Just Keep Swimming

“Take a look around you- the ocean’s alive! In the big blue world, it’s time for you to arrive!”

Fort Lauderdale beach isn’t one of the most exotic of oceans, and I’ve never been to the Great Barrier Reef, but as I sit here, gazing at the infinite green sea we call the Atlantic Ocean, I think back to the times I really felt like I was a part of “the big blue world.”

Last summer, I had the opportunity to snorkel in St. John. It was a serene beach with crystal clear water and a wide stretch of sand. I had never snorkeled before, so I had a few issues with the mask, but overall, it was a magical experience. I’ll never forget the seconds a swam with a whole school of fish. Within that moment, I believed I was one with the sea, and I wondered how Ariel was so willing to give it all up to be on land. My friend, Holly, who plays her in our character entertainment business, pointed out, “Ariel really had no idea how good she had it!”

A year later, I stood at the entrance of Shark Reef in Typhoon Lagoon, practically unable to move. I wondered why I was so afraid with an incredible experience under my belt. At the same time, my travel partner, Emily, who also snorkeled with me in St. John, was freaking out over the sharks and stingrays. (I swam with stingrays in the Grand Caymans, so that was no excuse for my anxiety either!) We were the only swimmers left; it was “now or never,” even though the lifeguard encouraged us to “take our time.” The exact second I swam past the drop off, a panic attack settled in. I couldn’t see fish, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t figure out how far I was from land. All I felt was chilly saltwater and the presence of a wimpy shark 10 feet below me. I got out of Shark Reef in a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. Afterwards, I was absolutely disappointed in myself. Our whole Disney trip had been full of fear conquering. This was pathetic.

A few hours later, I was ready to face the reef again. I gave myself a quick pep talk. I had done this before. I knew what I was doing. This was a great opportunity – I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again. I needed to be brave. I needed to face my fears. I couldn’t keep hiding anymore. We grabbed our disinfected snorkels and wrapped around the empty queue. We got into the reef right away, and it was as if all of the fish had come to celebrate. There were sharks, stingrays, colorful fish, and a few of the Dory variety. I was disappointed at the end, only because it was over far too quickly!

It’s amazing how we can lose sight of ourselves when we’re overcome by fear. I’m a relatively strong person, who looks up to Pocahontas, dreams of being Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical, and has always adored The Little Mermaid, and yet I couldn’t breathe at the sight of a minuscule shark. This happens to the best of us in an array of situations. A straight-A student can forget an easy answer, a linguist can get culture shock, a singer can get stage fright. We feel the pressure of living up to our personal definitions, and that itself is the problem. The pressure is only from within, and therefore, is not necessary. Our personal definitions can be so restricting, and what I’ve been learning lately is that perhaps they are not necessary either. Fear can get the best of us sometimes, but as I looked down at Dory swimming below me, I remembered her insightful lyrics:

“Sometimes things look bad, then poof! The moment is gone! And what do we do? We just keep swimming on!”

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,