I flew back to New York a few days ago, after spending a rejuvenating week in the gorgeous Dominican Republic. White sandy beaches, turquoise water, sun and unlimited booze and arroz con pollo to stuff my face. That’s vacation, baby!
My boyfriend and I are big fans of excursions while we travel. We crave adventure—you could call us modern day explorers. I’m pretty much down for anything. Want to jump off a cliff into a waterfall? I’m there. Go ATVing through the jungle on desolate, rocky paths? Sign me up! But ask me to go snorkeling or scuba diving to the depths of the big bad ocean, and I will kick you and run away. I am terrified of sharks—thanks to Shark Week on Discovery. My boyfriend (and I blame him completely) pressured me into going SNUBA diving. Yes, you read that correctly. Snuba, not scuba. Basically, it’s a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving (the two things I’ve avoided until now) as you use an underwater breathing system, swim fins, a diving mask and weights. Pretty crazy, huh? Well, here’s what happened the day I had to face my fear.
1.When you already feel pressured, adding weights doesn’t help: Here we go. We are on a small cruise ship heading to our destination. I know it’ll be somewhere in the middle of the ocean where nobody can hear my screams. I’m panicking, my stomach is churning and I want to punch my boyfriend because he just keeps smiling. They start to hand out the gear: flippers, a scuba mask, and the mouth piece so we can breathe. Alright, I think I can handle this (I think to myself). Then our guide, Hector, proceeds to wrap a belt-like contraption around my waist filled with weights. Seriously?! You want me to sink to the bottom on purpose?! Now they want us to jump into the water after a brief safety tutorial. It literally took every ounce of fake courage I could muster up to do so. I had to grab onto a small, blow-up raft that had our air tanks attached to it, while our guide dragged it to the middle of the diving area. My boyfriend had no problem going right down to the bottom (I learned later that it was only 20 ft. deep) but I wouldn’t even put my head underneath to try to breathe under the water. I already felt the weights pulling me down and I just knew the shark was waiting for me to come down to his level. And I am not that stupid…yet.
2.When in doubt, hand signal your way back up: Ten minutes go by and I’m still holding on to the raft for dear life. With a little motivation from good ol’ Hector, I decide to put my head under. Let me tell you, breathing underwater is not easy. Your breaths have to be slow and deep; too fast and short, and you’ll end up panicking. Which way do you think I was breathing? It took a few attempts, but I started to make my way toward the ocean floor. My guide looks at me and signals for me to go back to the surface. OMG…I’m thinking my fear is coming true. I take a breath at the surface and he points to my chest. It’s even worse than I though. MY BIKINI TOP HAD COME UNDONE AND MY CHEST WAS EXPOSED. Only me. Poor Hector had to help me tie it back on while treading water. Two minutes and a few Spanish curse words later—mission accomplished!
3.Learn to enjoy the moment: I’m in the Dominican Republic right now and I’m in the ocean. I have the chance to snuba dive right now…who knows when I’ll be able to do this again. It’s only 20 ft, not 2,000. I channel my inner warrior, calm my breathing and dive under. I get all the way to the bottom and am in complete shock that I’m doing this. I look around and see all of these beautiful, exotic fish swimming in every direction. I see the coral reefs, the seaweed….and jellyfish! You know that part (spoiler alert) in Finding Nemo where Dory and Nemo have to go through the sea of jellyfish and poor Dory gets stung? Totally my thought at that moment. But I swam through and not one sting. It was pretty incredible to be gliding through the water and being one with the life down there. I felt totally free and alive.
If you have a fear, just handle it. Pull yourself together and realize you are bigger than this. I couldn’t stop living because I was afraid of Jaws breaching the surface. I am so happy I put my big girl flippers on and got my feet wet. I love a good adventure….and an even better story to go along with it. Now I have both because I woman-ed up!