Swimming with the Sharks

By: Talyn Terzian-Gilmour

Every now and then, life seems to take on a sort of significance; the universe delivers.  It’s not always a good thing or a positive thing, rather, we take a step that is neither backward, nor sideways, but most definitely forward and toward something that we’ve never seen before but that seems to be the next logical step to what had been brewing for some time.

It seems to me that we rarely take the time to fully stop.  STOP.  Like stop reading this entry…for a moment.  Ok, stop reading this entry after you read the rest of this sentence and take a moment (like 10 seconds perhaps?) that will come after the period to do these things:  close your eyes, take the deepest breath, hold it, and from behind your eyelids, try and see the light…try and see the images that present themselves, and let yourself go….NOW.

What did you see?  Perhaps you saw nothing.  Perhaps you counted to ten.  Or perhaps, just perhaps, you, like me, began to smile a little at the wonder of just how vast your imagination can truly be…and found it hard to focus on just one thing.

This, is not a surprise. In our fast paced lives we rarely ever stop and seem to only have more and more questions to which thankfully google has most of the answers. But the burning questions, the questions we can’t seem to find the answers for like, “What am I really good at?” or “What is my purpose?” seem to sit, marinate and take on a preternatural state than when you first started asking them days, months and years before.

To make us stop, really stop, the universe has to compete with a lot of noise to be heard.  I, for one, asking the universe to tell me, “What is my purpose???” for some time now. 

I didn’t initially; my path seemed so clear and certainly much clearer than my sister’s (yes, I’m competitive and that sentiment sometime knows no bounds).  I was the goodie-two-shoes, straight-A-having, hardworking, conscientious, first born child who would never dream of letting ANYONE down.  I would have a great job, get married, have 2 or maybe 3 children, a pet, and live in a 3-storey walk-up in midtown or by the beach in Malibu.  But somewhere along the way I seemed to have taken a right, when I should’ve gone left.  And the question, got louder.

Graduate degree, marriage, job, children, family, friends, passions, interests, ailments, losses and setbacks – all of which surrounded and enveloped me…and still, no answers. Yet, a building desire to find them.  Along with a growing anxiety that I won’t ever have the answers or that if I do, I won’t be able to recognize them.

Luckily, I was reminded once again that I need to have faith.  And I had no trouble with this reminder as it felt like a blow to my head.

Faith is a tricky thing – you can’t really measure or examine it.  Can you say a regular, Sunday church going person has more faith than me? Perhaps – if demonstrating faith meant doing the obvious and traditional.

What if I told you, though, that from a very young age I’ve always looked up to the stars (or heavens) and spoken to God?  That as an angst-filled teenager, many-a-night, I would step out of my window and onto our garage roof just to have some one-on-one moments with Him?  Where I’d talk about my doubts and troubles and be thankful for all the blessings I had.  What about then?

Such a contradiction with my unwavering belief in science but in great appreciation that science is boundless and so too, may be, our understanding of the world.  But now I’m getting far too philosophical! 

At any rate…we’re all individuals and what I have always had faith in – though my anxieties have sometimes led me to doubt – is that the universe finds a way.  After many months of searching and asking, I finally heard the universe while on the Big Island of Hawaii when I came face to face with a family of reef sharks.

It was a gloriously sunny day and my adventure-seeking family was once again on a snorkeling adventure to Kealakekua Bay – one of the most magical snorkeling spots I’ve ever been too and incidentally, the location of Captain James Cook’s demise.  He was the first European to arrive to the island and interestingly enough his boats were named Resolution and Discovery.  And with my resolve to find answers, I discovered them.

I leapt off the boat’s near 15 ft high dive into the water and in so doing, may have completely left any worries behind – plus the amount of adrenaline that then surged through my body felt like an enormous electric shock!  Next, down another 10 or 15 ft below the water’s surface and thanks to Mr. Niceguy’s initial scouting, I came face to face with a family of reef sharks.  All at once I wanted to run, but I kept swimming closer.  I wanted to touch them, but one look into the eyes of that shark and I remembered to keep my distance.  In that split second there was nothing else in the world and I don’t know who would’ve heard my call through my snorkel when all I could think to say was, “Oh my God.”

The moment couldn’t have been more pure.  Akin to giving birth, a standing ovation at a performance or what I imagine would be breaking some sort of personal record.  I had tremendous clarity.

Now, a number of weeks have passed.  I remember the feeling and still can’t believe it happened.  Was it real?  Was I in a movie?  Was it a dream?  My old habits are starting to get in the way and doubt is creeping in…but I must remember.  I have just taken one big step forward…now to find out where it leads…