For many people, the new year brings a bit of soul-searching and an objective look at where your past decisions have brought you today. An old friend of mine once told me that people who live full-time at a seasonal resort could be described as “outlaws.” Of course, she meant no offense, and it got me thinking about living here in the comparative isolation of the off-season. I took her remark as a compliment.
It does take 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 beach resident. To me, the most obvious are, (1) self-sufficiency, and, (2) the ability to be happy in your own company.
Weather events can sharpen our awareness of the uncertain nature of living at the beach, but a person who is psychologically self-reliant can put these issues into perspective while still being prepared to react as necessary. And that applies to everyday life as well. Psychological self-reliance is the ability to be alone without being lonely. Some people prefer to be part of the pack, and if one needs to be around lots of people, he or she might not be happy living at a summer resort.
What’s unique about the Delaware coast is that so many people choose to be here. Some went through considerable effort and upheaval to relocate. People who grow up in big cities 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 vacations past. Others who have been here most of their lives often choose to stay here while recognizing that there are other places they could live.
This 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, you must really want it. There’s something deep inside that 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 “big city” activities (including traffic, noise, congestion and crime, by the way), we have to be more creative in our efforts to be fulfilled.
It’s psychologically healthy to be comfortable in your own company! It’s unhealthy to feel that you can never be alone. Though we have been trained (erroneously) that being “pleased with yourself” is a bad thing, it is that very quality that allows us to actively enjoy the relative quiet and tranquility of the winter months. It’s a good test for 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, you have the option to observe what everyone else is doing, and then follow the crowd if you want to. 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.
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