I love the water. I love the ocean, the beach and simply being outdoors in nature. Last year, at the beginning of Covid, I had a friend who started paddle boarding. I had always wanted to get into the sport but for all the reasons (and excuses), I never pursued it. With the world slowing down, I suddenly found myself with more time and less excuses- so I bought my first board. Nothing fancy, but it got the job done.
She and I went on all sorts of fun little adventures with our paddle boards. It became the part of my day I most looked forward to- and then she moved. Now, I have always been perfectly content doing things on my own. If I really want to do it, I just do it. I don’t need an entourage or company. So for months, I would venture out on the water, just me, my board, my thoughts and my music- and the occasional dolphin. I found so much peace out there. It grounded me. The ocean really speaks to my soul. I quickly realized that my passion and love for paddling wasn’t going away any time soon, so I made the leap and invested in a beautiful new (proper) paddle board. Game changer. With this board, I was able to take my adventures even farther and explore new territory- literally and figuratively.
As a fairly literate social media user, I would share my paddles with the world, capturing sunrises, sunsets, and of course, dolphins. This would prompt the most interesting and unexpected conversations. One day, a colleague of mine told me about an event called The Crossing for CF. Over zoom, he explained how the participants paddle from Bimini to Lake Worth, 80 miles across the ocean, to raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. He dropped the link in the chat box. I checked it out- and by "check it out" I mean a brief skim and cursory glance- before signing up.
I barely even looked at what I was getting involved in but it seemed to be a really cool physical challenge (which is totally my jam), and I would be doing a good deed by raising money for Cystic Fibrosis (which I knew little if nothing about). Besides, all the positions were filled and I was only signing up for the waitlist right?
Three months ago, I got a call from one of the organizers who told me that a spot opened up and asked if I was still interested in participating. Honestly, I was too embarrassed to say no- so I said YES! Next thing I knew, I was a Rec Solo Paddler in the June 27th Crossing. I didn’t know anyone participating in the event, nor did I know anyone who had done it before. In fact, I didn’t even realize that we were paddling the full 80 miles in one straight shot!
I had 90 days to plan, train, and prepare. The irony is that I struggle with some pretty intense anxiety. Anyone who has anxiety knows that one of its many gifts is that of over-thinking. And day to day, in many many areas of my life, I do a ton of it. But when it came to this, I didn't even hesitate. This crazy ambitious paddle of 80 miles for a disease that I knew so little about, resulted in almost zero thinking.
I began with tackling my fundraising goal and set my sights on achieving the minimum standard of $1,900. I shared this endeavor with people daily, in conversation, on social media, during meetings and at the dinner table. I enjoyed talking about it. It was exciting- probably the first exciting thing to happen to me in years. And people enjoyed talking about it with me. It was something positive and interesting after months of coping with the trials and tribulations of a pandemic.
One by one, the donations rolled in, from people I knew and total strangers. Nearly 200 individual contributions were made over the course of these past three months in support of my paddle. Today, I am completely humbled and proud to say that I have raised over $11,000 for Cystic Fibrosis, an outstanding result for this event, especially for a first-timer!
I had no personal connection to Cystic Fibrosis. I wasn't motivated to participate because of a friend, family member, or child who was battling this horrific disease- but now I know people who are. The most incredible part of this experience, apart from the overwhelming support from my community, has been the people that have come into my life. People I never would have met under any other circumstance. People who have enriched and changed my life for the better with their stories of perseverance. People that I instantly bonded with in a matter of weeks. I have found a community of the most incredible humans and I feel so fortunate to be a part of something so unique, meaningful and special. To be honest, it just blows my mind to think of it- and that's not even the best part.
I have set a powerful example for my children, a lesson that could never be learned in their college classes. I showed them how abundantly fulfilling it is to put yourself out there, to take a risk, to follow your passion and reap the rewards of who or what it brings into your life. My daughter, in particular, had a front row seat as she accompanied me on June 27th as part of the support crew on the boat that escorted me and my amazing team across the ocean. She encouraged me every stroke. What a gift this experience has been for us both.
And all because I said YES. Yes to an adventure. Yes to the unknown. Yes to the challenge. I have done so much more than successfully complete a physical challenge and raise money for a good cause. I took a leap of faith and it was exhilarating! How about you? When was the last time you took a leap of faith? When was your last adventure?
From the bottom of my heart, I encourage you to say YES to things that scare you, say YES to the invitations, say YES to life outside of your comfort zone, say YES to the unknown. Without overthinking, without hesitation. There will always be a million reasons to say no, but life is too short. Say yes.