Freeing. Scared. Cold.
The ocean is a mystery to me and a recently discovered fear. After seeing images of the large bodies of water that surround us, countless shark movies and a couple of close calls, I never really enjoyed being in the ocean for too long. However after watching people race into the shallow waters of Fort Myers beach and the dolphins jumping around, I felt inspired to strip down to my swim suit and jump in after them.
In theory, I shouldn’t have been afraid. There was a huge gap between the sandy waters near the beach and the red zone where the water dips. I knew how to swim. I had back up, my family sat around me and several other beach goers. So I jumped right in, feeling a cold feeling wash over my legs. It felt good.
“This feels amazing!” I reaffirmed to my Dad who nodded back, still wearing his sunglasses and hat in the water. I sat down and let the waves hit my back. I felt myself falling over and I let it happen, the sand clouding my face. It burned but I felt giddy and got back up again. The ocean can be cruel but I allowed it to play its games.
Even though this part of the ocean was full of people running in from the beach, I felt like I was the only person in the water. I stretched my arms and felt the cool water against them. The waves were gentle on my skin. When I lay down, no one crashed against me. It’s just me and the water.
My cousin yelled, “Let’s go further!”
In my state of delirious joy, I nodded and we swam closer and closer to the end of the safe zone. Our parents couldn’t see us and soon they became small dots in the distance. I kept on swimming, ignoring the fact that the sand under my feet was getting lower and lower. I felt free. I felt whole.
A wave crashed against me. I was not prepared for it so I got knocked off my feet and down into the water. In a terrifying moment, I realized there was no sand for me to land and my head hit the water. The waves had turned their backs against me and pushed me further down. I couldn’t breathe, the salty water burned my eyes and my cousin was nowhere in sight.
I had pushed my luck and went too far. I was alone now, no one to help me out. A fight or flight instinct kicked in and I pushed against the crashes and swam towards the beach. Even though I was close enough to make out the lines on my Mom’s beach towel, it felt like hours before I resurfaced, heaving and red in the face. My eyes were burning now so I splashed some cold water on my eyes.
As they adjusted to the light, I focused my sights on the red buoy I had crossed. It was only two miles from the beach, but it felt like I was so far away when I was in the water. I suppose that is the power of the ocean. I was among thousands of people and animals, but for a moment, I felt like a speck in the very large expanse of the sea.