What’s your biggest fear; something so paralyzing that it gives you shivers just thinking about it? Just two years ago, I was so desperately afraid of marine life that the sight of a minnow sent me in the opposite direction. I loved to swim and I spent my entire life in the water, but I could never even think about what lurked below. I was curious but too afraid. Today was a monuments day for attacking my fears head-on. I walked with 22 sharks, 20 feet under water with Sea Trek at Atlantis, Bahamas and a state-of-the-art clear-glass helmet and I will never look at my fears the same way again.
It was intense at first. Just putting my legs in shark infested water. Being exposed! Then, I had to walk down the ladder and stop on every second step to acclimate my ears. My back was to them. They could attack at any second and I wouldn’t even see it coming. It’s not like the rules of engagement where you can’t shoot an unarmed civilian. It’s the exact opposite. These guys prey on the weak and dying. I was shaking so badly that every step seemed even further apart. Do you know how difficult it is to walk down a ladder with a 70 pound helmet on your head to a tank full of sharks while trying to acclimate your ears and hold on to the rails? I’m a great multitasker but this was a little much.
When I finally did turn around and get a good look around, I wasn’t given a few minutes to adjust calmly at the bottom of the tank. Nope, three of them were swimming right toward me. Their sleek, graceful bodies and menacing eyes on the hunt. It seemed like they were swimming for me. Would they turn away? Was this it? It was a lot to take in all at once.
They turned. Thankfully, they turned. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t walk. All this and not even 5 minutes had gone by. What was I thinking? I couldn’t survive 30 minutes down here; I’d be lucky to survive the heart attack that I was going to have so I really didn’t need to worry that much about the sharks.
I tried to separate myself from the situation. I thought about the big glass helmet. It was like a looking glass. The sharks were on one side and I was on the other. I was safe. It gave me a false sense of security but it was exactly what I needed. For the next two minutes, I thought of myself as being on the other side of the glass like at an aquarium. I was safely on my side while they were on the other.
The ground was somewhat distorted too depending on how you looked through the glass and it was confusing. It was like a bad dream, a nightmare, filled with my biggest fear and hazed vision. I just kept thinking… they can’t hurt me. They are on the other side of the glass.
But then I started walking and I thought… my legs are exposed; no wait, I’m exposed. They are all around me. I can’t even tell if one is going to attack. I started looking around more and turning my body. I lost focus. When I looked ahead, my guide was dancing. Not metaphorically, literally. He was sliding his feet on the bottom, bouncing a little and moving his arms, smiling. I started to laugh and he grabbed my arms and started making me dance. He gave me the thumbs up sign and I did the same and somehow it was actually true. I was ok. We were dancing on the bottom of the shark tank and I was ok.
The sharks were all around us but had no interest in us. I can remember the exact moment my breathing changed. I put my hand down after giving the ok sign and I turned my head slightly to the right. Two sharks were coming around the corner and I looked one directly in the eye. His eyes were shifting and he didn’t even make eye contact with me. I was non-existent and I was happy with that. Rather than seeing this massive shark as aggressive, I noticed how gracefully he moved through the water. I realized I had nothing to fear. It was like a dog but in water. Something had changed for me. With knowledge and interaction, I realized I had nothing to fear.
I continued the rest of the walk, almost 20 more minutes, with a huge smile on my face. I was experiencing sometime only a select few will ever get to experience; not just walking with sharks, but overcoming my greatest fear. I will continue to attack fear head on because the results are beautiful and worthwhile in itself.