The loneliest person on Earth

The loneliest person on Earth (and other reasons I cried in Hawaii)

Right so. I’m in Hawaii.

Everybody is all jealous, and I got a shit-ton of unfollows on Instagram because I’m good at cropping life to make it look perfect here, because um…it’s not very hard. Have you seen Hawaii? Aim camera in direction of ocean + years of professional photography experience = click, done, perfect.

But today, I’ve cried a lot. And it’s probably not for the reasons you’d think, like I heard a great version of “Over the Rainbow” or I was so moved to gratitude that I had to pull over and weep by a pineapple field. (Though both have happened, and recently.)

Today, I went to Turtle Beach. Where the wild Hawaiian Sea Turtles often rest after a long day. They come to feed on the seaweed-laden rocks, then pull themselves up into the sand and plop down for the day.

I’m swimming in the ocean, floating along and waiting until one of the famed turtles makes its appearance. The excited squeals of a snorkeler who has spotted a turtle alert me to its presence. (He, she, even the professionals needs tools to tell. Turtles are intensely private about gender.)

I swim out to it, staring in awe at how it looks just like a very flexible, slightly-more-mobile-than-the-rest rock. How it’s wild and huge and lovely. I’m rapturously staring at this creature I’ve been waiting for, when I snap out of my awe-induced stupor to glance at my fellow humans.

It’s a wall of GoPros and selfie sticks. Screens aimed at the creature from every angle. There are a few snorkelers who are catching glimpses in the water — one of whom is my companion — but every single person on land is in possession of a GoPro, a phone, or a dSLR designated for capturing every movement. Sometimes all three.

Not a single person who’s traveled thousands of miles to be with the sea turtles is actually present with said turtles.

I get the desire to take pictures. I totally understand being so overwhelmed by an experience that you just put a screen up to it and hope to process it later.

But. Not a single human to make contact with? Not a single human to catch the eye of and wink, as if to say, “Isn’t this magical!?!??”or “AREN’T YOU SO EXCITED TO BE ALIVE!????’ or “HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE!???”

Standing in the water, surrounded by a crushing crowd of humans, but being the only one without any technological means of ‘capturing’ the moment was one of the most intensely lonely experiences of my life.

I stood there and wept behind my sunglasses. (No one noticed. Because GoPros.)

At the periphery, there was one bedraggled volunteer enforcing the ‘keep 6 feet back or more’ policy.

“Yes, your GoPro sticks count toward the six feet.”
“Please, you’re crowding the turtle.”
“Please give it space.”
“PLEASE back up.”
“Sir…please.”
“Ma’am…PLEASE…”

The volunteer was so sweet and yet so fiercely protective that I started crying AGAIN because these creatures have a gorgeous, Australian-accented ally to wade into the water over an 8-hour shift and say, again and again, to those tourists who appear to have no boundaries, that it’s not okay to intimidate this creature.

Your GoPro footage is no excuse for encumbering this wild animal.

Your screens are allowed, but the wild is more important.

And to you, dear reader, wherever you might be. When you’re tempted to pull out a screen and camp out behind it. When you can’t process a feeling so you break out your phone instead. When you are tempted to be present, but instead a tiny device burns a hole in your pocket.

Your screens are allowed, but the wild is more important.

Please, let the wild win.

You are not made for the intensely lonely experience of being alone — with or without your screen — in a sea of humans.

You are made for the quick eye dart, the excited gesture, the OH DEAR GOD CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW AWESOME THIS IS hand flail capable of crossing even the steepest of language barriers and jet-lag-induced pseudo-comas.

You are made to connect.

Please, PLEASE don’t leave the people without screens so lonely. We, too, possess these magical screens, but we put them down on purpose in order to remember with our eyes. With our brains, our upturned mouths, all of our senses that will recall those rocks and that wave and one particularly indifferent turtle, flapping about on the current. We are the guardians of Being, of Wonder, of experiencing the present in real time without the aid of any technological device.

You deserve to see life with the whole of your senses, to experience the absolute indifference of a sea turtle who makes eye contact without caring about your feeble human presence, and to laugh at the dismissive gesture of that precocious creature with everyone else who is standing nearby, surrounding it.

You deserve to be present.

And in the end, you deserve a vacation memory better than, “Remember that time you got all those Facebook likes for that photo.”

May you find a new human to wink, nod, or crinkle your nose at every single day.

May you catch the eyes of small children and smirk with an all-encompassing sort of gentle conspiracy.

May you know the raucous wonder of life without a single layer of technology buffering the feels between joy and the soul itself.

May your most intense moments of connection live only in your belly, deep down, untouchable and wild.

And may you, my friend, be richly rewarded for turning your phone off, especially when the always-on siren call means you’d rather not.

P.S.  Choose love.