This is what we hope to be the inaugural post in an intermittent series that we’re calling “Happy Friday!”
Our Happy Friday posts will delve a bit deeper into our views on happiness, and how that influences our philosophies on the other two top priorities in our lives – money and kittens. Some of these posts might be quick reflections on something that brought us joy, while others might be an exploration or discussion of research we come across in the “science of happiness”.
A few weeks ago something truly special happened. I stepped out of my comfort zone, where I was pretty freaking content to begin with, and found even more joy than I thought I could.
My Runs Are My Solitary Happy Place
I don’t usually run to spend a lot of time with people, though seeing (and waving to) the same people day after day ends up bringing its own set of joy.
As a result, despite the last several years of running on the beach quite often, I avoided the Turtle People like it was my job.
Who Are The Turtle People?
Turtle People are the volunteers in our area that from April – October roam the beaches to protect sea turtle habitats. Sea turtles (like the endangered Loggerhead turtles in our area) nest on the beaches in the middle of the night, and without a little protection for their nests, the little turtles might never even get the chance to hatch. The Turtle People watch out for the nests and try and give the teeny tiny baby turtles a fighting chance at hatching and heading out to sea the way nature intended.
So, like me, the Turtle People are out at the beach at the crack of dawn, on the lookout for evidence of turtle activity overnight. And for the past several years of overlapping with the Turtle People in this great space-time continuum we call life, I’ve maintained my distance.
My runs were my morning missions, and the Turtle People had their own mission – save the turtles! Surely they didn’t want me stopping to interrupt their important mission, especially not when I’m drenched in sweat from my run.
Stretching Boundaries (And My Legs)
But a couple of weeks ago, on one of my long Sunday runs, I saw one of the Turtle People sitting down near a nest and something in me switched. I wanted to talk to him and see what was going on.
I thought I was being super nonchalant (in reality I was probably anything but) when I stopped to faux-stretch my legs and ambled over to where the Turtle Guy was crouched next to a nest. And it looked like he was digging.
To preface the scene, I was disgusting. It was 82 degrees out a little before 8am, the humidity off the charts and I had just run about 15 miles. But hey, I was curious! (Smelly, but curious!)
Me: Whatcha doing?
Turtle Guy: Taking an inventory of the nest.
Me: Did they hatch?
TG: Most of them. I count all the hatched eggs, the unhatched ones, and usually rescue a few stragglers that don’t quite make it all the way out of their eggs. Like these little guys.
TG then points past the smelly pile of counted eggs – seriously, the pile smelled worse than me, so I got over my relative disgustingness at that point – and gestured towards an orange 5 gallon bucket. As I looked inside I saw 3 tiny perfectly goofy baby Loggerhead turtles.
Me: Sqqueeeee!! Ohmygodtheyaresocutecanitouchone?
So for the next 5 minutes, Turtle Guy got to tell me about the turtle conservation moves they do on the beach, as well as about the different nesting patterns of the Loggerheads and how temperature and seasonality affects the hatching. And I got to hold a teeny tiny turtle. An ENDANGERED turtle! And my heart absolutely melted.
If you thought Squirt in Finding Nemo was adorable, I can tell you that he doesn’t have anything on a real live baby Loggerhead turtle that’s just minutes old. Officially, this is the youngest living creature I’ve ever held – the previous record belonging to the 2-day old infant that was placed in my fur covered arms when I worked as the mall Easter Bunny in high school. Though I suppose that adventure might be worth a post of its own some day.
Like The Grinch
Turtle Guy was finishing up his inventory, and planting the congratulatory “We Hatched!” sign, so the baby turtles were soon going to depart. But as I bid farewell to my tiny new friends, I felt like my “small heart grew three sizes that day”.
I don’t think I’ll ever become a person for whom stretching boundaries comes particularly easy, but I’m going to try and keep this memory close. That every once in a while, stretching boundaries can bring unmeasurable joy to life even if it does come in teeny-tiny 1.8″ long, 0.7 oz packages.
Have you stretched any boundaries lately? Found any surprise joy after opening a closed door?