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

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

  1. If you recall (with all the responses you receive, I’m sure you don’t) I commented when first you wrote about visiting the aquarium that I had been there amd enjoyed it immensely, but thought it was a tame experience for you. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!! Wow.


  2. Well done for overcoming that fear! It’s funny isn’t it, how varied we are in what we fear? I’d be fine with swimming in the Georgia Aquarium, and the most terrifying thing I made myself do was sing in a concert in the Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival! The level of fear you describe in this post was similar to how I felt for the whole week of the jazz singing course I’d signed up to. The day of the concert I was consumed with nerves…I tried to sip some water during the song before mine, but my hands were shaking so much it spilled. Yet once I was actually up there singing on the stage I began to enjoy myself. That was more than 7 years ago – one thing’s for sure, you never forget how it feels when you triumph over your fears.


  3. Fantastic! Let me add an experience to your bucket list; next time you snorkel (or dive) on a coral reef, take a banana or two. Rub the fruit gently so that flakes break off and drift away in the current. In the right locations you will soon be surrounded by shoals of brightly coloured, small reef fish in a feeding frenzy. Much less threatening than your sharks, but then I’m a wimp.
    Oh, and thanks for dropping by my blog.


  4. I’m not sure I want to brave this for myself, but I think I’ll send my son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m ready to feed them to the sharks. They’re scuba divers. They’ll love it. And they don’t live too far from Atlanta. Thanks for letting us know about this.


  5. Swimming with sharks is on our bucket list for completely different reasons: sharks are my favorite animal! I admire you for swimming with them and facing your biggest fear. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get into a box filled with spiders! Loved the photos, and I can’t wait until I get to swim with sharks someday. 🙂


  6. My favorite quote is “Feel the fear, and do it any way.” Nothing wrong with fears, as long as we don’t let them stop us.

    Way to go! Keep it up!


  7. Wow! You may be out-bucketing me and thats saying alot, and I’m not dying either….at least as far as I know! 🙂 I have swum with sharks, but it was accidental! Great blog and photos!


  8. I think it’s awesome that you overcame your fears but your situation would be too much for me to handle. Aquariums, sea creatures, water and most of all sharks – the are my biggest fears and while in your case you wanted to do if more than you feared it, I fear more than I want. Well done for overcoming your fears.


  9. Lesley–Now I know why you liked my post about Galapagos Sharks at Molokini. I admire your courage to just “do it.” I have been diving since 1973 (yes, I know, I have swim fins that are probably older than you are) and I find it the most relaxing, satisfying thing that I can do in my life. It is better than therapy by far. There are a lot of us out there swimming with the fish and having a wonderful time. Join us!

    Mike McGuire


  10. Amazing, what a beautiful experience! They’re such graceful creatures. Moments like that are something you’ll always treasure. Thanks so much for sharing. I loved watching the video!!


  11. Lesley,

    I like the title of this post.

    “Living everyday as if it was my last”. This is wisdom! In one of my posts, I wrote: “Live each moment as if it was your last, it may well be”. The difference between life and death, is one breath!

    Thanks for liking “Hope” on the Sound of Wisdom blog. And thanks for leading me to this blog. A life full of exploration and adventure is worth living indeed…

    The Soaring Eagle


  12. It’s really hard to encounter your fear face-to-face sometimes. I admire you won this battle with yourself! I wish i’ll be as might as you someday. Keep it up! Btw sorry for my english, ’cause it’s not my native language.


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