Let’s face it, since childhood, we have been swamped with ongoing motivational messages such as ‘live a little’, ‘step out of your comfort zone’, and the latest travesty, ‘YOLO’. They have been bestowed upon us by family, friends and, lest we forget, all of the inspiration the Internet is dripping with. But when barraged with so much, so often, we tend to look away and ignore what is right in front of us.
Truth be told, I’ve always been a believer in seizing opportunities.The scale of said seizing has differed over the years – when I was 18, my idea of a getting my heart pumping was attempting to sneak into an over-21 club. Experience, maturity and waning teenage angst have moved me forward into travel, starting my own business and becoming more open to saying ‘Yes’ to experiences that I would previously scoff at for fear of being judged.
My latest attempt at grabbing life by the balls (hey, I’m trying to keep this fresh, okay?) was swimming with sharks. A totally rational way to spend a Monday morning, right? It’s something that’s always floated at the back of mind, but when I was given the chance to head down to Umkomaas Dive Lodge on Durban’s south coast, I couldn’t say no.
I barely said a word on the boat ride out, with only the odd nervous giggle leaving my lips, and the guide’s assurances falling on deaf ears.Taking the literal plunge into sharks’ territory was one of the scariest moments of my life. My non-existent belief in regret may have floated to the top of my mind. What if I looked like a tasty little breakfast wrap to them?
As I was drifting on the surface of the water, feeling miniscule four kilometres out to sea, I found myself equating the three metre long animals to my fears and insecurities. These animals are always floating nearby, circling you and constantly in your field of vision, but it’s up to you how you decide to handle them.
Will you allow them to cause your body to freeze? Or will you float amongst them, accept them, and brave their presence in your life? When a shark approaches you head on, will you scream in fear or stare it in the face and carry on living?
People often tend to fear what they don’t know, and it is this fear that holds so many people back from truly living. My fear of sharks was totally rational, given my perception of them – a perception created by the media, movies and my own imagination. But facing the reality of these beautiful creatures gliding past me, helped me to realise that, like Franklin Roosevelt said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…
On a more literal note, I took cognisance of how misunderstood sharks are. Contrary to popular belief and every dramatised report, they’re not the vicious killers that we may think they are. Yes, they are wild animals. Yes, invading their territory is dangerous. Yes, their only way to investigate something is to taste, but during this excursion, they couldn’t have cared less about us. If you respect them and their natural environment, they will completely ignore you.
The thing with ‘making the most of it’ is that people’s perceptions of living a full life are subjective. One person’s idea of living life to the max could be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,while another person’s may be driving faster than 80 kilometres an hour on the highway.
I’m no life coach and certainly don’t have the bravery of most, but I leave you with one of my favourite quotes of all time by Mavis Leyrer: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’”
The world is your ocean, filled with many frightening elements, but the beauty of it cannot be rivaled. It’s up to you to step out of your comfort zone, take that plunge overboard and swim amongst the sharks of your own fears and insecurities.