, staving off the mini heart attack when I think my trajectory is off and they’ll land in the ocean. They do not.

Why is this so hard? I used to do stuff like this all the time. Have I gotten old?

My adult life flashes before my eyes and I see my favored choices and sentiments highlighted in a regretful spotlight: The days I eschew the gym in favor of literally anything else; the car I choose to take instead of walking or biking; the shopping cart I choose over the basket for what I know will be no more than 2 items; the bed I want over the jog I need.

I see Fagner encouraging me from the sand. I realize this has nothing to do with age. He’s twenty-four but he has the energy of a toddler in a candy store. He’s active and pushes himself. He’s way livelier than I was those few years ago. Those few years ago when I thought I was just as old as I feel now.

Then it hit me: I’m not even actually thirty – I’m lazy. I do just enough to keep in relative shape, but I don’t push myself. I don’t challenge myself. I don’t do anything where there’s more energy put out than conserved.

I’m not that damn thirty! I shout mentally as adrenaline shoots and I throw caution into the ocean that threatens to devour me. I push myself forward, planting the ball of my foot onto a relatively even stone. When it doesn’t shift beneath my weight, I pivot, bringing the rest of me there and then swinging myself around until I’m there with my back to the rocks and my face to the sea. Arms outstretched for balance, I awaken inert muscle after inert muscle to do my bidding and get me safely to the sand on the other side.

As I near the end of the rocks I see Fagner’s spritely frame encouraging me. “Vem, vem!” he says.

“Tô indo!” I call, as if I’m telling my mom I’m coming when she calls from the other room. With the vigor of my ten-year-old self, I let my feet carry me across the best stones as if they’d done this forever. When I finally reach Fagner my muscles are on fire, burning with youth and energy I’d thought long gone.

"Nailed it," God probably says approvingly to the angels at my epic landing.

Fagner hands me my sandals and I take them. I look forward across the beach. I’m glad I had my epiphany on this batch of rocks, because there are three more piles of rocks sitting on the sand and kissing the sea.

I didn't endure my Saturn Return just to die at dusk on some dark rocks slippery from ocean spray on an empty Brazilian beach full of caution and regrets! I think as my heart beats faster. I’m not that damn thirty.

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”

― David Mitchell,

Cloud Atlas

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