Not because we both eat algae (I don’t), not because we’re both graceful in the water (I’m not), not because I have an extraordinary turtle face (though that does play into it).
Have you ever seen a sea turtle drag itself across the sand? I have. It’s the most painful, laborious process you’ve ever seen. It brings its front arms up and hauls itself forward an inch. Maybe two. Lugging its heavy body by the strength of two arms that aren’t meant to go on land, but meant to cut through water. Then it has to rest. Then it starts all over again.
Its body doesn’t fit on land. It’s unbelievably heavy in a way that in water doesn’t matter, but on land it’s all that matters. The same creature that can on occasion outmaneuver a shark is vulnerable. That’s how I feel in social situations. That’s how I feel in my skin, sometimes. Clumsy. Like I’m crawling across the sand, inch by inch. And then I have to rest. And then I start all over again.
I feel a deep kinship with the sea turtle. I always cut plastic soda rings into little pieces to keep them safe. I’ve been to a sea turtle rehabilitation center where I saw a turtle with a prosthetic fin, swimming in a tank.
When I was on vacation, I saw them in person. I walked across sand for what felt like forever. Sinking in up to my ankles with each step. My bad joints protesting the whole way. Whenever I thought I saw a turtle it was a black volcanic rock, wet from surf spray. Then I saw them, and I was getting closer with each step. They were resting on the sand after gorging themselves on a special green algae. I saw the way they moved and had to laugh. That was me! That was me, ten minutes ago, begging for a rest. That was me struggling across the sand. That’s me, talking to strangers. That’s me, when I walk into a table. That’s me when I take my eye off of the coffee cup in my hand and because I’m not paying strict attention I spill it all over my ballet flats.
I rest. I start over.