By Amy Gordon
It took me three years to pass the Advanced Beginner swimming test in summer camp. I absolutely hated putting my face in the water, and without demonstrating that I could dive, I was stuck in swim class purgatory summer after summer. After a while, the swim counselors figured out they were fighting a losing battle, took pity on me, and graduated me to Intermediate.
Fast forward twenty-plus years, I found myself living on a stunning speck of an island in the Caribbean. The beauty surrounding me was captivating: white sand beaches, water every shade of blue, and endless skies dotted with cottony clouds that hang around just long enough to give you a welcome break from the sun. Yet, even with those intoxicating views, I knew that if I didn’t get over my fear of the water, I was missing out on half of what makes this place so special.
So I put on my proverbial big-girl bathing suit, borrowed snorkel equipment, grabbed a friend for moral (and potential-panic-attack) support, and submerged my entire body — head to toe — in the ocean for the first time in decades. That tiny change of scenery, an immeasurably small distance from above the water to below, changed me forever.
Swimming my way through bathtub-clear water, I was awestruck. I saw schools of bright blue tang, striped angelfish, and tiny guppies thousands strong. I marveled at regal lionfish, spotted lobster antennae peeking out from under algae-covered coral, and watched lavender sea fans sway back and forth. I followed a giant sea turtle as he slowly glided his way across the sea. It felt like I was in an aquarium! My racing fears gave way to a sense of Zen, and I was completely committed to being in that moment. It was a thrilling sensation I’d never felt before. That was the day I vowed never to let fear hold me back from doing something amazing, ever again.
Since that first outing, I have become somewhat of a water junkie. I feel at peace observing an ecosystem free from human interference, and I am in the ocean flitting around at least twice a week. I’ve swum with playful green turtles during the day and luminescent glow worms at night. I’m learning to free dive, and I even got my scuba certification last year, a feat that I never even dreamed would be possible. In shifting my literal point of view, the way I see the world around me evolved. I learn more about myself every time I put on my mask and take the plunge.
Don’t get me wrong: From making big career moves to risking my heart in love, there are still plenty of things that scare me. But I no longer let them stop me, and that has made all the difference.
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