Decide that You Want It More than You are Afraid of It!

I don’t allow restrictions or fears to limit my life! Life is worth living, after all, and I’m goingWhale Sharks Georgia Aquarium to live every day like it is my last. Most people create a bucket list because they are dying but I created one because I want to live. I’ve avoided one bucket list item, however, that brought such fear to my very core that it controlled me. I couldn’t get over the innate fear that crept around in my mind like a virus. Their endless, massive teeth, their boneless bodies, their quick ease of movement to attack, and their dominance in the water make sharks, regardless if they are man-eating or not, my biggest fear. When I heard that the Georgia Aquarium offered an opportunity to swim with whale sharks, as well as countless other marine life, I decided that I wanted it more than I was afraid of it! Journey with Gentle Giants is the only opportunity in the world where you are guaranteed to swim or dive with whale sharks, manta rays, and so many more! We suited up and jumped into the Ocean Voyager exhibit with thousands of amazing animals for the experience of a lifetime and I took control of my biggest fear.

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium The adventure started with a short instructional video that explained the experience. My fear stricken face was blatantly obvious while I watched the four 20+ feet whale sharks swim around on the screen. Not only was I going to knowingly swim with sharks, but I was going to swim with some of the biggest ones in the world.

We were given our equipment, a mask and snorkel, gloves, booties, a wetsuit, a flotation device, and a compressed air cylinder. As I put on my gear at the edge of the pool, I actually thought I might cry. I was overwhelmed with emotions and the thought of backing out continuously crossed my mind. I took a deep breath and shut off my fear. When I put on the mask, I thought of it as a protective barrier like I was watching the animals through a glass and they were on one side while I was on the other. They couldn’t touch me; I was safe.

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium

We descended into the pool, the size of a football field, and the videographer began taping. I focused on her rather than the thousands of fish swimming around me. I even had the mind to wave at her although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Whale Sharks Georgia AquariumThe first encounter was with a manta ray. It swam so close to me that I didn’t have to reach out and touch it; it brushed my wetsuit. Breathing in the regulator became difficult and I needed to surface to catch my breath. It felt like the regulator wasn’t working properly but I realized I was holding my breath.

When I submerged into the water again, something happened…. It was like I opened my eye for the first time and saw the beauty that surrounded me. There was a school of fish within arms reach and they swam around me like I was part of their world. A manta ray graceful glided through the water equally beautiful as a ballerina on stage. Its elegance and fluidity were calming. I was more in control as a consciously breathed in and out.

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium The first whale shark approached me and its mouth was open as if it was ready to swallow me up, but when I truly looked at the 26-foot animal moving toward me, it, too, was calm and graceful rather than intimidating and I somewhat wanted it to get closer. Thousands of people swam with these animals each year at the aquarium and none of them were ever attack or even hurt by these beautiful creatures. They are really are gentle giants.

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium

My adventure began with the most fear I’d ever experienced in my life. It was all-encompassing, all-consuming. The exhibit houses thousands of fish including whale sharks, zebra sharks, sawfish, leopard whiprays, bowmouth guitarfish, humphead wrasses, pompano, and several species of rays; that’s just to name a few, and I was afraid of all of them. Because I was able to push out the darkness and fear, I experienced one of the most beautiful adventures in my life.

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium

Watch the video and see the unbelievably beautiful and serene gentle giants for yourself:

PADI certification will appear on my 2013 bucket list!

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.
Japanese Proverb

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253 thoughts on “Decide that You Want It More than You are Afraid of It!

  1. Lesley, the video is beautiful. You are one brave woman! I guess everything worthwhile in life is like that – you have to focus on the thing that you want to achieve or the joy you want to have and move through the fear to get to it. Thanks for sharing your exploits!

  2. It’s so true…You have to push through fear and make yourself do things. You are definitely stronger than me! I too have an intense fear of sharks and probably would not have been brave enough to do that. Kudos to you!

  3. So incredible!! This is on my bucket list as well!! Thanks so much for sharing. If I can’t find a whale shark in the wild, I know to make a trip to Atlanta!

  4. You rock!! A friend of mine came across your blog and shared it with me. We have similar lists, and also look at a bucket list in terms of living each day like it’s the last! I have the PADI certification on my list, but not swimming with whale sharks. It’s time to add it :)

  5. Thank you for this great example. This is a wonderful way to live life: Face down fear. Steve Jobs said that facing death increased his ability to be creative because he realized he had nothing to lose. Having nothing to lose liberates us from all our fears.

    I try to face things I am afraid of. Rather than immediate death, though, my fears are usually about the future. Will I still have a job next year? Will I have the strength to keep up all my relationships? Am I spending enough time on my children? But I can’t face these fears like I face a shark. In the tank I can say, “See! It didn’t hurt me.” Then I leave the tank. When it comes to my job and relationship fears, I don’t get to leave the tank. I can always say, “It didn’t bite me *now*, but what about later?”

    So how do I face them? I try to stay in the present. I say, “I could have been bitten! Thank God I’m still swimming.” Thank God I have a job now. Thank God I have good relationships now. Thank God I have a little time to spend with my kids today. By remaining grateful for the present moment, I’m able to live for a while without fear as I continue to “swim.”

  6. Wow, you go girl!!! I clutched onto my mouse as I scrolled down to this entry, so much built up anticipation and I’m so glad it resulted in a wonderful experience!

  7. This is phenomenal. My 11 year old son was just talking about the whale sharks at that aquarium. I will have to share your blog with him. You’re never too young to start dreaming of all you’d like to try.

  8. Come on down to Cancun during the summer, before the end of September. You can swim with whale sharks in the wild. That is really incredible. And they get to be as big, if not bigger, than the boat!

  9. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful experience! I can’t say I share the same desire to do that particular adventure, but you’ve got me thinking about what I may be avoiding out of fear, but that I would really love to do…thanks for the inspiration!

  10. I’m glad you shared the part about breathing.. I’ve come to realize that I am in the midst of a big moment when I have to remember to breathe! and thanks for liking my post about the touchdown dances!

  11. what an amazing experience. video is excellent. I’d recommend moving that up to top of the post. It’s really stunning and just puts you there. Thanks, too for following my stuff, I am always pleased to see your likes (often the only one!) and appreciate the support.

  12. I would do it, but I would be afraid, at least at first. I was swimming in a lagoon in Mexico once and a school of barracuda passed me. I was kind of nervous, then some fish, I think they were giant sea bass, like as big as ME swam towards me and I freaked out and headed for a dock! Well…sharks…let alone huge whale sharks would terrify me, but I tend to do things if other people can prove to me that it’s relatively safe. So I’d do it too, besides I’d be too curious not to! What an awesome experience, you’ll have so many stories – write some books and keep blogging!

  13. I seriously got anxiety just reading your blog and then your video made my heart pound! I tried to conquer my fear of fish/open water on a snorkeling adventure in Mexico and…failed miserably! So excited for you to conquer your fear though – it looks beautiful. But i still prefer to be on the other side of the glass! :)

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