The Day I Wanted To Be a Sea Lion

November 2, 2020
Photo by Ignacio Palacios/Getty Images

As an editor, I sometimes have to address weekend emergencies. Normally, the level of weekend work isn’t too hefty, and I can dash off an email from anywhere in the world, then get back to lazing about.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the Bay Area, and I assumed that I’d be able to abide by the usual routine. But this was the weekend before the election, and I was on edge. Lots of pieces were coming in and had to go up quickly. I was checking my phone constantly, maybe every minute. I barely even looked at the beautiful scenery.

So on Sunday, in Monterey, I was walking toward a pier, phone in hand, not paying any attention at all to the world around me, waiting for the moment I could return to my computer. All I could think was, why won’t this author get back to me?!

But then, my boyfriend did something really smart. He shut off my phone, took my hand, and led me to the pier. We only had walked about halfway, but my hand started itching its way back to my pocket, worried I’d missed some buzz (Phantom Vibration Syndrome is a real thing; look it up). And, to boot, we didn’t see anything. So I suggested turning back.

My boyfriend then did another very smart thing (there’s a pattern here). He shrugged his shoulders and said, “let’s continue. Why not?”

On we walked, and as we approached this one rock, I gasped.

There, blending in seamlessly with the rock, was a sea lion. A portly, hairy, slippery creature that resembled an oblong beanbag chair with whiskers. It lay still for a few minutes, and my boyfriend and I gently speculated if it was dead. But then, it moved. Wriggling its neck and fins, it stretched out to maximize how much of its body was in the sun. I watched the sea lion roll its neck, and my neck loosened in response. Opening its eyes, the sea lion looked at us, seemingly rolled its eyes, and went back to its business. Which was apparently doing nothing.

But in that moment, as I made eye contact with that creature, I was struck by the thought — Wouldn’t life be better as a sea lion?

I mean, think about it. Sea lions don’t have to worry about current events, only the passing currents. Sea lions don’t blubber on about the unfairness of the world, they keep their blubber for warmth only. Sea lions don’t navigate sharp commentary and biting remarks — only sharp rocks. No worrying about making that article getting up on time, making sure that this one piece sparks conversations rather than hinders it, lamenting about people not using the Oxford comma. Just me, the sea, and the sun.

It seemed perfect. I already had part of the name — “Ari,” or lion in Hebrew.

I thought about sea lions for most of the car ride home. Like a child newly obsessed with dinosaurs, I suddenly needed to know everything about them. So I went to Wikipedia and read about sea lions, seals, and sea otters.

I learned snippets of useless, fascinating facts. Sea lions, apparently, lay on rocks to rest, mate, or clean their fur. Apparently, when sea otters mate, the male sometimes bites off the female’s nose. And, here’s the kicker — sea lions and sea otters have multiple mates.

I really don’t want to share my boyfriend, I thought. So ended my fantasy.

Later, as I pondered my brief obsession with sea lions, I realized that I wasn’t actually obsessed with the animal. I was obsessed with the ability, for a moment, to just lay in the sun without a care in the world. No, duh, you’re probably thinking. It’s stupidly obvious now, but when I was carrying my phone in my pocket, I forgot that we can — and should — take our moment in the sun.

Part of my forgetfulness can be attributed to the addictive design of our devices, which directly feed the reward center of our brain. Several studies have noted that we even forget to breathe when we check our emails. Seeing that sea lion reminded me to breathe. One email can wait.

And, as I thought more about it, being a sea lion is a really, really idiotic wish. I am blessed to have one of the most fundamentally human jobs — being an editor. Each day, I get to read prose, write sentences, and edit language to make it even more beautiful, precious, and astounding. Each day, I can pick up a pen, pencil, or brush, and can create figures, scenes, and colors beyond my wildest imagination.

And each day, I can choose to be a sea lion and just lay in the sun and be thankful for life’s blessings.

Photo courtesy of Ari Berman
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