On Fear and Scuba Diving
I’m not sure how I got here.
As a kid, I refused any activity that could hurt me. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was nine. I refused to leave the steps of our backyard pool until my big sister essentially insisted that I learn to swim before she’d let me out of the water. At the time I was convinced that she didn’t grasp the concept of drowning. Why couldn’t I just go read on the patio? No one ever died of reading. This might also be true of kickball, but even as an adult I remain dubious.
The first time I tried snorkeling, I hated it. Nothing like inhaling salt water unexpectedly while 300 fish crowd around your face mask and your legs are shredded by coral! Hey sharks, I hear you can smell a drop of blood in the water from a zillion miles away! Come and get it while I’m blinded by these tropical fish!
The second time I snorkeled, I was on the Great Barrier Reef, where I hated snorkeling for eight hours straight. When I turned thirty, I went to Belize and thought I’d finally gotten the hang of it. It was amazing, until our guide unexpectedly chummed the water for sharks. That was one of the first times I decided my overactive risk-o-meter wasn’t useful anymore. As I watched everyone leave the boat for a front-row view of the feeding frenzy, I realized it was time to jump.
The more I do these things, the more I realize I just have to shut my eyes and jump. We’re afraid of the unknown, and once it becomes rote it isn’t scary anymore. The process of turning fear into comfort is all about familiarity. This is true of adventures, of travel, and of each other.
Tomorrow, let’s talk about scuba diving. I think you should try it.