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Olivia Bell

Cape Henlopen, 9th grade

My Personal Connection to Nature

The happiest I’ve ever been was during the summer of 2023 when all my friends and family referred to me as “Ocean Olivia.” Before that summer I had always associated the beach as an uncomfortable, hot, sandy place. It wasn’t until I saw countless sunrise swim videos circling social media that I considered changing my opinion. I had seen how happy these people were as they swam in freezing waters as the sun rose behind them, I had wanted that happiness for myself. 

While I’ve never been scared of the ocean or what lies beneath its surface, I had never had the desire to bake in the sun as coastal wind blew sand into my hair and face. I actually have always loved the creatures that call the ocean their home, buying shark teeth at every store that sells them and saying “whale shark” when asked what my favorite animal was. I even wrote an article on overfishing and the millions of sharks being killed for their fins. However, for some reason, I didn’t make the 10-minute walk to the beach often, if ever. 

Waking up at 4:30 am during summer wasn’t hard that day. The excitement flowed through my veins, energy pulsed beneath my skin with every heartbeat, and my teeth chattered not because of the cool breeze, but in anticipation. I pulled my bathing suit on and shoved my towel into a bag, rushing to make sure my mother and I didn’t miss any of the vibrant colors that painted the sky. We made the short drive with the windows down, the wind making our hair dance around our heads, playing our favorite song and singing along in the wrong key. 

The first step onto the sand was when I knew that the people who loved the beach were right, it is amazing. My mom and I picked a spot with a good view and plopped ourselves down on the tapestry we had brought. We marveled at the soft colors overtaking the sky as the sun rose, pulling our phones out and taking pictures to savor and remember the moment. My cover up came off shortly after and I ran into the water without a second thought. When I finally dunked my head under the water I had completely forgotten about the cold water. I broke the surface a few seconds later and felt as though the water was washing away the negativity in my body, every unhappy thought floating away from me as the water carried them away. 

That summer I had felt something missing in my life and it turns out that it was a beach that lay less than a mile from my house. For once, my mind was quiet. The smell of salty air, the sand between my toes, the sound of waves lightly touching the shore, the view of the sunrise colors reflecting off the water, the salty taste in my mouth as I swam. The ocean had taken over my senses and wiped away my worries, leaving behind a truly happy teenager. 

That happiness that had taken over my body was why my mom started calling me “Ocean Olivia.” She had seen the genuine smile that lit up my features, the laugh that easily flowed out of me. This was the daughter that she wanted to see and she knew that the sunrise swim had brought out that happiness. Every time I had been sad or mad after that morning she had told me to “find Ocean Olivia” or asked me “where’s Ocean Olivia?” and every time I would remember the calm and happiness I felt while on that beach and in that water. After that morning, I watched the sunrise and the sunset, soaking up the cozy sense of home that the beach had brought me. 


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