November 16, 2008
There is a certain amount of fear, respect, and self-confidence that is necessary in working with the ocean. I, like many ocean lifeguards before me, have learned this time-honored skill set the hard way. After having my face slammed into the sand, body thrown into the jetty, and suit nearly stripped off by the waves a certain number of times, it became pretty clear what the ocean can do if not approached with the appropriate amount of fear and respect. The self-confidence comes from knowing how to avoid injury and humiliation at the hand of ocean.

Having confidence in handling whatever waves or currents the ocean can whip out is something that I have learned over time. My first big day as a lifeguard, I was terrified. I had to go in for a man who, paralyzed by fear, could not swim. I am not a big person. My victim had about a foot and a hundred pounds on me. I had to swim through 10 foot waves, get him, and then swim in against strong currents, ducking under the waves, and pulling his weight as well as my own. I’m a strong ocean swimmer, and grew up getting pummeled by waves, but for someone else’s survival to rely on my ability was absolutely terrifying. It took what seemed like hours, but we eventually made it safely to shore.
With every rescue I make, I grow more and more confident in my abilities. There is no room for self-doubt or rethinking in a serious life-or-death situation. After two summers, I have proved to myself time and time again that I am more than capable of doing my job. My self-confidence has grown from my first summer to now.

Whenever I am in a situation where the little voice in the back of my head starts telling me I can’t do it, whenever the butterflies start going nuts in my stomach, whenever I get panicky, I think about everything I have done in the ocean. I think about every person I have pulled out, every time a wave has held me under until the oxygen supply in my lungs is exhausted, every time I overcame dauntingly uneven odds. I think about that day when the ocean raged around me as I safely swam in a man twice my size. And then I think, this is nothing compared to that. I can do this. No problem.

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