Category Archives: Life Lessons
I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating my materialistic values lately. Why do I want to possess so many things? What is that makes me want more stuff? I like the idea of living simplistically and not having all the gizmos and gadgets that will supposedly make me happy. As much as I like the idea its hard to actually shake the stuff. I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other night while laying in bed (Tiny: A Story About Living Small). The film is about a couple who is building a home that is only a few hundred square feet. It’s underlying tone is that we need to shed ourselves of all our stuff and get back to what life is really about. Get out and start enjoying what we have, instead of thinking that we need more manufactured products to be content.
This brings me to my story from the following day. I had most of the day off with no classes to teach and nowhere to be until six pm. So what did I do on my day off from being a dive instructor? Welllll, I grabbed my speargun, GoPro, and dive gear then set off for a nice day underwater! Everything was going perfectly. The sunrise was gorgeous that morning, I picked up my coffee from a local place called The Spot and headed to the dock. We set out on the boat, hardly any wind and the seas looked like a lake, flat calm. I knew it was going to be a good day.
I took my first plunge into the water around ten am. Shot five lion fish took some cool photos then ascended to catch some rays on the deck before going back under. The second dive was just as good as the first even better I would say. The visibility was a hundred plus feet, blue water and a nice eight four degrees. I speared four more lion fish, watched a few turtles cruise by, sneered at the shark who came my way and hung out with a goliath grouper that followed me the entire dive. My buddy came up before me but left me his pole spear before doing so. At the end of my dive with a stringer full of Lionfish I had to clip everything off so I wouldn’t lose anything. All while avoiding being stung by the Lionfish’s poisonous tips (which feels like ten thousand bee stings all at once and yes that analogy is from a personal experience). So there I am, clipping off spearguns to pole spears and pole spears to stringers ascending while keeping an eye out for sharks (they really like dead fish). I make it to my fifteen foot safety stop hang out for a bit and then come to the surface and wait for the boat to pick me up.
As I am handing up my spears to the Divemaster I have a major OH SHIT moment. Where is my GoPro?? Son of a ***** it’s not on my wrist, not clipped to my BC and the DM says it’s not on the boat. I climb up the ladder, frantically search the boat and yea you got it, it’s no where to be found. Our dives are over now and the boat is running an afternoon trip so we have to head to the dock. My whole day is immediately turned upside down. The incredible morning I was having just turned to shit. Not only was it my GoPro with the LCD touchscreen it was also my eight hundred lumen SOLA light, my Backscatter Macro filter, another Backscatter red filter and the mount it was all attached to. All in all I left well over a thousand dollars worth of equipment somewhere in the ocean.
It was kismet that this happen to me when it did. I was wanting to shed the stuff I possessed but not ready to do it on my own. I believe in an energy that surrounds us all. An energy that gives back to you what you put in to it. I needed help shedding myself of material things. I don’t think my day off was meant to be a day off at all. So often I am in the ocean teaching, however, on this day out in the blue, I was the student. Losing this small possession, no bigger than an average bag of David’s Sunflower seeds, completely altered my mood. If something so small has such power over me what control do I really have? The entire way back to the dock I was in my head rationalizing and justifying why it was OK for me to be upset about this loss. It’s expensive, I don’t make much money, I want pictures, I need a dive light ect…
As soon as we hit the dock I ran to my car fired it up and lit out of the parking lot. I went to the nearest shop and picked up two more tanks so I could make the afternoon trip. I know the captain fairly well and so he said he would drop me on the same part of the reef to look for my things. I made it back just in time to whip the tanks out of my trunk and hop on the boat as we untied and pulled out of the slip. It’s now nearly one o’clock in the afternoon in Florida which means it is an entirely different day. It’s now windy as hell, storm clouds rolling in, and 2 foot seas. We break the inlet and head south along the beach. We drop the divers on a wreck and let them have their fun. Just as we get them back on the boat for their surface interval it starts pissing down rain. We turn the Starfish Enterprise back towards the reef and start looking for the spot I came up.
I gear up and jump in the water head first, no time to stay on the surface, I’ve got to find my stuff. There was north current on the wreck so Doug dropped me south of where we think I surfaced. I get seventy-five feet under and it is a ripping south current and the visibility has dropped to twenty feet. There is no way I can fight the current while doing a search and recovery dive in that kind of viz. I come right back to the surface and have him re-drop me. The next drop we start north of our predetermined location. I get down seventy feet onto the reef and it is a ripping north. I can’t catch a break. I say screw it tie off my line and start swimming into the current. I AM GOING TO FIND MY STUFF. I NEED MY THINGS!
As I swim south against the current I am recognizing the reef. Yep, that’s where I shot the first Lionfish. I come over the next ridge and I see the Goliath Grouper that followed me. Now I know I am on the right track. I swim over three more ridges and I am about to give up. I’m using my air quickly, I no longer have a surface marker and I am getting frustrated. I stop. I take a few breaths and start to realize how ridiculous this is. On the bottom of the ocean in eighty feet of water I start to understand that I really do need to LET GO of these possessions. If I am going to get this worked up over some THING and let it ruin my entire day/week/month then I most likely don’t need it in my life at all. I said my peace with the universe at seventy-six feet below sea level. I stated that I understood I need to let go of my material belongings. I acknowledged the lesson I was being taught. I recognized that I need to place more value on relationships than on products. I accepted that I have been to focused on my own personal gain and that I need to work on giving back to others.
I swam over one more ridge.
And there it was. Laying in the sand, in eighty-two feet of water. My entire set up. Like it had been placed there on purpose. It was as if my entire day had been about that previous moment. About coming to terms with how I was living. About me getting over myself and my status amongst my peers and tearing down the walls I build by buying more and more stuff. I am still in awe of how it all worked out. The odds of me finding these items are incalculable. The chances of even being dropped on the same patch of reef are slim to none not to mention the strange currents and sudden drop of visibility. July 21, 2014 was a cosmic day and one I will not soon forget.
When I was younger I thought that trusting people was for the weak. As I got older I continued to build barriers around my soul, I built a keep on an island surrounded by a moat full of vicious crocodiles. There was no drawbridge therefore no entry and no exit. So there I stayed isolated from the “pain” and the “grief” that trusting would cause. I let no one in and I let nothing out.
There are unspoken rules that everyone learns growing up. Many people go their entire lives without knowing why they feel a certain way about something or the reason they react to something the way they do. These ideals and feelings are instilled in us over such a long period of time that we don’t even recognize learning them. For me trust was something I never fully understood. I understood that to trust someone was to be “totally and completely honest with them”. However it always seemed to be a double-edged sword for me. When I trusted, I did not feel the love and compassion people spoke of. The feelings that come to mind are more along the lines of anger, fear, resentment, and pain. For me I felt that this so-called trust thing was just a way for people to trick you into telling them your secrets.
As the years went on I trusted less and less and I started to feel an emptiness. After doing some intensive work one on one with a licensed professional I got to a point to where I could trust. I wanted people to know me for me. I wanted to know other people for who they truly were. I was tired of living the lie. I walked around donned in my “armor” of humor and apathy. I was afraid to show the world my imperfections. I didn’t want the world to see my flaws. However now I want to be real and authentic. I want to be vulnerable. I’m over worrying what your’e going to think about me or who your’e going to tell. I’m OK with me and if you aren’t well then we probably shouldn’t be friends. I’m not saying we all need to agree on everything I’m just saying we need to respect other people’s beliefs, views, and opinions. Life is too short for me to spend all day worrying about how other people will perceive me or for me to dictate how you should live your life. I’m learning to be content with myself and content with the fact that not everyone is going to like me. And you know whats funny? It seems the very thing that frightened me most (becoming honest and vulnerable) attracts the people I want to be surrounded by. It attracts people who live by the same principles as I do, other individuals that use love and respect as a way of life.
Now of course it’s not all roses, there are some fools who don’t understand. I take that back. I don’t think it’s that they don’t understand. I think they are just terrified of taking off their armor. Without armor we are defenseless. We are vulnerable. We are susceptible to the pain. I found that by ridding myself of my shields I actually felt more comfortable than before. I became so content carrying around all my bullshit and not sharing that it was normal to feel exhausted. Once I let it all go and realized that I control how I feel and what you think does not define me I was able to live freely. I have days when all I want to do are stay in bed and not face the world. Days when it all seems too unbearable. On these days I try to reflect back on how I felt before making a shift in my thought process. Often times when I think back on the emotional isolation I realize that the armor I carried then was heavier than the pain I feel now.
We are social creatures that thrive on interaction and have an unquenchable thirst for relationships. So go out today and be honest with someone. Love someone for who they are. Offer the same level of respect to others that you want in return. Reach out, become vulnerable and take a risk.
A life lesson my grandfather Ralph taught me.
Ralph is not your typical run of the mill grand-dad. This man is over six feet tall with hands the size of my face. He is weathered from the long days spent on the farm and has a “this is how it is” kind of attitude. He wears overalls seven days a week and is usually sporting a trucker hat from either a feed store or some other bizarre place he’s been. He doesn’t blame anyone for anything and takes things at face value. He is just as strict and coarse as he is forgiving and gentle. Ralph is the kind of man that when he towers over you and tells you to do something you ask if there is anything else you can do. Don’t disagree with Ralph. That was the unspoken rule.
Now on a farm in Oklahoma you can pretty much do whatever you damn well please. I started riding horses as a child and found that the farm was a place of safe haven for me. I could go to granddads for the weekend pretend to be Wyatt Earp and ride across the plains searching for outlaws. I continued going to the farm to ride horses, dehorn and castrate bulls, brand cattle and play cowboy. As time progresses little boys grow to be teenagers and so on. Soon I was taught how to drive the old farm truck. Now this is just a small two door, standard transmission Toyota pick up that is already beat to hell. But to me this was a brand new cherry red Ferrari. I drove that thing like a mad man. I would tear across the fields, rip through any water I could find, and “herd the cattle”. Well it wasn’t too long before I found out that an old 90 something Toyota is no Ferrari.
I was screaming across the field one day and decided to try my hand at a few drifts. Now with Oklahoma being the way it is dry and dusty, drifting was very feasible. The first couple attempts weren’t to bad I would gun it and then slam on the brakes and turn to the right. Yea I slid a little…but I think I need just a little more speed. Yea that will do it. OK. Here we go… Slam it in to first peddle to the metal. There we go 3000 rpm’s time for second gear. Done. Now were gaining some speed ok shift to third…Keep on pushing, fourth gear there it is. Now I am flying down the old gravel road way faster than any 14 year old who can barely see over the steering wheel should be. I crank the wheel to the right and pop it into neutral then slam on the brakes. Ohhhh yea were sliding baby! Wait a minute uh ohh, ohhh no this isn’t good. The world starts to go vertical on me. Next thing I know the truck has flipped onto the drivers side. I’m trapped inside the cab. My door is flush with the ground. The windshield is cracked from one side to the other. The passenger door is jammed and I can’t get out. Now keep in mind this is a farm truck. So as I look around I notice that the old coffee can that was in the passenger seat is now no longer filled with the nails it once held. There are nails everywhere! And I’m not talking your little house hold nails that you use to hang that “artsy” photo you picked up at hobby lobby. I’m talking big ass farm nails. Nails used to hold fences together. Nails you drive through steel when your fixing the feed trough. I was scared out of my wits! So finally I am able to squeeze through the window out the back of the cab into the truck bed and out onto the dirt. Keep in mind I am fourteen years old wearing black jeans, a black long-sleeve shirt with pearl snaps and of course my cowboy boots. Now as a fourteen year old I have seen my fair share of car chases in the movies. When a car flips over it explodes. That’s just the way it is. So as far as I’m concerned at the given moment I have just barely escaped with my life!
I’m about a half a mile away from the house. So I’m not worried that Ralph saw. But I’ll tell you what. That was THE longest walk of my life. So the whole way back I’m thinking to myself what am I going to say? What will he do? Maybe he will castrate me like we do the bulls. Oh god this is going to be terrible. “God if you let me live through this I will never ever…”followed by tons of empty promises. So after my own Green Mile Walk I am nearing the house. Oh god he’s already outside. Why, why does he have to be outside!? So I get closer he’s leaning on the fence chatting with one of his buddies about who knows what probably where to move the cattle or what truck he’s gotta fix next. Who knows. So I muster up the courage, walk right up to him, and blurt out “I flipped the truck in the pasture.” He looks at me…Looks out to the pasture…Looks back down on me and says “Well we better get the tractor and flip her back over.” I can’t believe my ears. What has just happened there is no way there are no repercussions from this. I don’t have to go find my own switch for you to spank me with? My mother has told me stories. This can’t be happening. So we saunter over to shed, find ourselves a heavy duty chain, fire up the tractor and head out to the pasture. Me perched on the over sized wheel well of the tractor dreading what’s to come, him driving down the gravel road as comfortable as if he were in a rocking chair on a Sunday morning.
Ralph hooks up the chain to the truck then the other end to the front loader on the tractor. He flips it back over then turns to me, “Welp, get in there and start her back up.” I look at him like he is crazy. “Are you kidding me?! That truck is going to explode.” He was adamant that I must get in the cab and start it. However I think he quickly realized that I to was adamant about not getting anywhere near that truck. I was terrified. He understood. He strolled over to the truck, tried starting it a few times, then showed me the battery cable was disconnected. We reconnected it. He tried again. Nope the engine was flooded (or something to that effect) we waited. Finally the truck started again. He was patient as he told me I would need to drive the truck back to the house. After some careful thought and seeing him (as far as I was concerned) risk his own life starting the engine. I decided I would most likely survive a short drive to the house. We got back to the house. Not much was said about me flipping the truck. We had a few laughs about it but nothing more. He knew it was just a farm truck and I think he was happier that nothing had happened to me.
I’ve thought about this experience quite a few times over my life. There are a few lessons I pull from it. Using compassion allows for healing where as reprimanding tends to cause people to shut down. Had my grandad not had any compassion I quite possibly could have never gone back to the farm on my own. I would have been scared to death of him. However he took pity on me, realized I was a young boy and that I didn’t know any better. He didn’t chastise me for the mistake and then send me inside. He helped me work through it. He taught me that even if you make a mess you still need to clean it up. He welcomed me back with open arms and then showed me how to take care of the problem. Sure I was a little terrified of going fast in the fields after that but with good reason. Ralph taught me too have compassion for others. To listen and help solve the problem instead of telling others what they have done wrong. He showed me how to immediately forgive someone and how to find a solution. Had my grand dad Ralph not helped me that day. I would not have this story to tell. I would not have this fond memory of him. Now as I look back I am able to recall a time when my granddad loved me and taught me to be a man.