If My Life Were a Movie, There Would Be Dolphins

Sometimes I play the game “If my life were a movie…”

There are many ways to play, from deciding who would play the starring role of you (shortlist: Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone), to choosing which scenes would make it a blockbuster-worthy event.

The game has been particularly relevant as I work through the second draft of my book, deciding what to leave in and what to ruthlessly slash from the pages.

Sometimes, though, life plays a game with you. It makes you feel like you’re already in a movie, to the point where you’re looking around, waiting for the background music to reach its emotional crescendo. I’m not talking about the suspicious music that plays from hidden speakers at outdoor shopping malls, making you feel like you actually are being observed à la The Truman Show. I’m referring to the moments that you couldn’t have scripted.

On Saturday morning, Jared and I pulled on our wetsuits and grabbed our surfboards to take advantage of a semi-smooth ocean after days of rain. There were a few other surfers out there, but not many. The northern sky was black from a dissipating storm, the southern half light blue, hidden by wispy clouds. The waves were big, but fat and rolling.

It’s all fun and games until somebody trips on their leg rope.

I’m still not much of a surfer. I bail when I get scared, I paddle for the wrong waves, I wear myself out fighting the currents. On this morning, I caught a few waves and almost made it to a full standing position. Almost. The recent storm had passed, and the next one was brewing far in the distance, leaving us with a window of glistening water and cloud-filtered sunlight.

“Lauren,” Jared said. “Behind you.”

I twisted my neck like a crippled owl, trying not to fall off my board. I thought maybe I was in someone’s way.

I wasn’t.

There was a pod of dolphins passing within feet of me. Feet.

Actually, I should say foot, singular. Inches, even.

One lazy paddle forward and I would have been within petting distance. The dolphins flipped, dove, and weaved around each other. They happily swam between the scattered bunch of people, showing no fear. I stared, transfixed, as they passed. I’ve been in the surf with dolphins before, but never this close. Never before have I heard the air puff from their blowholes or looked into their round, dark eyes. There were 20 of them, maybe more.

Everyone paused to observe the dolphins as they passed, and I wondered if I was the only one spazzing out internally. Then, a set of waves rolled in and priorities shifted from the dolphins to the ocean.

The surfers weren’t the only ones watching the waves. As one swelled towards me, I saw four dark torpedoes rising with it – the dolphins were catching the wave.

“Catch it,” Jared said. “Surf with them!”

I couldn’t do anything but keep my eyes fixed on the dark shadows, hoping they wouldn’t collide with my board, as the wave – and the dolphins – passed underneath me. Jared paddled and caught the wave, sharing it with the dolphins.

If my life were a movie, this scene would make the final cut. I didn’t learn anything significant, it wasn’t a turning point, and it doesn’t propel the story forward. But it belongs.

I don’t have a poignant thought to wrap up with. There are obvious ones, but they’re all painfully cheesy – life is beautiful, weather the storm and you’ll be rewarded, dolphins are awesome – so I’ll just finish by saying that I’m grateful to have been in the right place at the right time, and that there is no script for life.

Not pictured: An unscripted but predictable moment of me being smashed by the wave.

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