This I Believe

Hannah - Bristol, Indiana
Entered on November 7, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: carpe diem

I believe in taking risks.

When my boat sank in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Ecuadorian shark infested waters, and we didn’t have life jackets or flares or a real life boat or any kind of certainty, life took on a pure, surreal quality. All I had believed about life, about chance, about safety, about trust and protection no longer rang true. I didn’t know what I believed. But I did know that I couldn’t let the boat win.

This may seem strange since my friends and I are still here, and miraculously the worst injury was a gash on my foot I obtained while using a broken window to climb to safety. But the next week as I gritted my teeth and shoved my swollen, infected foot into a shoe to do my first rafting down a jungle river, that is what I repeated to myself to calm the panicky feeling in my chest. “If I don’t do this, the boat wins.” I don’t remember if it was sore during or afterwards, or if it made the infection worse, though that’s most likely. What I do remember is the feeling I got not only from the rush of rafting, but also from knowing that my scrape with death was not going to keep me from experiencing all I could of life.

If I hadn’t taken risks, the rest of my Ecuadorian experience could have been so barren. It seemed like during everything my friends and I did in those last two months, we looked at each other at some point and said, “what the hell are we doing?!” But we knew that at that moment, there was nowhere else we would rather be.

If I hadn’t taken some of the risks, I never would have rafted, or biked down deserted mountain roads in the pouring rain. I never would have spent an hour in the back of some guy’s truck to get to a town with the cleanest air and the best chocolate I’ve tasted, or danced salsa at three in the morning with some guys that lived on my street. If I hadn’t taken some of those risks, I never would have had that feeling of complete satisfaction and triumph. It could have been different. I could have said, “Basta! That’s enough. It’s too hard, too much to deal with,” and given up. But I didn’t. I looked for opportunities, possibilities to test the limits, and took a firm hold on each one. It was completely transformative- it influences the way I interact with people, the way I interpret world events, and the way I make choices even today. In everything I do, I want to be there fully.

A lot of things went down with that boat. My clothes, my passport, my sense of safety. Some might say I lost a lot. What I have to say is that ultimately, I won.