In LIFE LESSONS by Stephanie Klein17 Comments

Take a risk every day, even if it’s small.  Get home a different way, take a new path; you’ll see new things. Sometimes when my friends and I go out, we make a dare for the night. I’m not revealing what we’ve dared one another, so don’t ask.  I’ve begun to dare myself lately.  Be bolder.  Do what scares you.  Do what’s hard. 

I went to the ocean last weekend, and I was cranky.  What’s wrong with me?  I should be happy.  I was restless.  I don’t play enough.  I need to change that.  When is the last time you really played?  So I got up, walked to the ocean, got wet, then decided to build a drippy droopy sand castle.  I dug a moat and built a bridge.  I’d forgotten that when you dig in the sand, deep enough, you hit a layer of shells before you hit water.  I loved relearning that.  I was building a sand castle by myself, for no reason at all.  For play.   Who does that?  I did. 

A fifth grade girl named Margaret joined me to help.  "Wow, fifth grade.  When I was in fifth, we were learning cursive." 
"God, I learned that in like second grade."  She was chewing grape gum and offered me a piece.  "Well, don’t feel bad, times are different now."  We talked about her school and how she just got her ears pierced.  "Not at Claire’s.  Their biggest selling accessory is infection."  I began to blink.  Was I hearing things?  "That’s what my mom says."  She then told me her mother’s cancer was in remission and how her friend Debbie is getting a second hole in her ear.  "But she’s allowed because she is handicapped." 

Our conversation reminded me of how much I have to be thankful for.  I was also glad, for the first time in my life, that I had short
weakass nails… all the better to play in the sand with.  A moat is a good time.  Go play.


  1. michelle

    Thank you for that … I often think that I don't take enough risks, even the small ones … and I know I am not grateful enough for what life has given me, just bitter at what it's taken away. Thanks for making me think a little on this rainy Monday.

  2. Alan from Harrisburg

    I like the attention to poignant details. This is some of your best writing.

  3. Laura

    I like the dare for the night thing. Maybe I should do a little dare for everyday. I've been so bored lately…

    It's good to always play. I forgot about it for a while, but when my children were smaller I learned to play all over again: sandboxes and swings, those dangerous metal merry-go-rounds, all of it.

    My children are young teenagers now and they don't play anymore. But I still do.

  4. Fielding Melish

    This one made me think — think about how regular my life has been of late and how I had slipped into a routine and not even realized it. So, I decided to shake things up a little. OK, well, shake things up as much as a guy in a suit can on the way home from work. In any event, I did something different on the way home from work simply for the sake of change. And, wouldn't you know it? I ran into a woman I had dated last year — the timing had been off back then. (She looked great.) And, while I know I might well get shot down if I decide to ask her out again, I also know that that opportunity would not have presented itself but for the self-examination caused by this post. So, from someone who is sometimes critical of posts here, kudos to you for this one.

  5. Bostonrh

    Were you building this sand castle on the Jersey shore this past weekend? Could have sworn I saw you walk by me on the beach in Bayhead. Coincidentally, you passed just as I was in the midst of playing with a gaggle of my nieces and nephews. Playing is good for the soul indeed.

  6. Jules

    These thoughts of you feel so familiar. Last week I took a different path home just to broaden my horizon I guess. I love the song "Everybody's free(to wear sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann. It says "do one thing everyday that scares you."

  7. dc

    This reminded me of a few weekends ago when I was at the beach where I unexpectedly saw my brother and one-year-old neice playing along the water. After approaching them to say hello, I had the pleasure of walking her along the shore and playing in the sand with her. I can't wait for her to be old enough to build sandcastles with. Yet I don't want her to grow up too quickly. It means she'll be hitting me up for money, candy and expensive pocketbooks.

  8. Kathy

    You've inspired me. Soon, perhaps tonight, I'll take my kids to the beach and build a sand castle. The beach is so close to where we live…it's not the ocean, but it's a beautiful lakeside beach. We don't go there enough.

  9. cindy

    i just did the exact same thing Sunday morning at Daytona Beach with my soon-to-be niece. I babysat while my brother and his fiancee went to the flea market. Me and 9-year-old Isabel had a great time. And I noticed the same thing, about the layer of shells before the water.

    did you also sit in about 1 foot of water and let the waves crash over you and send you rolling backward further up the beach as you giggled, and struggled to regain your balance. we did. a good time was had by all!

  10. Aliana

    Did she bring the extra piece of gum with her? Did she have a little fifth grade fanny pack full of fifth grade 21st centurey necessities like grape gum, sparkly barrettes and some prescription painkillers?

    This posts smells false.

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