Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 3, 2023

The Beach: growing up and looking back

By GABRIEL LESSER | October 19, 2021



Lesser compares his childhood memories of the beach to his current appreciation for the Beach on campus.

Sitting on campus in between classes the other day, I looked out and saw a toddler chasing after soap bubbles. His grandma was sitting in a chair a few feet away, blowing these bubbles out of a circular wand, and there he was, running after them, vigorously trying to catch every single one before they popped. Each time he caught up to a bubble, he let out a giggle and a massive smile. 

The simplicity of a child’s happiness is so pure, and as a college student, I often forget what it’s like to be a little kid.

This past week has been the most academically exhausted I have ever felt. I’ve had back-to-back midterms, assignments and projects, and it feels like the workload is never-ending. In my most stressful weeks, I’ve spent more time in the library than in my own dorm room, so, whenever I have an opportunity to take a quick break from my work, I seize it immediately.

That is why, last week, when it was beautifully sunny out, I took a break from studying and sat down on the Beach, where I saw the little kid with the bubbles. 

Like many Hopkins students, I have a special place in my heart for the Beach: our grassy, inclined patch of land at the very front of our campus, which is quite evidently far from being an actual beach. While the Beach has no sand, no ocean and no seashells, it’s still an oasis from studying, stress and midterms. It’s a place where we can all hang out on picnic blankets, soaking up the afternoon sun and forgetting about all of our current commitments.

When I’m giving tours to prospective students, I always make sure to mention the common joke that if you close your eyes on the Beach and listen to the cars driving down N. Charles Street, it’s just like listening to the waves crashing onto the shore.

While I don’t think I'm currently convinced of this joke, I miss the time in my life when my imagination had no walls. I miss the naïveté, but also the absolute wonder of being a little kid and finding joy in the most minimal things like chasing bubbles. Funnily enough, thinking about the Beach reminds me of actual beaches.

I remember going to the Copacabana Beach playground by Posto 5 in Rio with my grandma when I was a toddler; the playground was tiny, yet I was so excited to play. My grandma would sit in the corner by the fence, waiting for me as I’d go up and down the miniature slide. I would even ask her if she wanted to go down the slide herself, but she’d always politely decline. 

I remember the absolute joy I’d feel from the simplest beach activities: not just going down the playground slide, but also making drip sandcastles with my parents, walking the calçadão with my uncle and cousins and jumping on the trampoline on Avenida Atlântica with my sister.

As I transitioned from a young toddler to a preschooler, I recall visiting my grandma in Florida, where we’d take long walks along the sand, and then later when she would swim laps in the pool, I’d ask her to record how long I could hold my breath and to watch my underwater flips. I miss this childhood enthusiasm and my constant desire to take on new challenges.

Ironically, by the time I was in kindergarten, I remember being so ready to grow up. I sat at my grandparents’ dining room table on my fifth birthday beaming with joy, because turning 5 meant that I finally had to “pay” to have my own ticket at museums and tourist attractions rather than receiving a free toddler entry. As someone who needed his own ticket, I felt like a real adult.

I look back at all these memories, and I think about the kid I once was: happy, free-spirited and constantly excited about the people and world around him. 

As I continue my college experience, it’s important to keep this kid close to my heart and not let the stress of academics taint my childhood imagination. Perspectives can change, and people grow up, but you never lose your inner child.

It doesn’t matter whether or not the cars driving down N. Charles Street sound like waves crashing onto the shore, because at the end of the day, if you close your eyes, you can see whatever you want. I choose to see the beaches of my childhood and keep these memories close to my heart.

Gabriel Lesser is a sophomore from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. He is a Social Media Manager for The News-Letter. His column explores his memories along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.

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