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I’m terrified of the ocean.I’m going to repeat that for emphasis. I’m fucking terrified of the ocean. But I also have severe FOMO. So when you’re in Bali and your friends say they want to go surfing, you go.
I woke up early because I knew it was going to take some internal preparation and further convincing to get myself dressed and out the door. I googled “how to surf” and which led me to led me to “overcoming fear of the ocean” which led to “Bali drowning deaths” and later, because why not, “Bali shark attacks.”
I contemplated saying I was sick, but then the FOMO would kick in and there was no way I could look at surfing pictures and not feel intense regret. So I took a couple Xanax in preparation for the panic attack that would likely ensue.
The lesson started on land, learning how to stand up and how to position yourself on the board. We moved to the water. At least it was warm. And we started paddling. Pretty soon I’m in open water, feet dangling, with no idea what’s under me and a 30ft wave barreling towards me.
I tried not to look back at the shore. I tried not to look down at the water, or think about what was underneath me. Every brush against my toe, I convinced myself was just seaweed. I was on the brink of a full-on freak out. I really don’t even know how I maintained composure.
But I did. And I stood up. TWICE.It’s amazing what you’ll do when you’re scared but also have anxiety and a desperate need for people to think you’re cool and super chill. I’ll always over-perform to overcompensate as to not seem shaken.
The ocean is a beautiful yet powerful force. I remember the motion of the waves against the board beneath me and sometimes if I sit still, I can feel the back and forth rocking that ultimately made me paddle back to shore to get rid of the nausea.
I also remember sitting on the shore and watching the other surfers. They all fell. Even the ones who I assumed were seasoned pros. My instructor even fell and struggled to get back up on the board. My immediate reaction is to be cynical. “Why is this person teaching me something they’re not perfect at.” — Oh wait, no one is perfect at anything and we’re really all just learning and doing our best.
My fear is water but it turned out my instructor’s fear was teaching. We’re all just facing our fears the best way we know how; my diving in head first and hoping for the best.
A friend once told me that fear only lasts 20 seconds until you’ve officially conquered it. I was definitely afraid for more than 20 seconds, but in the end, I conquered it.
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