Scuba diving. Surfing. Sky diving. Bungee jumping.
This is the list of things I always thought it would be cool to do “someday in the future” or “if I got the chance.” This translates to: I was never going to really do these things if I could help it because they scare the bejesus out of me.
There. I said it.
In the next two weeks, though, I will in fact do two of the things on that list–scuba dive and surf. There are several reasons why these things unnerve me.
Snorkeling scared me, so I can’t imagine what scuba diving will be like. When I went to see what lurked beneath at Manly a few months ago, I panicked. When I looked further into the water, I saw murky nothingness. What was out there? The uncertainty and the slim, slippery creatures swimming everywhere made me feel like I was in a place in which I had no right to be.
I eventually calmed down that day and wound up having one of my best experiences in Australia to date. I snorkeled again after that and am OK with it now. But diving deep into the water and being unable to breathe without the help of a tank literally seems like a giant plunge. And this news story about the gigantic shark swimming off Queensland that no one seems to be able to track makes it worse.
With surfing, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get on the board and that if I do, I’ll be demolished by a huge wave that will break my bones and/or drown me. Yes, I know I’m setting that up as a lose-lose, but it’s honest.
By the way, did I mention I grew up near the beach? It’s fine for swimming and bodyboarding and chilling on a boat or fishing. This other stuff? Meh.
What I’m telling myself to prepare for these two events is simple: act like a kid again. Most of us were unfazed little go-getters back then. I performed in dance recitals without issue, went roller skating with abandon and rode my bike down steep hills without fear. It was only when I hit adolescence that I thought twice about doing those things.
The difference, I realize, is that as a kid, I didn’t care what people thought or fear getting hurt. Fall off your bike=get a cool scar and a bandage from Mom. Slip while roller skating? Brush yourself off and go round again. Mess up a dance? Keep smiling and pick up where you left off.
We forget these simple things when we get older. All of a sudden, everything matters a lot and is a make or break affair. We care too much about others’ impressions. We leave no room for screwing up, for learning, for failing.
I know it will be hard, but for the next few weeks, I’m going to attempt to reclaim some of that childlike confidence and carefree attitude. I will try, and if I fail or need a moment to literally catch my breath, I will deal with it and move on. If I’m not good at these things I try, I’ll go easy on myself and remember it doesn’t make me a less cool or adventurous or open-minded person.
Inner 10-year-old, I summon your courage.