Thursday, 26 May 2016

Where did fearlessness go?

Brighton beach, England

I've encountered a number of recent fears since leaving the comfort of my parents home four months ago. Many of which seem to involve the ocean.

I don't know how or when this fear evolved, and I can only guess at it being that family holiday to France where a fun morning body boarding turned into a bloodbath - maybe I'm dramatising it a little but no one would read my stuff otherwise, right? But seriously, all I remember is being dragged under, thinking I was going to die, and being spat back out again halfway down the beach. And it's stayed with me forever. For real, it is the first thing that pops into my head every time I see a wave coming at me that's above waist height.

Since I've been on the road I can't help but notice how this incident has apparently, without me realising, snowballed into a fear of the ocean. Maybe a number of minor hiccups over the years haven't helped; getting barrel rolled in my inflatable ring in Portugal, scrambling to get out of the constant waves on a deserted beach in Brazil, or Spencer taking me out, knee to jaw in Arugam Bay.

But I'm also a great swimmer, I absolutely love being at the beach and I'm constantly in the water, as long as I'm not out of depth for too long and the water doesn't suddenly change in temperature (apparently my deluded and crazy head tells me this means a shark is close by). So why the hell am I shitting myself about getting in a boat tomorrow, and going snorkelling?

Yes, there's been a lot of talk of hopefully seeing some black-tipped reef sharks (don't tell anyone, but I've definitely got my fingers crossed we don't see any). But, I also have a sneaky feeling growing up hasn't helped matters either, I seem to have lost my childhood hero; fearlessness.

Fearlessness allowed you to go bum boarding down the steepest hills on shitty skateboards without worrying about scraping your skin off or a car coming round the corner. Fearlessness also meant you didn't think twice before running across frozen ponds or swinging from a tree swing that you knew could snap at any point. But at some point during the awful, already-hard-enough growing up stage, fearlessness starts to creep away too.

You begin to learn about all the dangers to absolutely everything. Every day you read that this and that can cause cancer, you google a runny nose and 10 minutes later you're convinced you're on the verge of death, you watch fail videos on repeat, and you hear tragic stories in the news about people being hurt all the time. The list is endless, and maybe there's some science behind it too? If I'm being completely honest though, I have no idea why or where fearlessness crawls off to. Although, I do know it's never a bad time to try and get some of that fearlessness back. Even if it's one step at a time.

So, even though I bottled trying my hand at surfing (I was happy enough watching other people get completely wiped out by huge waves) and I pissed my pants that time I swam all the way out to a floating platoon in the South of France, tomorrow I will get in that boat, jump out in that scary-arse ocean to snorkel and learn to not let my fears ruin the opportunities I have whilst I'm travelling (I mean if it wasn't for fear, I could be a pro surfer by now)!

I will still have my fingers crossed we don't see any sharks though - I can't let fearlessness come crawling back that quickly, just yet.

Snorkelling around Pigeon Island in Nilaveli, Sri Lanka.

What are some of your biggest fears, and how have you worked to overcome them?


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