Sunday, July 5 2020 - 8:35 AM
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In Over My Head

When I was about seven years old, I was home in The Bahamas, when my family and I decided to have a beach outing with some friends. Since it was summertime, this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. So, in the spirit of the moment, I decided to get into the water and wade around for a bit.

Unlike most kids, I didn’t know how to swim. I know that sounds weird, but in my family’s defense, I wasn’t at the beach every day, so there was no immediate need to know. I’d learn later. This subsequently meant that the depths in which I could wade were restricted to the shallows, which was fine with me. As I looked into the distance, I saw two teenagers and decided that they would be as far as I would go. So I got in and started having the time of my life.

As the minutes passed, I realized I was moving closer to those two teenagers, but I wasn’t bothered. I still had my head above water. I was still in control. Another few minutes passed, and I noticed that I was still moving closer to the teenagers. Even worse, I wasn’t the one in charge anymore. Instead, the water had formed a current and I was being pulled deeper. Slowly, but surely.

What do I do? I thought. This is too deep for me.

Clearly I needed to start making my way back to shore as I was having a hard time keeping the water out of my nose. So I freed my feet from the sandy ocean floor, but in that very moment I felt the force of the water pulling me in the opposite direction.

I decided to stay put, as the current pulled me slower when I didn’t move. But the water was still getting higher. I think I’ll hold my breath now, probably swam through my head, because that’s what I did. While keeping the water at bay, I shut my eyes, remembering the unpleasant feeling of salt water in my eyes. When I opened them a few seconds later, I was completely submerged under several inches of water.

Holy cow, I’m underwater! What am I doing here? How do I get out of here? What do I do?  All these thoughts passed through my mind as I started the early stages of a freak-out. You may be trying to understand why I didn’t completely lose my cool, and the answer to this lies within my family. We aren’t known to be overly dramatic. We always find rational solutions to problems. One of which my dad shared with me for a moment like this: “If you ever feel like you can’t keep yourself above the water, sink to the bottom and push yourself up to the top.” So I decided to give it a try; what could it hurt? I went down once and came back up. I then had fresh air in my lungs again.

But now a new problem arose. Every time I did that, I was being pulled even more ferociously than before. I had two options. I could continue moving via the current deeper into the sea, or I could capture the attention of the teenagers who now happened to be within range, as they were clearly my best shot at survival. After another bob up for air, I figured it was all or nothing. Even though I was being pulled by the water, I started bobbing constantly. Somehow I managed to latch onto the girl’s arm. She was my anchor now.

In the midst of this ordeal, I muttered, “Help me!”

After she had figured out that I was in a bit of a pickle, she grabbed onto me and tugged me back to shore. She yelled out to my mother who came over confused and concerned. She hadn’t even realized I was missing or in trouble! As I caught my breath, the girl explained what had happened, at least from what she gathered. I filled in the rest after I had calmed down.

In retrospect, I have a deep appreciation for how calm I was in that whole situation. Whether calm by shock or by genetics, it saved my life. These days I find that calming my mind in the face of turmoil is the best way I can find my way out of the turmoil. So stop, breathe, and tell yourself you’ll get through this. The situation is only as bad as you let it be.

Rohan Creighton II writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Rohan Creighton II

Rohan Creighton II

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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