CONFESSIONS OF A MARINE BIOLOGIST - PART II

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I almost drowned… twice.

The first time a wave took me out when I was a small child and then years later I got trapped underwater in a crowded wave pool. I continued to go in pools, although I never got back in a wave pool ever again. But it took me nearly 10 years to get back in the ocean.

During my hiatus, my soul was still called to the sea.  I would sit by the waters edge and wonder what it must feel like to slip beneath the waves, instead of being pinned down by them. I imagined the peace that I would feel; a feeling that no one could understand unless they had experienced it for themselves.

I wish that I remembered the first time I went back in the ocean. I don’t even remember the first time I went SCUBA diving, except for swimming back up to the boat, grinning from ear to ear, knowing that my entire life had just changed.

What I do remember was why I decided to get back in. A passion so strong that I overcame all of my fears and eventually made a career out of it… I wanted to be a mermaid.

KIDDING! well, kind of :)

I’ve shared my story before… what initially sparked my interest in saving the reefs, how I overcame my fears to get back in the water, the highlights of how I got where I am today, and a little behind the scenes of what I do now.

But if you read Confessions of a Marine Biologist, I never really told you WHY.

Besides the obvious that I wanted to travel the world, dive on beautiful reefs, and make an difference; I wanted to inspire others.

I never planned on becoming an environmental consultant. After becoming a marine scientist I wanted to teach. I wanted to have a platform to share my experiences with others and hopefully inspire them to keep the torch glowing. I figured if I had inspired at least one person to care as much as I did, someone who would act on that passion and inspire others, then I had succeeded. I should note that this was before the world wide web and social media… but I’m not here to age myself ;)

So what fueled my passion so deeply after learning about the coral reef crisis on the plane ride that would change my life?

We have to rewind to my junior year of high school. Our curriculum required us to write an opinion paper that literally determined whether or not we graduated. The topic that I chose was the importance of public awareness with environmental issues, focusing on the coral reef crisis. How can we save the reefs if no one even knows they need saving? The papers were graded Pass/Fail and your score pretty much depended on who ever read your paper…

I FAILED!

This was literally the first time in my entire life that I had ever failed at anything; I was a straight A student my entire life. The feedback on my paper was not that it was written poorly,  but that my topic wasn’t relevant.  I was furious and discouraged. Who ever read my paper didn’t think that the environment was worth fighting for and was willing to put my future at risk for it.

I was advised to change my topic, but I refused. My failing only proved my theory that without public awareness and popular interest in environmental issues no one would think that they were worth saving. After some tweaking, I resubmitting my paper and I passed. The entire experience fueled the fire inside me and I was determined to make a difference.

I spent my senior year figuring out exactly what I needed to do to become a marine biologist.  Fast forward through undergrad where I earned a B.S. in biological oceanography, and graduate school where I earned dual Masters in marine biology and coastal zone management, I now work as an environmental consultant monitoring the reefs and seagrass habitats of South Florida.

I never became a teacher, because I wasn’t meant to teach; I was meant to inspire.  The evolution of the internet and social media has provided me with a platform to potentially reach millions of people (if I could only figure out that pesky algorithm).  These platforms have allowed me to share my passions, educate the masses, and ultimately inspire others.

Without passion, the perfectionist, straight A student in me would have been mortified by failing. She would have given up, changed her paper topic, and probably would have become a lawyer (law school was my first choice before finding my passion).

But this was bigger than me. Its what motivated me to conquer my biggest fears and risk my future, and I wasn’t about to let someone who saw the world a little differently from me stop me from chasing my passions.

We all need something to fight for, whether its the environment, animals rights, homelessness, domestic violence, gun control, women’s rights, drug abuse, etc. Our job is only what we do, but our passions are why we do it. Its our purpose, the reason we fight so hard even when people try to tell us that its not relevant.

Find your passion and never give up on it, because you don’t know who is out there reading your posts or following your story. You have no clue who you might be inspiring. There are 1 billion people using social media right now. Thats 1 billion opportunities to inspire someone to make a difference, to help others, or to leave the planet a little better than we found it.