Just Keep Swimming

Dena Alspach
Sep 9, 2016 · 2 min read

There is no bravery without fear. So the word fearless has never rung true for me. Fear of change, of the unknown, of making mistakes is always going to be right there. In order to move past the fear, to work with it, you have to acknowledge and know it. Cultivate a respect of fear, and the unknown, like you would of the sea. Never underestimate it. Learn to live wisely beside it. Learn to swim in it.

I got my ass kicked by the ocean once and I’ll never forget it. A blue green wave suddenly swelled behind me, lifted me up, and slammed me face first into the sand. That power blew me away. The sheer force of it. There I was, a blithe vacationer, just bobbing around, cooling off between margaritas. I was serene and happy in the bright loveliness. The respect that should have been at the front of my mind every second I was in the water, had just drifted away as I relaxed into that perfect day at the beach.

It wasn’t terrible. I wasn’t hurt. (Well, my ego was bruised as my friend, from the safety of a beach chair, tried to hold back his laughter asking me “oh my god, are you okay?” between snickers.) But it was a great lesson.

Music and film producer Jimmy Iovine once said, “Fear’s a powerful thing. I mean it’s got a lot of firepower. If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you, that’s very powerful. I always felt that I had to work harder than the next guy, just to do as well as the next guy. And to do better than the next guy, I had to just kill. And you know, to a certain extent, that’s still with me in how I work, you know, I just…go in.”

That unexpected moment in the water gifted me an immediate and fully formed awareness, cementing my respect of the ocean forever. Do I still swim? Hell yes. Am I scared? Hell yes. But recognizing my fear, and moving past it, makes my time in the deep water that much more exhilarating and meaningful.

I’d learned to dig the sand out of my shorts and dive back in.

Dena Alspach

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Founder Hammond Gersh, where modern content strategy meets vintage publishing. Pro-am eater and drinker. Joie de vivre master.