Confused at the dark studio that greeted me, I called the instructor, my friend Jenna, and she confirmed the last-minute cancellation, but asked would I like to instead join her in Montauk for the day?
I happily acquiesced. It had been too long since I had been to Montauk, and the idea of skipping the class had briefly crossed my mind when I passed that all-caps, white-on-green MONTAUK sign on the highway, just east of Citarella.
The sign has always struck me as funny. Who doesn’t realize, by the time they’ve passed through East Hampton Village, that they’re about 13 miles away from the easternmost town on the Island?
Is the sign really necessary?
I started to think that it wasn’t placed there for directional purposes. Instead, it serves as the East End’s own Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” says Lady Liberty as she greets newcomers to New York Harbor.
Hipster haven or not, changed for better or worse, Montauk has a similar allure for those who are tired, who want a more free-spirited existence. Or even, as was my case that day, a simple, casual day-cation.
I contemplated the sign’s existence, the hidden reasons the highway department may have felt its placement necessary, as I cruised down the Napeague Stretch and then conquered the hills of Old Montauk Highway, windows cracked, seat-warmers on, top 40 country music coming through my speakers. My favorite view is right after you crest the final hill, and the entire downtown, caressed by the rolling waves to the right, comes into focus.
I met my group at a small, beachy shop just off of Montauk Highway. Town was quiet, but not quite as deserted as I had imagined it would be. Though the air was cool, it was a spectacularly sunny day, and we decided to take it all in with a stroll along the beach. The waves were small, but the beach wide. Dead low tide. We walked along the hard sand, laughing and enjoying the freedom of being outside after too many winter days of feeling cooped up. The ease of the stroll made us forget how long we were walking, though we were quickly reminded when we turned to head back, as the wind whipped our faces. I had mistakenly left my hat in the car, the sun initially making me feel a bit too comfortable with less layers.
Afterward, we warmed up with some brews at the Montauk Brewing Company, and the hours passed like minutes. More people I didn’t know joined us at the brewery, and the day truly felt like a vacation. It’s amazing what being outside in a new place can do for your spirit.
As I drove back to Southampton, I thought back to how I had left my house that day feeling like a goal-setting class was a particularly necessary way for me to spend the afternoon. Sitting in my kitchen, in the middle of January, in the middle of my 20s, a familiar sense of anxiety kicked in right before I left. Though I feel amazingly content in some parts of my life, I’m unsettled in others.
That day, I wanted to partake in a goal-setting workshop, but instead I took part in my life, the way it is, anxieties and all. Because when you decide to live, instead of thinking about how you should be living, you open yourself to happy days in Montauk, strolling the beach, enjoying the company of new friends and delicious beer.