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  • Writer's pictureJim Gavigan

Life Lessons From a Sea Turtle

A few weeks ago, Kristina, Nick (my youngest son), and I went to the beach to do a little fishing since our annual mullet run is going on. Usually, this time of year, it is more “catching” than “fishing,” so we like to take advantage when we can. When we got there, it was windier and the surf was rougher than I expected, but we decided to give it a go. Within 10 minutes, we had a 4 foot blacktip shark on and we fought it for 20 minutes, while chasing it down the beach a good 400 yards, until it finally broke off.

Not much happened in the way of fishing the rest of the night, but we did see something we haven’t seen in the seven plus years we lived here – a baby sea turtle. Usually, they hatch in the wee hours of the morning and you see their little tracks headed toward the ocean from their nests. So, to see one in the early evening was a surprise. Evidently, the rough surf had caused this little one to wash back up, hence the term that they are given: “wash backs.”

We sat and watched this little thing for probably 20 minutes. It would get to the water’s edge and the surf would come in and send the baby tumbling back up the beach, away from the water. It was nearly high tide, and a Northeast wind was pushing plenty of water in, and this little thing just couldn’t get into enough water to swim out to sea. It also looked like every time it washed back up, its front left flipper would curl under a bit, making us wonder if it was deformed or injured. However, there were a few times that it got enough water under it that it would try to swim and the flipper seemed to work fine. The problem was, that it just couldn’t keep enough water under it to actually swim away.

You are probably now wondering why I am telling you this, aren’t you? Well, what took me aback in watching this was this little sea turtle’s unbridled determination to get to its destiny – the ocean. Over and over again, this poor sea turtle would get knocked back from its destiny and each time, it would gather itself and crawl back toward the washing machine-like surf. Sometimes, it would take a pause to rest, then start again. Then, get knocked back again, right itself, and crawl toward the very waves that were knocking it backwards. It was never deterred, it never gave up, it just kept getting beat up and crawling back again and again.

How many times in life are we reaching for our goals, our destiny even, and we get knocked for a loop? How do we react? Do we keep heading back to the place where we got knocked down or knocked back or do we just cower in place? How many times do we say “Forget that” (or use some other choice words) and just go the other direction? It must just be too hard. It must not be worth it. It must not be God’s plan for my life (insert your own belief system’s noun here). I just can’t take it anymore.

However, how many times do we walk (or run) away from our own destiny just because we have a little, or even a lot of, adversity? I think this is especially true for the last year and a half or so. So much has just slapped us all silly and sometimes we wonder “is it all worth it?” I know I have. I have questioned much over the last several years myself. I have documented some of the professional struggles I have had. I recently have had two events that have knocked me up the beach. I have paused and am know going right back to “the crashing surf.” I haven’t (and can’t) publicly talk about some of the personal and private struggles I have had. But trust me in that there have been times I have questioned pretty much everything I am about in the last 2 years.

This little sea turtle reminded me once again that adversity is temporary. It may hurt in the moment. We may not reach our destiny when we think we should or when we want to, but we have to keep going forward, again and again. Whether we crawl, walk, or run, we have to move onward. We have to move forward. We can’t give up. This little turtle would have died had he or she not made it to sea. How many times do we figuratively die when we don’t chase our dreams or our destiny when adversity rears its ugly head? When it happens (not if, but when), remember this little sea turtle.

I am sure you are wondering how this ended, eh? Well, after about 15 minutes of watching all of this, and concerned that this turtle might be hurt, Kristina called Florida Wildlife Commission, as you are not supposed to handle these creatures without permission. The FWC officer called a biologist who called Kristina back within a few minutes. Kristina explained the situation to the biologist and the biologist gave us permission to pick up the turtle and place it in the ocean. So, I gently picked it up and placed it in about a foot of calmer water and we watched “Lefty” (as I named it) swim away. We will never know if Lefty made it or will make it to adulthood, but we sure know that it reached its destiny – to swim freely in the ocean.

Will you reach yours? Is there a “Lefty” in your life who needs some gentle help? Have you been beat back enough that you are ready to give up?

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