It isn’t Thanatophobia, a fear of dying. It’s not even Aquaphobia, the fear of drowning. That’s not where it comes from. It isn’t even Galeophobia, a fear of sharks.
It’s none of that. I actually have a healthy respect and love for sharks. I think they are some of the most beautiful and incredible creatures on the planet. The way they look, the way they swim, the way some of them can leap completely out of the water. I mean, have you seen it? It’s incredible! A marvelous thing to see.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s Phagophobia, the fear of being eaten alive. I guess that’s the closest to come to what I feel every time I get in the ocean. It’s consuming some times. I’ll go to the beach on a blazing hot California day, put the sunscreen on – because you gotta have protection – and start to walk towards the water. The cold will touch my toes and I’ll feel a small relief. Then in a little more past my calves. I’ll taste the salt air and feel the waves roll in and wet my trunks ( why are they even called that?). Then I’ll take a deep breath and think, “I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna drop down and put my head in the water and swim. Like those preteen kids that are doing it. I can do this.” Then I don’t do it.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was a kid, my family would go to the beach and you couldn’t drag me out of the water. I would dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge all day long in the water. It was freedom. It was beautiful.
Then I got older and realized one thing. I’m mortal. That makes me vulnerable. That makes me a target.
Sure, like so many other people, Jaws had something to do with my fear.
But I do not, ever, blame the sharks themselves for this fear. I know, this is all me. Because I know I’m more likely to get hit by a lightning bolt, contracting an infection in a hospital, or getting hit and dying by a champagne cork than getting attacked by a shark. There’s about a 1 in 3.75 million chance of me being the one attacked by one of these amazing creatures.
But the fear is still there, and that’s what’s keeping me from jumping in the ocean and enjoying my best life now. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe there are others out there who have the same fear.
And that got me thinking, if I’m not alone in this fear of something that isn’t anything truly to be feared, then maybe I’m not the only one who lets fear keep them from doing things they would enjoy. Like, success.
Jumping in to anything takes risk. It takes a healthy respect for what you’re taking a leap in to.
You want to go to school, but you’re afraid you’re too old. All your classmates will be the same age as your kids, or grandkids. But it’s something you want. Do it.
You want to change your career because what you’ve been doing after you graduated college is what other’s wanted you to do. You want to be a photographer, a chef, an architect. Do it.
You want to learn how to dance, how to play an instrument, how to swim, how to become a coffee roaster. Do it.
There is not enough time in this one and only life to let fear take any of it from us.
Some time ago, I finally – kinda – took this to heart. My family and I went kayaking and snorkeling. In the ocean, in La Jolla. I love kayaking. It feels good to be out on the water and use my strength to propel myself around. See, it’s not even Thalassophobia. We stopped our kayaks near the caves and it was there I did the thing I feared. I strapped my snorkel and mask on, took a deep breath and dropped out of my kayak into the water. It was cold, it was heavy, which surprised me. But there I was, swimming around the ocean, scanning the water with my mask and snorkel and loving every second of it. I wasn’t in long, I will admit. Maybe a few minutes. But I did it. And now I’m writing about it. I survived!
I do still have that fear, but it’s waned a little. I’m pretty proud of myself. Just like I’m proud of myself for writing these blogs and posting them. Because I had a fear of putting myself out there. For showing my writing, which was once relegated to notebooks and hidden from the light of day. Now I write and put it out there, because I don’t want to let fear take any more time from me and my words.
Putting my fears aside and just doing it. Doing something.
I hope you do it too.