A few years ago my husband and I decided to take a vacation to Belize with some friends. A little over a month before our departure I saw my uncle (same uncle, sans afro) and told him of our plans, since he had been to Belize himself. Here is how our conversation went:
Uncle Afro: “Are you going to dive while you’re there?”
Me: “Heck no! There might be fish in that ocean, and, contrary to everything you’ve learned from Finding Nemo, fish are food, not friends. And don’t even get me started on the sharks! Have you seen Jaws?”
Uncle Afro: Well, you’ve gotta go diving. That’s the only thing there is to do there.”
Me: (somewhat shocked my fears had been dismissed so easily) uh, okay.
After that kind of pep talk, how could I not learn to scuba dive? I mean, all it would take is overcoming the biggest fear in my life– because, seriously, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and have anxiety attacks at the thought of jumping out of a boat into the middle of the ocean.
It would also take a lot of babysitting since learning to scuba dive kind of takes a long time. Who knew? It takes even bigger chunks of time when you have to cram it all into three weeks. And also if you keep popping out of the water when practicing basic skills. (And by “popping out” I mean standing up because the water was only four feet deep at that point and even I am taller than four feet.)
Luckily I had a very patient, though nervous, first time dive instructor (who we liked so much we decided to take him along to Belize with us, but that is another post) and an even more patient friend who somehow doesn’t hate me, even though I made our first class in the pool go hours longer than necessary after she had worked all night, was very, VERY tired and really just wanted to go to bed instead of praying I would stay under water for more than ten seconds at a time so we could move on to the next skill.
But, after many hours, a near drowning, some “helpful” moments of being held under water, much carrying of heavy equipment up and down steep hills, and a little puking by my friend, I did it.
And here I am diving in Belize:
That’s me 85 feet under water. Taking pictures with a camera that only worked up to 25 feet under water. This picture did not come from that camera. Obviously.
And, you know what else? Fish can be food and friends.
But not sharks. They are just for staying very far away from.
Unless you are my friend Dan who paid to let them gnaw on his arm. But, again, that is another blog post.
Because this post is really about not being afraid of things. Or, rather, not letting fear keep you from doing great things. Like scuba diving. Which still scares me to death, but I know I can do it. And if I can do that scary thing, I can do other scary things.
Like let people read my writing and critique it. That’s almost as scary as swimming with sharks.
Okay, maybe scarier.
But I did it. And it turned out to be well worth the risk.
Because the most important thing that comes from me facing my fears is that my daughters, hopefully, won’t be afraid to face theirs.
I don’t want them to miss out on all the great things life has to offer just because they’re afraid of some silly sharks.
P.S. Here’s what my afro looked like in Belize:
Better, huh? Still not great though. Also pictured Travis and his awesome wife Paula who can work all night, dive all day and only occasionally barf while she’s at it.
Also, here’s how brave I got. I went on a night dive with this guy (and a dozen other people, including my husband– don’t get any ideas):
who I’m pretty sure was stoned out of his mind.