50 States Challenge: New York

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

October 1 - 4, 2016
Fire Island Lighthouse, New York

So if you've read my rules  for the 50 States Challenge, you would know that one of the major rules is this: "Whatever state I am living in is not eligible until I take some sort of "trip" to somewhere I have not been before within the borders."

I have been to Fire Island 4,924,872 times, approximately.  Fire Island is a barrier island to Long Island, only accessible for those who don't live there by ferry or by parking in Field 5 of Robert Moses and walking past the National Park Sign;  99% of the time I went to the beach, I did the latter.

I spent countless Fridays (my last job gave us Fridays off in the summer) dreaming under the watchful eye of the Fire Island Lighthouse.  Minus a few tours around the lighthouse, I never went in.
A year after moving back to Pittsburgh, my mom, dad, and I decided to visit my Grandpa.  The weather was a little cooler but still allowed us to wander the beach.  We took the familiar wooden path to the lighthouse and instead of breaking off toward the beach, something drew us to the lighthouse.  My mother spent much of her childhood living on Fire Island where her father was the handyman of the island.  She'd ridden the bus everyday past the lighthouse, and yet, she'd never gone in either.

Drawn to at least check out the inside, we wandered through the gift shop and when we saw the opportunity to go up, none of us wanted to admit we were actually scared to do it so we each peer pressured one another to make the trek.

It. was. terrifying.  These old lighthouses were not made for multiple people to be going up and down at the same time.  Children bounded up and down the stairs with ease while my mom and I grew convinced we were going to fall in between the slats in the stairs.

One hundred and ninety two steps later, the most incredible view on that overcast day opened up to us.
I'd explored so many parts of this island, and there I was at the top of it, a year after abandoning it.  The first picture shows "my spot" or at least my favorite section of the beach.  I thought about how I had dreamt for so long about leaving, about what my life would be like.

My parents couldn't believe the view.  We happily took a selfie or two and when we knew it was time to let others enjoy the sights, we begrudgingly made our way down the metal steps and onto the beach where we discovered dozens of sand dollars - an occurrence none of us had ever witnessed on the beach before.
So much of New York seemed like my backyard for so long.  And now, I was really saying goodbye. Climbing the stairs to the lighthouse was the last activity to check off the list.  The sand dollars were a gift from the ocean, to take home with me and remember my dreams.

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