the recurring challenge i have been faced with this year was confronting my self-defined comfort zones, facing fears and pushing my own boundaries. i longed to expand my life experiences and look back at some point with pride, accomplishments, and stories to tell. with this in mind, my desire to push through the unknown, without any specific plan or indication for success, grew stronger every minute of the day that i had a moment to acknowledge it.
when i was traveling in california this past december, i did my best to make new friends and connect with some people who would be willing to expose me to some things that we shared common interests in and expose me to places and things unknown with the ocean and outdoors. i had a few successes, and when i returned home to miami, i decided to give this methodology a whirl and see if i could keep the experiences going.
that’s how i met andres. strategically, i surfed through a social app that most used for dating with the mission to narrow down my selections and find some locals that shared common interests and would be interested in, without the pressures of dating, sharing some experiences. we exchanged a few messages, learned we shared common interests of the ocean, outdoors and photography and proceeded to set a plan to be “adventure buddies.”
i hadn’t really been in the water since i was in san diego in december and was working with a whole list of “nevers”. never met my new buddy, he informed me that other dive buddies were joining, never been free diving and had never went out adventuring into the open waters with a group of strangers. none the less, on this saturday, i headed on my hour drive north to confront the unknowns and see what was to surface in the end.
the next hour unfolded with a meet and greet, venture to pick up and out wetsuits for the dive, explanations of what to do’s and how to’s, getting all the gear together and heading down to the beach and into the water. although i had never really spend anytime previously (or recently) on the course of activities for the day, i felt a comfort with my new friends that was offered through reassuring smiles and patience.
all geared up and adrenaline rushing, i treaded out into the water, following the lead of the more knowledgeable and trusting their lead but still somehow even with my instant trusting of their instincts and familiarity of the water, i felt butterflies start to creep in my stomach and rise into my chest. i found myself a bit panicky, with difficulty in easing my breath at first finding it almost paralyzing to try and re-train my brain to breath through my mouth and not use my nose. i couldn’t hear anything other than the sound of my heart pounding in my head, my inhaling and exhaling through the hose of the snorkel and my mind quietly reminding myself that i was okay.
andres swam a bit ahead, with jonathan trailing behind, checking in with me to make sure i was okay and that i didn’t get lost from the pack. as soon as i caught my breath, jonathan waved at me and pointed down for me to look. peeking my head below, but still staying close to the surface, i watched him swim down and get close enough to play with a nursing shark right below us. i found myself a little uneasy but it quickly passed as he got closer to the creature and had no signs of fear. i had unlimited trust in my friends, something i had not experienced often before, nor so quickly.
jonathan and i moved quickly to catch up to our third companion who was already full force on the search for lobsters. in my own routine, i stayed within my slowly expanding comfort zone, at the place where the water kissed the air, and kept my head below the surface, taking in all the magic of the nature that was occurring in a world that was so new to me.
the first lobster we saw andres caught in one attempted and although i was just a bystander, i felt accomplished as we all rose above the water and he told me it was the biggest lobster he’d ever caught. i felt great in the water and about thirty minutes in, i started to relax and understand the way my body would work with the water and the devices i was using, creating a oneness with the motion of the waves. i kept my distance, feeling most comfortable in my own space, i enjoyed swimming a bit behind and to the side of the boys, and spent most of my time in observation of the animals in their natural habitat and the interactions of andres, jonathan and the sea.
time passed and we swam out to deeper waters and swam with the sea creatures above the corals. about a little over an hour in, i began to get tired and a little nervous knowing that i still had to store up some energies to get back to land, so with hesitation and a little sadness at the thought that my day’s venture would be coming to an end, i notified the guys that i was ready to head in, in which we did shortly after but not before the guys spotted and attempted few lobsters with success in bringing home two nice size crustaceans to showcase and create some friendly banter with the locals on shore.
washing off our gear and snapping a couple photos with the treasures we uncovered and brought back, i found a new contentment in my success of exploration and of my nevers. never had i swam into the open waters with a group of stranger, never had i free dove, never had without a set structructure snorkeled, and never had i lobstered. this list of nevers created a whole new list: a list of desires, a list of accomplishments and a sense of confidence in my exploration, decisions for venture and love and connection with the open water.