I think about it for a second and do it because the waves are pulling me out and I’m scared. “HELP!!”
Ooh, what a juicy start to this story. Let’s rewind a little to give you more context.
It’s day 4 or 5, it’s so easy to lose track of time here. I’m better now, I’m not scared. Plus, I’ve moved to a quieter part of Bali called Seminyak and everything is lovely. I’ve been to the beach a few times already, and have even watched the sunset while a local band serenaded me.
I wake up bright and early and make a beeline for the beach. I want to swim in the ocean today. I’ve admired it from afar for a while now, only going as far as my thighs. I’m short so when the waves hit my thighs, I’m really not that far out.
I’ve watched countless people learn to surf and fall into the ocean, and it catches them like a father who throws his giggling baby in the air and then catches her. It’s beautiful and I want to be in it. Now.
I am told that a beach chair to put my bag on costs 50,000 rupiahs while another one tells me 100,000 rupiahs. There’s no bargaining with these guys because tourists before me and after me are stupid. So I walk away.
I find the same restaurant by the beach that I went to previously, Capil Beach, and decide to buy a drink from them and have them watch my stuff. I end up buying an iced coffee and fresh juice. I paid 70,000 rupiahs. Still a rip off, but with two drinks. Not too shabby me thinks.
I ask them to watch my things and they tell me to put my bag with theirs, behind the counter. Perfect.
I’m like a little girl now, overly excited and not knowing how to contain it. I can’t wait for the cool water to catch me too. I walk, then run to the water because the sand between here and there is scorching hot and my feet hate me for it. We make it to the cool water and the waves crash against my feet. They thank me and like me again.
I walk further out, bracing myself for each wave that comes my way. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to work with the sea. When the waves grow, I learn to recognise the sound it makes to prepare myself. As I see it approaching, I breathe in deep, duck underwater and let it crash above me. I feel it move me and I move with it. I begin swimming and soon, I find myself behind the waves.
I still see people surfing close by and I watch them, unaware that my feet can no longer touch the ground. It doesn’t take long for me to tire out.
I look for the shore and suddenly realise that it’s further that I thought. I decide to go back and slowly swim towards the shore, tiring out with each stroke.
The waves begin to grow bigger and I am caught in them. I’m pulled out every time I fight it. Thoughts start spinning in my head and they’re out of control. I tell myself to focus on my breath but the waves are crashing too soon, I don’t have time for the whole breathe and duck under water routine. I gulp in a lot of sea water, it’s disgusting.
Don’t panic I tell myself, but of course I do.
I’m trying to swim back and it’s exhausting. I’m getting tired. I see people near me but none of them notice me struggling. I think about my options. Should I ask for help or just go at it on my own? I know I can do it but the thought of having someone tell me I’ll be okay overwhelms me. I need someone to tell me I’m alright. I yell “HELP”. Twice.
As soon as the sound leaves my mouth, fear rushes through my body.
I’ve wasted energy sticking my head out of the sea yelling for help and wasn’t able to prepare myself for the next wave and it swallowed me in. I can hear the water around me and I am moved by a force so much bigger than me. I just have to let it settle whilst freaking the fuck out in my head.
The next second it’s over and I’m gasping for air, still too far out to touch the sea bed. Focus. Breathe. You’re okay. You will not get robbed and drown in one week. You’. Are. Not. Going. To. Die. Not like this anyway.
I start swimming back. Take your time, you’ve got this. I’m doing my best to save my tired and scared body from extra exhaustion. And the waves crash over me again.
I don’t let it pull me out. I duck under water and try not to move. I curl into a ball and wait for it to pass. I start swimming again. I know my goal and I’m heading for it because there’s no way I’m going to die today. I’m such an idiot sometimes.
A lady sees me struggling. I probably look like I’m flailing, a physical embodiment of how I’m coping with life at the moment. Just flailing about. Barely making it most of the time.
She just stares at me. She doesn’t come any closer or moves any further. She just stares at me, watching to see what I’ll do next. And I look back at her. If that’s the spot where you’re able to stand up, that’s where I need to be. It doesn’t take long. Before I know it, my feet touch the ground and I’m relieved.
I’m coughing from all the salt water, chest heaving and face in my hands. The waves hit my back and I don’t care. With my feet planted on solid ground, I’m okay again.
“Maybe you should stay where you can touch the sand, the waves are pretty big today.”
“I know, I’m such an idiot. And here I thought I’d give surfing a shot.”
We just stand there for a while longer before I decide to head back to the restaurant. I sit down and replay what just happened. Oh my God did I really just call for help? I’m an idiot. A walking wreck in Bali. What’s happening to me?
And right there on the beach, I feel an incredible urge to meditate. Of all things. I close my eyes, cross my legs on the bench outside the restaurant and begin to take in long deep breaths.
I don’t move. I keep my eyes closed and listen to the sea.
I need to go back to correct this. This isn’t right. It’s not right.
It takes me another hour to find the courage needed to head out. I once again run across the scorching sand. My body is telling me I’m insane, my mind tells it to STFU.
The water washes over my toes and I watch the waves again. I eye it cautiously like a tiger watching it’s prey intently before devouring it wholly. I’m watching the waves. Each step I take is calculated and careful. I’m cautiously careful, carefully cautious.
I only go as far as my thighs and I stand there for ages. I’m just watching the surfers get lost in the moment, while I’m here stuck at the periphery, not wanting to go beyond. Too scared actually.
For a moment, it almost feels like I’m just existing and sometimes, it feels like that is what I’ve let my life become. It’s easy to get caught up in work, to almost drown in routine and regularity, to let
yourselfmyself glide through life, to let time pass without being in the present. The Chilean told me that the past and the future don’t exist, that only now matters. And now I know that to be the truest truth I’ve ver heard.
Which is probably why I love travelling so much, I get to live in the present because nothing else matters. But at the same time, I’m afraid I’m running away from something, in which case I need to sort that out too. I digress. I guess that’s what almost drowning does to you, it makes you think.
I hear the water again and feel the waves carry me. Do I let it this time?
No. Instead, I plant my feet firmly in the sand and stare out into the sea.