When you let tunnel vision blind you

The ocean is so vast and incredible and filled with more species of sea animals than most of us could ever imagine.

Yet, for some reason, we often only allow ourselves to focus on one.

I went whale watching over the weekend, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I moved out here about a year and a half ago. I really wanted to see some dolphins, and I guess seeing whales would be kind of cool, too. I mean, they’re rather beastly creatures, and witnessing their grandeur up close sounded like an intimidatingly fascinating idea.

They’re my kind of people.

It’s been a bit cold in Southern California lately. I realize that there are so many other parts of the country suffering much chillier temperatures, but I’m not in the business of comparison—it’s cold here for what we’re accustomed to, so I’m going to stick with my statement. I knew that it was going to be even colder out on the water, so I did my best to bundle up and prepare for whatever was in store for me for the next few hours.

I’m glad that I wore four layers—they still weren’t enough, though. The spray from the ocean water made it even worse (remember the drink Ocean Spray?? Maybe someone who went on a whale watching excursion came up with that), and I’m so grateful that my friend Jose let me borrow his gloves toward the end of our time on the water. Regardless of how cold it felt out there, it was an adventure that I’m grateful I got to take. I was able to spend an afternoon with some wonderful people I get to have as friends in my life as we took part in a quest to find and see the beautiful phenomenon of giant ocean creatures in their natural habitat.

And I was reminded that we’re so often chasing after things that may or may not be meant for us to the point that we don’t pay attention to what’s actually right in front of us.

I never actually saw Dustin, but I heard his voice quite a bit. He was our tour guide, and I think he was driving the boat. I’m not actually sure. I just trusted that someone who knew what he or she was doing was behind the wheel (or the helm, for all of you nautical type). But Dustin was the one telling us about the differences between seals and sea lions and informing us where the whales were and our strategies for making sure that we would get to see them. There was even a drone sent out from the boat to get better shots and also to help us find the path the whales were taking.

I don’t see any whales, bro.

We never saw the whales up close. We saw them blowing air from the water from a distance, but I still haven’t seen a whale in real life. On the way to try to see them, though, we saw quite a few bottlenose dolphins—and my heart soared. I honestly cared more about seeing dolphins than whales, so it was a special moment having a front row seat as they swam right in front of the boat. I really wanted to see them jump out of the water—I’m a product of romcoms and happy endings, people, so I want the fairy tale fantasy stuff—but it didn’t happen. Still, it was a breathtaking few minutes of my life.

Dustin let us see the dolphins but then kind of brushed them aside to remind us that we needed to go farther out in the water to see the whales. I understand that the thing is called a whale watching tour, so it was important to stick to the task at hand. At the same time, though, we were missing some true greatness that was right before us because we were so focused on pursuing something that we would never actually obtain.

And it was in that moment that I realized that I’ve done that far too many times—I’ve chased the things that are fleeting and missed out on some beautiful opportunities that were directly in front of me.

I think that it’s important to go wholeheartedly after your dreams and remain determined to achieve your goals. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the wonderful chances you’re given along the way. Maybe you’re meant to reach what you’re striving for so passionately—but maybe you aren’t. You might be going after a whale when you’re actually meant to encounter dolphins, instead.

There will be trials you face along the way—whether it’s the spray of the ocean, the gusts of wind that knock your breath out of your lungs, the bad breath of the sea lions that makes you want to hurl (whether you took Dramamine or not), or the loss of circulation in your extremities (thanks a lot, Raynaud’s)—and those are times when you have to remind yourself why you’re there in the first place and that you can do hard things.

And it’s also when you need to remind yourself that there is beauty and wonder outside of your tunnel vision.

I saw the same amount of whales on my hike as on the tour.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of times when I allowed tunnel vision to take over and cloud my sight of everything else around me because I was chasing whales I’d never actually reach. And don’t you know that some of those whales were guys who caused me to ignore many dolphin guys around me? I did it frequently with running, too. I would focus solely on the big accomplishments and PRs so much that I would miss the little victories that didn’t happen on race day that I was gaining along the way.

I want to make sure that I’m more aware of the dolphins all around me and that I don’t simply focus on the whales that I may or may not ever see. It’s great to have goals, and I hope that you achieve all of yours, but it’s also beneficial to notice all of the greatness that surrounds you that may not be what you initially think is best for you.

Because sometimes you’ll set out on a quest for whales and not find what you think you’re looking for—but perhaps the dolphins you encounter were what you were meant to find all along.

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