This article originally appeared in the January 25, 2006 issue of The Wave. It is being reprinted in response to your many kind requests.
I reconnected recently with an old friend whom I had not seen for over 20 years. When I told her that I was living and working at the beach, she commented that people who live full time at a seasonal resort could be described as ‘outlaws.’ Though I know that she would never intend any insult or offense, it did get me thinking about living here—especially in the comparative isolation of the ‘off season.’ I took her remark as a compliment.
Judging from the people I have met here, it takes a special kind of person to live happily, year ’round, in the relative seclusion of a resort. We ‘outlaws’ appear to have several traits in common, all of which seem to mesh well with the special requirements for being a resident. To me, the most obvious are, (1) self-sufficiency, and, (2) the ability to be happy in your own company.
Let’s face it. Events of the last year or so have sharpened our awareness of the uncertain nature of storms, hurricanes and the like. But a person who is psychologically self-reliant can put these issues into perspective while still being prepared to act and react as necessary. This quality can carry over into everyday life as well. Psychological self-reliance is the result of the ability to be alone without being lonely. Some people require lots of people around them in order to be happy. They prefer to be part of ‘the pack.’ If you must be around lots of people, even if most of them are strangers, you’re not going to be happy living long-term at the beach.
What’s unique about this area is that so many people choose to be here. They went through considerable effort and, sometimes, quite a bit of upheaval to relocate to a completely different setting. People who grew up in big cities (or perhaps ended up there for one reason or another) often ‘default’ to staying there. Not so with the beach. And motivations vary: the quiet pace of life (most of the year), the water, the fishing and boating, or the association with pleasant memories of past vacations. Others who have been here all or most of their lives often choose to stay here—all the while recognizing that there are other places they could live.
This phenomenon reminds me of what parents of adopted children sometimes tell their kids. ‘We went out of our way to have you in our family.’ The implication applies here too: When you go out of your way to move someplace, despite the adjustments and risks involved, you must really want it. There must be something deep inside of you that truly connects with doing such a thing. And my friend’s ‘outlaw’ comment drives straight to the heart of it.
Another major requirement for a happy existence here at the shore is the ability to be content with yourself. Without the wide range of activities available in the ‘big city’ (and, let’s also not forget the associated traffic, noise, congestion and crime), we have to be a little more creative in our efforts to keep busy and fulfilled.
It’s psychologically healthy to be comfortable in your own company. It’s unhealthy to compulsively feel that you can never be alone, and must always be on the phone or always with someone. Though we have been (erroneously) trained that being ‘pleased with yourself’ is a bad thing, it is that very quality that allows us to not only cope successfully, but also to actively enjoy the relative quiet and tranquility of the winter months. Can you spend time reading a good book? Can you enjoy a solitary walk on the beach, or an afternoon in a boat by yourself? These are good tests of psychological self-reliance.
When I talk about being ‘alone without being lonely,’ I don’t mean that everyone here is literally alone. Many people here are married or otherwise coupled. Some are widowed, and some are divorced. Some who are single would rather not be single, and others are just fine with it. What I mean by ‘alone’ is more in relation to large groups of other people. If you live in D.C., Philadelphia or Baltimore, for example, you have the option to observe what everyone else is doing, and then, if you want, follow the crowd. Though this doesn’t apply to everybody, people who are this way tend to be attracted to metropolitan areas. The psychological ‘outlaws’ among us, who don’t care so much about the herd or the pack, go a different route. We make it work, because’it’s worth it!
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like being an outlaw. And given my experience with the other ‘outlaws’ I’ve met around here so far, I think I’ll stay one for a long time to come.