#183 Swimming in the Ocean and Halfway Point Reflections

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I stand on the beach, sand sliding between my toes.  I hear a couple whisper to each other behind me.  I hear a family laughing to my right.  To my left, two friends bury another in the sand.  I see the ocean in front of me, vast, wide, blue.  So comforting from here where it’s safe.  But I’ve been frightened of it my whole life.

At home, I sat at my computer, thinking of something scary to do.  It was the halfway point of my journey.  Don’t I have to do something big?  Something spectacular?

I started Scare Yourself Every Day because my life was at a stand still.  My soul was stagnant.  There was no passion in my life.  I was tired of being afraid of everything. Leaving my apartment. Talking to somebody I didn’t know. Learning something new. Falling in love.

So I began this journey.  It was about challenging myself, stepping out of my comfort zone, pushing my limits.

But I also thought that eventually something would happen with it. A publisher might want to make a book out of it.  A producer… a movie. I didn’t want to make web sites and ad banners for the rest of my life.  I wanted to write.  Maybe SYED would be a way to let me do that.

Along the way, it’s been a struggle to decide on the “right” things to do for SYED.  Is today’s thing too boring?  Too small? Is a publisher really going to think someone will want to read about where he sets up his mat in class to practice yoga?

But I always try to come back to that original core reason of why I’m doing what I’m doing.  It’s deeply personal.  And ultimately, the “right” thing is a decision I make based on what I think is scary because I’m the only who knows.

I’m often surprised by the posts that generate the most response.  They are sometimes times the quieter, simpler ones. Not the big splashy ones I always think are going to blow people’s minds.

I noticed that my sister book, My Year with Eleanor, was full of these big splashy things and reading it, I think that’s why I felt a disconnect.  Nothing felt real in a way.  Even though I have no doubt it was.  It felt like I was reading about someone’s vacation.

I will continue to run SYED like I’ve been doing.  A mixture of the big and small things.  But make sure it is all means something to me.

In the six months since SYED started, I’ve had 22,000 visits and 46,000 page views which is kind of hard for me to believe.  The average length someone stays on my site is 3:35 minutes. This stat makes me particularly happy.  In web lingo, this is called stickiness.  It’s a coveted stat because most people stay on a site for barely a minute before moving on.  Three and a half minutes is even enough time to read a full post.  So what I’m writing is working for some people.

11,000 people have been to my little blog.  That doesn’t mean I have 11,000 fans but just the fact that many people in the world have visited SYED blows my mind.  If each of those people gave me 20 bucks each, I could retire.  Come on people!  Mobilize!

Those people came from 96 different countries.  The top 10 being: US, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Denmark.

The top ten posts by visits goes as follows:

  1. #15 Post a Really (really… really) Embarrassing Video of Myself on YouTube
  2. #127 Take an Aerobics Class with Richard Simmons
  3. #17 Taking it Up a Notch – Exposing Myself on Reddit
  4. #54 Finally Talk to that Cute Girl in Yoga
  5. #16 Geocaching
  6. #1 Go to a Party by Myself
  7. #8b BONUS – Went to a Dive “Strip” Club
  8. #41 The Church of Scientology Part 1
  9. #45 The Lying Down Game
  10. #56 First Kiss in a Public Place

I knew posts about my video would be in the top 10.  My video is the craziest thing to come from this blog and it happened in the first few weeks.  It would be interesting to see how things would have been different if it happened later.

A few surprises… Richard Simmons at number 2.  That was a fun post to do and write about.  I guess it just goes to show how popular Richard is.

Geocaching sneaks in at number 5?  Who would’ve thunk it?

I think the the dive strip club entry may have been pushed to the top 10 because of Google search words.  Hey, I ‘ll take it.

I’m glad that the first Scientology post made it.  That whole series was very tough, very scary and actually quiet enlightening.

Planking blew up right after I made my post it seems. I didn’t even know it was called Planking.  So that could explain the popularity of that one.

My first two posts about Clara are in the top 10.  I suspected this would have happened. People want to read about love right?  I guess in the beginning.  Then it gets boring in the middle and depressing when it ends so no one wants to read those posts.

Thinking about all of those things, I decided that today had to be something really personal. Something that scared the shit out of me, truly and deeply.  That was swimming in the ocean.

Now I reach down and feel the warm sand.  The waves look menacing, crashing, frothing.

I take a deep breath and start walking in.  I expect the water to be cold but it’s not.  Maybe I’m numb from fright.

I wait until the waves die down then I start swimming out.  My foot reaches down every now and then.  I still feel the sand for longer than I think I will.

Then all of a sudden it’s gone.  I’m swimming in the ocean.  I push further out.  I’m scared but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  I try not to think about what’s down in the murky depths.  I try not to think about being swept out to sea.

I swim around for a few minutes.  Then I look back to the beach.  Everyone seems so far away.  I tread water and bob up and down as the waves gently push past.  It’s so peaceful out here.  I haven’t felt this alone in a long time.

My legs are suddenly heavy.  I’m not used to this.  I start to panic and swim towards shore.  I’m worried about the waves but I don’t know how to ride one in.  I swim faster, hoping I somehow make it before…

And just then a giant wave blindsides me from behind.  It breaks right on top of me.  For a split second, I think I will just float on top of the it, safe.  Then I’m under and flipped all over the place.  I’m scared.  Really scared for the first time in six months.  Scared I could actually die.

I don’t know what to do.  I just hope that it will all be over soon.  And it is.  The ocean dumps me unceremoniously onto the beach.  Somehow, I’m on my feet but I’m covered in sand.  I’ve swallowed a bunch of polluted ocean water.  I feel sick to my stomach.  Then the water starts pulling me back.  It’s so strong.  I drop to my hands knees so I won’t get sucked in again.  I don’t.

I walk to the beach coughing.  Nobody even seems to notice or care.  I sit down on a rock, shivering and shaking.  I feel like crying.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far it’s just that.  When you do something scary, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.  It could be better than you thought.  Or you could almost die and wind up with a bellyful of disgusting sea water.  But in the end, you did it.

2 Comments to “#183 Swimming in the Ocean and Halfway Point Reflections”

  1. TK 20 March 2012 at 7:31 am #

    I found your site through a Yahoo link and have been avidly reading your posts from the very beginning. While I have enjoyed your entries so far – in large part due to the introspection in them – I think this is my favorite. You seem to have faced a real, deep-seated, personal fear here and your description of the challenge is utterly visceral. Keep up the great work and I can’t wait to read the rest of the blog.

    PS Have to admit that, like many other blog visitors have noted, your blog has inspired me to push some of my own comfort zones as well. So, thank you.

    • Greg 28 March 2012 at 7:18 am #

      Thanks for reading. I like this post too. I really want to learn the proper way to swim in the ocean. That will be my summer project.