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Every once in a while, a person goes through events and obstacles that change the way they think, feel and act. Sometimes these trials are heartbreaking, and sometimes they are joyful, but in the end, a new outlook on life occurs. The death of a family member or the birth of a sibling can help turn a person into someone totally new. Not only do these changes make people new, but also change the people around them. Everyone has these tribulations, and mine came three years ago in a very powerful situation.
When someone thinks of vacation, they think of tropical beaches and lush getaways, maybe Hawaii or Jamaica, so when I found out my church group was going to Florida, I was happy. I was pumped to get out of boring and bland Springfield, Missouri and get to the beautiful and vibrant Panama City. Many kids at my church were planning on going on this mission trip. This would be my first, and although I was nervous, I was also excited. It was a time when I could be with my friends, and not have to worry about school or my parents. Summer seemed to go by very slow, but before long it was time to load the bus up and go.
One of the awkward traditions is the parents always gathering around their kid and praying for them before we loaded the bus. After that, we put all of our gear and luggage under the bus in the storage compartments. Getting on the bus took forever. I just wanted to get on and get out of there. I wanted to be in Florida, but we still had the embarrassing waving parents. Some crying some smiling, but all focused on the bus when it started in the other direction. I remember my parents were yelling, “I love you Adam.” They always find a way to make a situation embarrassing. In time, the big bus rolled out of the parking lot, everyone screaming and hollering.
The excitement was short lived, because within thirty minutes half of the people were asleep, but not me, I was wide awake. I talked to one of my best friends for a long time. We talked about a variety of things, one of the topics being scary movies. When someone gets me talking about scary movies, it is pretty close to impossible to get me to stop. I love scary movies. I think being scared is one of the most amazing feelings ever. The imagination can take you anywhere. My friend and I started talking about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, but soon settled on the classic Jaws. I personally don’t see how Jaws can be considered a scary movie, but there are intense scenes within the movie.
Eventually, we ended our conversation and went to sleep. One of the hardest things to do is to get comfortable enough to sleep on a cram packed bus with hard seats and armrests, but sure enough I managed to. Little did I know that we would be making many, many stops before we reached our destination, some for bathroom breaks and some for eating. It seemed like every thirty minutes a different girl had to go to the bathroom, but finally, we reached Panama City, Florida.
We pulled up to a big white apartment looking building, about one hundred yards from the shoreline. There was a pool in the front and everything. Everyone got off and went inside to claim the beds, the seniors always getting the best ones. Since I was only getting ready to go into eighth grade, I had last pick for beds. It didn’t turn out to be so bad. Where I was sleeping wasn’t on my mind as much as the ocean was. Everyone was anxious to go to the beach. Before long, my youth pastor declared it time to head to head over to swim.
We all gathered up by the pool outside and soon walked to the beach. Even though the beach was only about one hundred yards away, it seemed like an eternity before we go there. When we stepped on the sand my pastor went through a few safety rules, but no one really listened, we were all too energized. Little did we notice the red warning flag cautioning swimmers of the danger in the water. When he was done talking we all ran for the water and began frolicking and splashing around.
The water was glistening from the vibrant rays of the sun. It was one of the most beautiful things one could see. I remember swimming out to where I could barely touch the bottom. I wasn’t nervous at all because I knew I had all of my friends around me. The waves were so huge, always landing on top of me. They were so strong they pushed me under water several times. Unaware of the under current, I was washed out farther and farther each time a wave would come crashing over my head. I didn’t notice I was out there on my own and in danger until it was way too late. I looked back trying to find someone I knew, but I couldn’t see anyone before a raging wave came crashing on top if me, shoving me down to the darkness of the ocean.
The waves were so gargantuan, they were unbearable. Wave after wave kept piling on me, making me do summersaults under water. I was so confused, I didn’t know which way was up. I tried to swim back to shore, but that was no good, for the strength of the ocean was far greater than mine. By now I am in severe panic mode. I am running out of breath, and my muscles are getting tires. When I do get a gasp of breath, a wave quickly tumbles over me, cutting my gulp of air very short. This was the first time I actually thought I was going to die.
I convinced myself that there was no hope in saving myself, and I gave up. I felt as if there was no hope, that I was forever lost to Davy Jones Locker. My body was so tired and weak; I just became another object floating in the ocean. The only thing I could think of was the grief on my parents faces knowing that I had died. It made me realize how heartbroken my family would be. After picturing them, I knew I couldn’t give up, and that I had to survive. My adrenaline pumping, I began swimming again, completely out of breath, flailing as hard as I could. The surface seemed like miles above my head, but just in time I reached the surface and gasped for oxygen.
I could hear someone yelling in the distance, “Swim on your back!” I did as the yelling man had told me, and swam on my back. This was the technique that really saved my life. It allowed me to just float on top of the waves and paddle towards shore. I got closer and closer to shore until someone could reach me, and they assisted me in getting out of the water, since I was so weak.
After that event happened everyone was nervous about the beach, but I wasn’t, because I learned a lesson. At the beach that day, I learned that my life can be taken away at any moment, and I need to live life to the fullest. I want everyone to understand how little time we have here on Earth, and that we need to do things that make a difference. My outlook on life now, is very different than it was five years ago. The Florida trip has changed my life forever, and I am now a new and totally changed person, ready to face life’s hardships, fully knowing that I can learn from every situation.