Packed within the screenplay of each of my swims lays a bounty of life lessons.
They are poignant reminders and “learnings.” Most of which are applicable to my life on land. One particularly relevant reminder revolves around risk-taking.
Jumping in the deep unknown ocean in the middle of the night to swim is without question, risky. The depths of the ocean are largely uncharted and inhabited with some very terrifying creatures.
Why, then, does it make more sense to me to jump from the safety and security of a boat and into that inky, dark, unknown and scary ocean than it does to make a jump from one safe, relatively secure situation on land to another, unknown situation?
The latter is, to my knowledge, completely devoid of Great White sharks, Tiger sharks, Portuguese Man-O-War, Siphonohore, jellyfish and lord knows whatever else. The risk of death is minimal. It is, by definition, far less scary.
As I look back on our ambitious relay swim down the coast of California last September, jumping in the ocean and swimming in hour-long rotations around the clock, approximately 10 miles west of land, out in the Pacific Ocean, my mind boggles.
Leading up to that crucial moment when I was standing on the edge of the boat, grasping the handrail, I was incredibly nervous. I was afraid. Correction, I was terrified. I remember crying quietly to Joe in the minutes prior to my shift. I’ll never forget him whispering in my ear “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”
Yet despite these emotions, despite this fear, not once did the thought of not jumping in the water, not fulfilling my obligation to the team to swim my share cross my mind. Amped on adrenalin, full of nerves, excitement, and fear, I jumped off the boat and into the unknown dark abyss of the open ocean; a decision - a commitment - decided by each of us long before the boat had even left the shore. Not one of us waivered.
To my mind, THIS is the ultimate leap of faith. To break through a deceivingly impermeable barrier of fear - repeatedly.
How did I do that?
I think the essence comes down to environment. When you are on a boat and there to swim, you are untethered from the constraints of everyday life. You have come with a purpose, which makes it easier to face down those anxieties.
But back in the mendacity of daily life there is no singular purpose but an all-consuming swath of details that bear down upon, blurring the black and white into gray and diverting from the jump/not jump decisions.
Open water swimming is not about bravery. It's about simplicity and faith in oneself, and therein lies its true beauty.