I thought I could do it all and it wouldn’t affect me. I was sick when I returned from Fiji, but I kept pushing it. We flew to New Brunswick, Canada, for the holidays and I was burning the candle on both ends – staying up late with family and waking up early with Athena. Our flight back to North Carolina was at 6 am, which equaled a 3:30 am rise but I put on a smile and hopped on the plane. The next day we booked a week in Atlanta and I started packing our bags all over again. Then, Athena got sick and the weeks, or even months, of non-stop travel caught up with me, although I didn’t realize it just yet.
When I found out that Darren had to be in Atlanta for work during the second week of January, I had to book an adventure. It’s part of me. Finding something new and exciting is as natural as putting on my shoes. I found a company called Great American Days and they have over 6,000 experiences across the country, making them the perfect fit for my adventure addiction. Within 10 minutes of searching their site, I knew I had to do the Journey with the Gentle Giants once again. Although Great American Days offers a Wildlife Encounter and a Zookeeper for the Day experience at the North Georgia Zoo, helicopter flight lessons, and hot air balloon flights all in the Atlanta area, my first whale shark encounter was life-changing and I couldn’t resist a second dip in the aquarium waters. I didn’t realize I’d be going into darkness instead.
We arrived at the hotel last night after 4 stressful hours of driving with a sick baby and teary eyes. As a new mom, seeing Athena sick is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in life. I think I’ve cried more in the last 24 hours than she did. None of us slept; none of us had rest; none of us relaxed, and I felt completely and utterly useless.
This morning we were like zombies. Athena’s heavy eyes and stuffy nose were a hotel room sentence. We didn’t want to take her out but it didn’t really matter because we were too tired to do anything anyway.
By 3 pm, I had a decision to make. My aquarium adventure was already booked but I felt the sickness creeping up on me. I was sleep deprived, stressed, and I hadn’t eaten anything but I was too stubborn to stay at the hotel and rest.
I arrived at the Georgia Aquarium optimistic that I would push through and forget all about it as I emerged into the waters with the beautiful marine life. I put on my wetsuit and felt a wave of heat rush over me. “It’s just the temperature here,” I thought. “I’ll be fine when I get in the water.”
I put on the fins, the gloves, the mask… the gear felt heavy. I pushed on.
I slid into the water and put the regulator in my mouth. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I kept coming up but I was embarrassed. I thought everyone would assume I was scared so again… I pushed on.
A whale shark approached and it was mesmerizing. If I just moved my arm slightly, I could touch it. I froze for a moment, thinking about it, and my vision blurred. The heat returned. My breathing changed. I knew that feeling; I was going to pass out.
I pulled my face away from the water and ripped off my mask. Waving, I caught the attention of the support diver. I blinked again and again but the blur remained.
I was on my back and she was pulling me. It happened. Without enough warning to do anything productive, I passed out. My journey with the gentle giants ended in darkness, cut short by my inability to accept that I’m not invincible.
I’ll never stop traveling, exploring the world and its far off reaches. I’ll never stop seeking new adventures, free-falling through life with the wind on my face. I want to teach Athena that we are not even limited by our own imagination because we can always dream bigger, but I learned something today. I can still do it all… just not all at once.
Think of something that you’ve always wanted to do. What is it? make sure it’s big! Now, imagine being given the opportunity to do that right now. Would you do it? Would a restless night stop you? Would you miss out because you were tired? If I was given the choice again, I wouldn’t change my decision.