So everyone has weird little phobias, right? Things that scare the jeepers out of them even while they acknowledge that, yeah maybe this shouldn’t really be super scary, right? It’s just something that triggers something in your brain that turns on the OH SHIT PANIC PANIC mode. For me, it’s the ocean.
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. While I am scared shitless of the ocean in general I still love to learn about all the animals and things that go on in there for some reason. Octopuses are one of my most favorite animals ever to the point where I have a tattoo of one.
Jellyfish, blue sharks, orcas, marlins, squid, cuttlefish… All animals that I love reading about and seeing pictures of and if we go to an aquarium I will spend hours just staring at everything and telling random strangers little fun facts about the creatures before us. I read books, look up things on the internet, sketch images of them, the whole nine yards. Learning about these creatures fills me with no small amount of glee.
But I would rather die in a car fire than ever encounter any of those animals in their natural habitat.
I’ve had some people attribute my fear of the ocean to the fact that I’ve spent all my life up to this point living in a land-locked state. Driving to the beach would be an 8+ hour affair at the best. I don’t think that has anything to do with it though. It’s not scary because it’s unfamiliar to me. I have read so much about the ocean and learned so much that I don’t really think that is a valid point of explanation. Especially when you factor in the fact that the more I learn about the ocean the more batshit terrified I get of it.
It’s… It’s too big. It’s too deep. Humans are not designed to survive in the ocean and guess what? Everything that lives there, is. So when it comes to human being vs. anything in the ocean that is even moderately dangerous we are at a severe disadvantage. The fastest human swimmer is no match for some of the slowest fish out there. The most horrifying thought to me is being in like, a fishing boat or something out on the ocean.
Those boats are just so little and rickety and even if you’re not very far from shore (depending on where you are) the water can already stretch for hundreds upon hundreds of miles below you. The thought of all that volume filled with god-knows-what, it just… *shudders* No thank you.
I don’t imagine I’d do any better on a cruise either. Just ’cause the ship is huge and all doesn’t distract my brain from where we are. I would totally end up going everywhere on the ship with my Backpack of Survival outfitted with things to help me survive should I be stranded on a lifeboat.
Yes, I have devoted countless hours of my life to planning and researching just what exactly would be in this bag.
When one of my friends went to Alaska with her father to go deep sea fishing I had to beg her to stop showing me photos and videos of the fishing part of their trip because with each one I fell deeper and deeper into a pit of panic. When she laughed and put them away I felt so spent and exhausted it was as if I had had to run a marathon. Just, no boats for me, ever, okay?
As for the beach… Well I actually have been to the beach before in my life. In recent memory even. I was on South Padre Island in Texas and oh Jesus, just getting there was trying. You have to drive a bridge there. Like, a long-ass bridge over the OCEAN OH MY GOD I’M GONNA DIE. I actually did okay with the bridge until I found the little memorial to commemorate the souls of the people who died when a section of the bridge collapsed shortly after 9/11 happened.
Apparently a boat hit some of the supports and knocked out a section of the bridge. A section that was at the top of an incline on the bridge so oncoming cars couldn’t see the bridge section was gone until they were practically right on top of it. …Yeah. Some people ended up driving straight off the bridge and into the ocean. Let’s just say it made the drive off the island THAT MUCH MORE FUN.
South Padre Island is an interesting island to be on though. It’s really long but not very wide; you could walk from one side to the other in like, half an hour or so if you wanted. Plus all the beaches are public there so you can wander at will.
And I gotta say, I like the beach. The air smells nice, all the birds that are around are really cool (there weren’t very many seagulls when I went so I guess I lucked out. There were a lot of really tiny sandy colored birds that were so cute and fluffy I had to resist all urges to catch one and keep it) and the sand was soft and warm. Hmmm? What’s that? You want to know if I actually went in the water?
The short answer is kind of. The long answer is: I never went so far in the water to be considered swimming. Ever. Not even close. I felt pretty okay with the water being ankle deep though I will admit that took some getting used to. The funniest moment with my “wading” was when I was taking a walk along the beach, feet in water, shoes in hand, staring at all of humanities lowest common denominators who were also at the beach when the sand sloped down more into the water but I didn’t notice until suddenly the water was right under my knees.
I froze and looked down in horror, trying to get my brain to start working again. “Well,” I said (not quietly) out loud, “This sure is deep. Uh, okay, crap. I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out.” I chanted as I skittered as fast as I could out of the water, feeling all the while like I was trying to outrun some vicious predator right on my heels.
I got to the dry sand again and stood stock still, bent slightly over, trying to catch my breath. Sweat had erupted from my brow and I’m pretty sure I was sportin’ a not too subtle case of The Crazy Eyes. When I felt a tad bit better I looked up and noticed a passing family had stopped and were just… Staring at me with unabashed confusion mixed with just a tablespoon of horror. As soon as I looked at them they skittered away as fast as they could, lest I start ranting and railing at them about how the ocean puts government controlled microchips in our skin to make us all stay home on election day.
The best sight I saw at that beach (and I cop to being a pretty horrible person to have found this as funny as I did) was a huge flock of seagulls mobbing a little girl for Cheez-Its. The little girl was maybe three and had long black hair down to her butt and the box of Cheez-Its was almost as big as she was. Her family was not two feet away, somehow totally oblivious to the huge mob of birds directly behind them, all hovering and dive-bombing at the little girl. The girl, for her part, tried to make the seagulls go away by throwing Cheez-Its at them. Not a very well thought out plan honestly.
I seriously tried to take a picture of this because it was just such a hysterical sight: little girl in red dress surrounded by seagulls as big as her while a huge clump of family members were less than a yard away (and get this) some of them were even facing the same general direction as the mob of seagulls but I dunno, maybe they thought the seagulls were going crazy over something else? I could hear the little girl shouting for the birds to GO AWAY as she mightily hurled Cheez-Its skyward in an attempt to drive them off. Just as I got my camera ready though the family finally turned around en masse and saved the poor girl from her trial. I was more disappointed than I should have been.
So panic attacks aside I wouldn’t mind going to a beach again. I still don’t think there is any amount of money in the world that could get me any deeper in the water than I’ve already been but I can live with that. I will say that living in a landlocked state makes it easier to feel better about the whole thing and also gives me the added bonus that unless we move or specifically save up for it I will never have to worry about my kid trying to drag me into the water and me having to dance the line between informing my kid why I won’t go but without passing on my phobia to them.
Makes life easier that way.