In the middle of the gentle turquoise and aquamarine waters, lapping at the sides of the motorboat we dropped anchor. Anxiety crept in as I swiveled my head around in all directions; there was nowhere to go, nowhere to grasp onto except the edge of the boat and plop myself down into the knee-deep expanse. After my relationship ended – it was long, meaningful and although the decision to part ways was mutual, it would take nearly a year to acknowledge that time as merely another chapter of my past.

At times, I felt as if everything was happening around me even while I was participating. I felt unraveled, detached and lost. I heard, but had trouble listening, conversed but struggled to truly engage. I sought to keep myself busy in the hopes that the passing days would ease the discomfort and offer the clarity needed to guide my next step. Time heals, right? So I made time; to cry, overanalyze what went wrong, come to terms with the part I played. I made time to pick up old interests, spend time with friends, family and said ‘yes’ to new experiences and people, and yes, over time, it seemed that I was bouncing back. Months passed, something was still missing.

I waded out to a spot where I could sit in the water surrounded by the largest, orange creamsicle-colored starfish I’ve seen. The cool, gentle ripples of the Caribbean ocean invited us to settle in and embrace the warmth of the sun, camouflaged by the cloud cover. Curiosity compelled me to slosh around on all fours until I could pick one of the starfish up and feel it’s pebbly casing and the subtle suction from beneath as I cradled it in both hands.

We were on our own private sand bar in the San Blas islands, a sprinkle of more than 300 remote islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Time rolled by without restriction and illuminated the simplest of pleasures, like the two young boys from the lone Guna Yala family on the island duck and dive the waters near their boat before the sun came out in full force the next morning. Or handing over $1 to the same Guna Yala family to quench my thirst on slightly saccharine coconut water while I strolled back to the same log beneath the lone palm tree my travel companion and I found ourselves at most of that weekend. I was present while our travel peers chattered on about the cities they were just in – Bocas del Toro, or Bocas for short – and where they were headed next – Boquete, Mexico City, Nicaragua. I soaked it all in and noticed a shift had happened.

I felt it in the morning, where the only decision we had to make was whether we were going to post up against the log beneath one of the palm trees, or the washed up log on the shore. I tasted it from the first sip of Ron Abuelo and Coke out of a bright plastic cup while we waited on the grill to finish our burgers. There were many events and events within events that week that can be best described as a fantastic blur of laughter and reflection and as we returned home one typically sunny, Southern California afternoon one thing was clear; I found my reset button in Panama.

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