This weekend, someone asked me to name three interesting facts about myself.
It’s dramatic, but I called my best friend for help. She said, “One of the most interesting things about you is that you lived in St. John.”
Here is my story:
In my 22, I moved to St. John, a tiny island in the Caribbean aiming to become a career lifeguard. Back then I never worried about the job, the plan, or that I had less than $1,000 in my bank account.
In college, I was fearless, convinced and invincible. Every summer I was on the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue squad. Honestly, today I can’t even believe I had the balls to tryouts and become a particularly strong swimmer -compared to the average person, not to the collegiate swimmers and triathletes as the most lifeguards are.
The captain said I was one of the smallest people at tryouts, and I pulled in a guy twice my size—with my bathing suit falling down. Instead of taking the time to pull it up, I kept dragging this dude out of the water. I guess when it comes down to it, not giving up is what matters.
The meaning of being an athlete it’s not about our physical ability, it is more about pushing the limitations we construct about ourselves in our own minds. Being a lifeguard taught me how to run and swim long-distance and when I was struggling during physical training, they’d come back for me, cheer me on, and push me to finish. It was the first time I felt like I had a purpose, and I was part of a team—something much bigger than me.
As graduation approached, I knew I wanted to lifeguard one more summer. My parents understood my love for the job and supported the idea of putting my career on hold until the fall.
“Working 9 to 5 every day during the summer blows.”
“Why the hell did we all work so hard to graduate in four years? The real world is terrible.”
About halfway through the summer, a guard from the Outer Banks was visiting to do some work with the Coast Guard. The captain sat him in my stand. This guard was friendly and he has been working October to April at the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“You remind me of a lot of the girls down there who work at my favourite bar, Woody’s.” he told me and added, “If you decide to say ‘f*ck it’ and move to St. John, I’ll help you out. You’ve got my number.”
Looking back, not only I ended up working at Woody’s, but those girls became my best friends, and still are.
After Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was paying big money for emergency responders to head down to Louisiana. The captain was looking for a partner to go there and I volunteered, but he lovingly rejected my offer.
Pissed off I called the guard from the Outer Banks and asked if he meant what he said. He laughed and said, “Hell yes! Come on down. Crazy timing, because my roommate is moving out.”
The plan was to head to the islands from October to May, then head back to North Carolina for the summer to lifeguard. But it turns out the islands did suit me well.
After a few months, I realized I’d found my new home. I’d built a new life on that rock that I didn’t want to leave.
It was the beginning of a new adventure. I had no idea what I was doing and everyone in my life thought I was completely insane.
I’ll leave you with this:
You don’t always have to have a plan, but if you do have a plan, be open to veering off course and seeing where life takes you. We can learn a lot about ourselves when we’re in the transition. We perceive the feeling of groundlessness as something to fear, but it’s not. It’s an opportunity to explore and rebuild.
In many ways, I’m in awe of my 22-year-old self. She was fearless. She also thought she knew everything and had it all figured out. If only I could gently tell her she doesn’t, but that’s okay because she’s going to be just fine.
I’d tell her to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.
Jaimis Huff is a yoga teacher based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, who believes in living life to the fullest and practicing radical self-love. Her playful approach to teaching encourages students to step outside of their comfort zone and try things they never believed possible.