Naia found herself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by varying shades of blue. The serenity of the monochromatic landscape reminded her of a recent trip to the Sahara Desert. For two nights, she had slept outside on the sand with only blankets as a base and covering, awaking at sunrise content and refreshed. Believing that she had found a temporary solution to her insomnia, she began sleeping outdoors whenever possible. However, nothing replicated that experience in the golden desert. The woods and island beaches were full of noise, color, and harsh elements ill-suited for a light sleeper.
An itch on her forehead returned Naia to her physical environment. She could be an hour, two hours, maybe three or four from shore, and with no bearings to guide her to land. Essentially, she had paddled herself away from problems only to encounter a new problem, how to find her way back. Her breath quickened in a telltale sign of approaching anxiety, so she cleared her mind with a positive affirmation: I am capable, I am capable. She was fighting off her thoughts as she was fighting off the weak current, with little resistance.
The water’s calm, glittering surface could be a signal that she was just beyond the shoreline. She scanned ahead of her while turning the kayak, but the view was the same in all directions. Without a compass or relevant navigation skills, finding her way back was guesswork. Assuming she had paddled straight out, the best option would be to reverse her course of direction. But the circle she made seconds earlier had disoriented her. As an avid explorer, she had ventured into a variety of unknown habitats, yet her visuospatial skills were poorly developed, for she was interested in her internal reactions to novel environments, not the external environments in themselves.
Since she didn’t know how to orient herself pragmatically, she had to rely on instinct and intuition. The hours she spent mindlessly paddling gave her the tranquility to close her eyes and take a deep breath. After a quick meditation, she redirected her course to follow the silver path the sun’s rays made on the water’s surface. If she didn’t have the knowledge to guide herself to shore, she would let the universe do so.
Her spiritual friends advised her to perceive the world with trust. She was now testing that hypothesis. Most of her life was spent in a negative mindset under the guise of rationality. It was ‘rational’ to believe- coming from a family of proud workers- that she couldn’t make a sufficient livelihood through painting. It was ‘rational’ to think- as an artist without a network- that she would never make it in the competitive art world. It was ‘rational’ to consider her five foot, 128 pound frame- although healthy and fit- as inadequate for the model appearance she preferred; for she wasn’t born into a creative, entrepreneurial family, she wasn’t surrounded by an artistic community as a child, and her genetics were the opposite of tall and slender. No positive mindset could change that reality. Moreover, the work she would have to put in to achieve her target lifestyle could drain even the most energetic constitution.
Such an outlook encouraged her to forgo her passions at a young age. Instead of pursuing art, she attended a four-year college, dropped out, and got a retail job selling boutique bathing suits. After work, she would watch YouTube videos or meet her friends at a bar rather than paint or attend art classes. She also never took it upon herself to design, create, or tailor elegant clothes that better fit her muscular frame.
But at this moment- perhaps for the first time in her short life- she did feel grateful for the strong, athletic build pushing her forward. Yet it wasn’t her physical stamina that would set her back from finding land, but her mental endurance. She never had the tenacity to finish what she started. She dropped out of college her junior year, her drive to build a social media platform to market her paintings lasted only three months, and her daily sewing habit lasted a mere three days. It seemed that three was a particularly powerful number in her life for giving up on her commitments and aspirations.
Her arms began to burn, a sensation she enjoyed. Not just the outer skin, but the muscles and tendons beneath. It was a pleasant distraction from the uncomfortable tingling on her face and neck. Her first experience with the sun’s power was when she visited her grandparents in Hawaii. After a fishing trip, her friend’s pale skin had turned bright red and then fell off in clumps a few days afterwards. She wondered if her skin would peel in the same manner from the deep burn she was developing.
As she was studying her arms, the current began to pick up. She stopped paddling and let her body cool down. A calm breeze was beginning to blow from the left. The brief pause had shifted the kayak in the direction of the current. Although it meant that she was changing her path, it signified that she was trusting the universe to guide her.
The ease of moving with the current put her at peace. She began to think of influential relationships in her life: her mother, grandparents, friends, and past lovers. Their silhouettes shifted in her mind until she arrived at Alyssa. Her ex-girlfriend’s image expanded beyond a shadow. She was laying on Naia’s old bed in toffee colored pants and a juniper knit sweater, petting her former roommates white Persian cat. But as much as she wanted to hold onto that memory, the warm colors in her mind slowly faded into the striking sunset before her. The afternoon was slowly progressing into evening.
This realization carried with it a repressed anxiety about her circumstances. As adrenaline surged, she was pulled between two belief structures: trust in the universe and trust in external reasoning. If she failed to listen to the universe, maybe the universe would fail her. And if she failed to adequately assess the situation, she risked paddling aimlessly at sea until natural elements took her.
Taking a deep breath, she decided to survey her surroundings and enjoy the sunset. She watched as the colors blended into a deep shade of blue black. But she could no longer relate her environment to the uniform peace of the desert. A monochromatic black was overwhelming, too similar to death and eternity.
The panic set in. Her arms were sore and shaking and her breathing was shallow and quick. Sighing, she relinquished control, leaned back, and rested the paddle on the kayak with a firm grip. Like the glitter of the suns rays during the day, the silver light of the crescent moon and stars were the only colors to punctuate the endless night. She focused on the benevolent sky and let the waves rock her from side to side.
Her mental fortitude was not a match for the universe. She didn’t have the drive to make her own fate. So, with resignation, she allowed herself to drift with the current and hoped that either someone would find her or that she would find her way back to land.