Ginger at the Beach

Graphic by Lauren Pak Story by Sophie Robson

When I was told I was moving to California, I was beyond ecstatic. At thirteen years old, I definitely expected to live an outdoorsy, beach life in the Sunshine State. I anticipated many long, relaxing days of reclining on the sand, feeling the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and hearing the waves crashing on the shore. These expectations, however, were met with bleak disappointment due to one underlying truth about me – I am a redhead. 

Because of this, I have lived my whole life in the shade, religiously applying and reapplying sunscreen. Even when I’m not sunburnt, I am always just a bit more red and freckled than the average person. I continually overheat just by being outside. No matter where I go, I am constantly trying to find the most shade so that I don’t overheat and I have a bottle of SPF 100 in my possession at all times. Seriously… I have one in my backpack right now. 

When I found out I was moving to California, it became my one and only purpose to embrace living near the ocean. I wanted to appreciate my surroundings and not be confined to the shade. Thus, my mission had commenced: Ginger at the Beach.

I had some successful beach days and some that weren’t so great. One day, I had family in town from England so, of course, they wanted to go to the beach. Now, when I do rarely go to the beach, I always have to be sitting under a beach umbrella with sunscreen on, and even then only for about two hours at most. This particular day, however, we stayed at the beach for more than five hours. FIVE. WHOLE. HOURS. The result: overheated and looking like a tomato.

After this experience, I found myself reluctant to go to the beach or sit out by the pool. Even with my sunscreen and shade, I was scared that I would come home far redder than when I left. Because of this fear, my family started stockpiling an entire cabinet with all kinds of aftersun treatments, including aloes, soothing creams and ice packs, just in case I fell sunburnt. I also found myself becoming envious of my non-ginger friends who were able to apply sunscreen once and spend the entire day in the sweltering sun. 

After actively avoiding the sunny beach for over two years, I decided to try to accomplish my previously abandoned mission. I loaded up on all the sunscreen I needed, grabbed my beach umbrella and went over to Zuma. This time, I decided not to stress myself out over the prospect of getting burnt and instead embrace my situation head-on. I still reapplied sunscreen when I needed and mostly stayed in the shade, but I realized that I had much more fun this time than when I was constantly stressing over getting burnt. I found that I could work around the issues of being a ginger and still enjoy my life, both inside and outside. 

By simply forgetting about my stress, I was able to appreciate my surroundings and overcome my fears. This let me have many more beautiful experiences and adventures which allowed me to really live my life to the fullest of my ability. Mission accomplished. 

Moral of the story: always wear your sunscreen. 

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