Swimming With Turtles

I had one wish each time I blew out my birthday candles. Deep breath in, secret wish held in mind, and exhale. At once the candles were out. I was now a year older, and all I wanted in the whole wide world was to go to Hawaii.

All of the adults around me talked about this illusive paradise on the other side of the ocean. I wanted to see it. In real life.

And so at ten years old, the summer after the 4th grade, we went to Oahu for two dream-come-true weeks. I packed my clothes weeks in advance. I saved my allowance and did extra chores so my fluorescent pink wallet would be full.

Once there, we passed the ABC Convenience store, and each bought a bright colored raft. We huffed and puffed and blew up our rafts through those tiny plastic valves and then floated for hours in the warm aqua colored water. I decided pretty quickly that I never wanted to go home. Perhaps a family in Hawaii could drive me to the 5th grade if my parents left? I loved the culture of Hawaii—-it had been well worth 4 or 5 years dedicating my birthday wish to this cause.

One afternoon while floating peacefully in the rolling waves something moved near me. I saw an animal head poke out of the water just inches from my body. Instinctively I screamed: “SEA MONSTER!!!!!” for all to hear and was on the sandy shoreline faster than I’d ever moved in my life.

I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but I was CONVINCED it was hideous and predatory. The tame rolling Hawaiian waves lost their innocence for a moment.

My parents laughed and comforted me: “Honey, it was JUST a sea turtle, look!”

They pointed out to the water as sea turtles poked their bodies out of the water, and then dove to the ground to eat more sea lettuce. Relieved, I waited on the sand the rest of the day.

The next day we went snorkeling on a different beach on the other side of the island. With a mask and snorkel, I peered below the surface of the water. What was scary the day before was now revealed: the underwater world is gorgeous and mysterious. Sea turtles aren’t sea monsters, but elegant animals gracefully moving through the water. I was amazed!

The next afternoon when we returned to Sea-Monster-Waikiki-Beach for the afternoon I eventually (with much coaxing) returned to my raft in the water and repeatedly reminded myself that the turtles wouldn’t hurt me. “Turtles, not monsters. Turtles, not monsters,” I repeated this over and over to myself.

When you can’t see what’s swimming under your feet, it’s hard to trust, relax and swim.

And isn’t this the same for some of what we fear about our lives? What unknown thing are you scared to face? Are we missing out on swimming in the best waters because of fear of the unknown or the could-be-possible?

I think it would be such a shame if we missed out on beauty and potential inside of our lives because we fear the very worst case scenario.  What if it turns out that your fears are only ”turtles”?

When I consider the many ways I keep myself from living my highest potential, it frustrates me. I want to live every bit of this life---because the only person standing between my biggest dreams is me, not monsters or haters or impending doom.

All of the possibilities as wide as the warm blue ocean ---waiting before us.

Since today is a new day---shall we swim?