I love going new places, but there’s something about returning to the same soft sand and salty air that brings an inexplicable peace. My extended family bought a beach house together in 2003. The house had beautiful bones but desperately needed a makeover so together we painted rooms, assembled furniture, and did more than our fair share of DIY projects. Flash forward to 2021 and the house has been through yearly touchups and two major renovations, adding on extra bedrooms, an elevator, and a theater room to accommodate our ever-expanding and aging family. Every summer, we rent the house to visitors but we always reserve one week for our extended family beach week.

Sometimes that’s the only week I’m visiting our home away from home. One year I found myself in the area eight times. It’s always so fun to come back to this charming home - and it’s interesting to see how different life has been at each moment.

So much can happen in a year - and so much has happened over the past years. People come and go in your life, jobs surprise you, future plans are written, erased and rewritten - and yet when you return to a place like our family beach house, you are able to see that no matter how much life changes, some things will always stay the same. Like my brother sleeping in, only waking up early if sausage gravy smells drift from the kitchen or if the waves are decent for surfing. Or my other brother chilling in the hot tub when it’s 90 degrees outside because there’s never a bad time to be in the hot tub. Or my sister trying to convince the dolphins to come swim with us because, why wouldn’t they want to?

The first year that felt drastically different was the year I started working remotely. I found myself inside and in front of my computer until my sole day off at the end of the week. But it was wonderful. It was wonderful sitting next to my grandmother, exchanging book suggestions and enjoying each other’s company. It was wonderful hearing my grandfather’s jokes and witnessing the loving interactions between him and my grandmother that come with over sixty years of marriage. It was wonderful watching everyone make lunch, contained chaos in the kitchen, the continual passing of bread, meats, cheese, and sauces, the noise level incessantly rising as paper plates dwindled and red cups with scribbled names were scattered around the table. It was wonderful to have a job that allowed me to be completely present for early evening surf sessions, for big family dinners and for crazy game nights that kept us up way too late.

This year also felt drastically different. Besides it being the first year since 2014 that I took off most of the work week, it was also the first year I was at the beach house with my own daughter. She slept in the crib that my little sister, now 21, used to sleep in. She took her first steps towards the ocean at the same beach where my husband and I said “I love you” for the first time. Her sunny smile lit up the sunroom, my favorite room in the house so that it shone more brightly than ever before. Her barely walking bare feet shuffled the same floor that my 12-year-old soles did back when we first stepped foot into this new home, this new tradition, this new memory.

Yes, there is something wonderful about exploring the world. But there is also something wonderful about returning to the same place that allows you to reflect on your life and to remind you of what is truly important. To return, reflect, and remember why life - your life - is so, so beautiful.