"Are you ready Kim? You're up." My heart is pumping furiously, adrenalin surging through my body, as I stand on the edge of the boat. I grab onto the handrail as the boat rocks side to side… I wait for Vito to put the boat engine in neutral and yell “neutral”… and then… I jump. I jump feet first into the unknown ocean, submerging my body into the icy cold water. I feel as though I've just been launched into another dimension and it’s exhilarating.
Lots of people ask me why I choose to participate in open water – open ocean – swims. Many people question why I would willingly put my life at risk for a swim. Or support someone I love who chooses to participate in a risky swim. Especially near the Farallon Islands.
To me, our lives are deceptively in control; our lives are, to a great extent: illusory, predictable, and measured. We live in a nice home in a safe neighborhood, we have a good job, we have health insurance, we pay our bills and we save for a future we assume we have. We wake up every morning, commute to work and back home again. We essentially rinse and repeat.
Swimming in the ocean is exactly the opposite. There is absolutely no illusion. We know we have absolutely no control over the water, that which lives in the water, and beyond. We know – without question - that absolutely nothing is guaranteed. It is truly unpredictable. It is thrilling, scary, and exhilarating. And it makes me feel so utterly, so entirely, alive.
In our day-to-day lives there is no such sense of heightened emotion, except for the birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, or a tragedy such as the death of a loved one. To me, those are truly life events where we as humans feel and experience the raw, unfiltered and wholly unmeasured emotions of living.
And so, from the very moment I jump in the ocean, or witness the person I love jump in the ocean, I surrender. I surrender to that which is completely out of my control. I surrender to the raw emotions fueled by adrenalin, and feel so alive.
I don’t want to live a measured life. I don’t want to look back, regretfully, on my life and say “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”* I want to live. And I want to FEEL alive.
I believe we have to "risk some to fully live."**
By swimming in the ocean we risk some to fully live. And live, we do.
* Quote from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S Eliot
** Michael Gough