I like to pretend that I’m fearless, which, of course, is absurd because everyone is fearful of something. I mean, c’mon…google “phobias” and you’ll get 8.2million results in 0.49 seconds (depending on the speed of your interwebs).
One of my biggest fears is drowning, which to anyone who knows me, might sound strange because I loooooove the water. Love it. It is soothing and relaxing, but it is also dangerous and very unpredictable, especially when you’re talking about big bodies of water, like the ocean–not just in terms of what animals lie beneath (please don’t get me started on sharks and snakes and eels–that can be fodder for another post!), but in riptides and waves and tons and tons of pressure.
Of course, I’m not one to back down and let my fears get the best of me. Okay, okay, I will admit to needing a nudge or ten to get onto roller coasters, but when push comes to shove, I (being of semi-sound mind and an adult capable of saying no) will get on and try to enjoy the ride. It was in that spirit that when I was asked if I wanted to go snorkeling, I said yes.
Naturally, the night before our snorkeling adventure there was a storm and the waters were a bit choppy, but out we went into the Florida Straits heading toward Cuba. We parked (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not actually parking) the boat–I’m sorry, catamaran, along the edge of the Florida Reef (3rd largest in the world) and were given our instructions for putting on masks and jumping in and oh by the way, look! there’s jellyfish.
what the what?
JELLYFISH. Lots and lots of jellyfish. We were assured if we didn’t panic we could easily avoid them. The problem was, I was already panicking and I was still in the boat!
But I was determined, even though apparently I looked like I was about to pass out. One of the crew members, who I’m sure had visions of having to rescue me, told me to take my time and go slowly, but I knew that would just make things worse. So I just jumped in. I would like to tell you that it was a graceful jump and everyone applauded my efforts. Alas, it was more like I slipped, flopped into the water, and sank. I’m pretty sure everyone held their breath to see if I would actually surface or if someone had to dive to save me.
The good news is that I swam back up, the bad news is that I had water in my mask and when I tried to breathe, it seemed I was breathing in just as much water as I was air. panic…panic…panic…until finally I couldn’t handle it and had to take off my mask (and by take off, I mean rip off). I treaded water for a few minutes, summoning my courage to put my mask back on and try again. With the help of Sissy, I adjusted the mask and lo & behold! the water was staying in the ocean and not in my lungs!
For the record, breathing underwater is NOT natural, but once I could calm myself down enough to look around I saw…a lot of jellyfish. And some other fish…but mostly jellyfish and a lot of murky water.
After about who-knows-how-long (maybe 30-45 minutes) of avoiding jellyfish and panicking about breathing underwater and fighting the waves and occasionally coming up for “air” (i.e. treading water without my mask on), I noticed people heading back to the boat, so I figured that was the green light that I needed to reboard the boat.
The only thing less graceful than me getting in the water was me trying to get out. At this point the waves had picked up and I was attempting to use them to push me up on the stairs. The problem was that rather than gracefully helping me up (like what you might see in The Little Mermaid), the waves more or less smacked me into the steps and the only thing I could think about was trying not to hit my head hard enough to lose consciousness or drop my fins which I managed by some miracle to pull off my feet while in the water, lest I would have to dive down to retrieve them.
Soon we were all back on the boat, enjoying a cold one. I did it–I can’t believe I snorkeled and lived to tell the tale! Sure there were a few touch & go “I’m gonna die” moments, but there were some pretty awesome “I’m actually doing it!” moments, as well.
It was a gorgeous day and the boat ride offered some great views–and overall, it was a fun trek. It certainly was awe-inspiring to be able to face a huge fear and push through it. And–believe it or not–I’m actually willing to try snorkeling again. Although, perhaps in calmer, less jellyfish invested waters.