It is a phrase I love. If you do anything… do it big. Don’t hold back. My friend Roger always uses it, and I think it has become my new mantra. I thought of it today when I got a note from him asking if I wanted to be in a piece (on shark conservation) for German Playboy. But he, and that, are stories for another day.
Fearless is often a word used to describe me. Which actually surprised me in the beginning, because I am afraid of a lot. But, I have come to realize that it is not used to describe me because I dive with sharks, am not terrified of bugs (well ok, maybe those ones with pinchers on their butts just a little), or love snakes. I think it is used because I go big. I approach just about everything in life with enthusiasm and what may be considered by some to be irrational exuberance. But, I prefer to call it a passion for life. I don’t let anything stop me… I crazily will do and try just about anything. I am totally obsessed and try to become great at everything I do, throwing myself completely into whatever the task at hand is. I am irreverent. I love excitement and a little bit of dare.
And, so I guess that is fearless.
Today, after spending three days with my father in Sarasota, watching this 62 year old man whipping around, weaving in and out of the wake on his slalom waterski like a 20 year old, drag-racing cigarette boats with our supercharged waverunner and leaving them in the dust as I clung on for dear life, and laughing hysterically as he almost sank the jetski jumping eight foot waves in Sarasota Bay, I realized where I get it from. (I must admit, I was laughing too… there is nothing better than that moment of “Oh Sh*t. When the heck are we going to land?!?” followed by the rewarding plunge and wall of water once you hit.) And, my heart smiled as I was reminded once again how crazy I am for my dad.
So the Andersen gene is a fearless one. My brother Bruce is a race car driver who is also an instructor for Lotus. My father, well, he is a race car driver, sailor, diver, world-traveler, you name it. Now he wants to windsurf too. My poor mom. Fortunately, what I do is statistically the least dangerous, so I am the focus of the least amount of attention. You should see her friends' eyes widen when she talks about her kids… then they share their condolences.
My dad is the one who taught me how to dive. After he got certified, within a year’s time, my whole family got certified (first me, then my brother, then my mom.) It became a way for an adult family to share something special, and we traveled the world together – Belize, Thailand, Burma, Hawaii, Tahiti – exploring the ocean. I still try to go on at least one trip a year with my dad - it has become a special way for us to spend time together. The last time we went on a trip together, it was to Cocos Island. Magical.
I am in Sarasota to spend some serious quality time with Dad, who I never get to see. He works in Florida so it isn’t often that we get this kind of luxury. We spent the weekend playing on the water, with me completely obsessed on conquering something I have had at the top of my list of things I am desperate to accomplish - since I was eight years old and saw my cousins excel at it… Yes, I have always wanted to slalom waterski. So, I spent the weekend tirelessly smacking the living daylights out of myself smashing into the water time and time again until I FINALLY DID IT. And, now, I am totally rocking it outside the wake, cutting in and out, jumping waves, GOING BIG. Though I feel like I have been put thru a meat grinder, I am riding high as I add Slalom Waterskier proudly to my resume. Take that cousin Beth and Jeannie!
And when Dad got the skiing rope sucked up into the waverunner (note HE did it, not ME), I had the chance to conquer my biggest fear IN THE WORLD. I had to touch a muddy, slimy seaweed-y bottom with my bare feet. Yes, this Shark Angel is terrified of murky, oozy mud and creepy crawly grass on bottoms you just can't see as they wrap sinisterly around your ankles. I have NEVER been able to touch that stuff - it is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Dad had absolutely no patience for my girl-y squeals and what bordered on a panic attack, snarling "This from a girl who dives with sharks."
After a large piece of seaweed entwined itself all the way up to my knee like some sort of evil creature pulling me deep into the mud probably to tear me limb from limb as I suffocate in the slime, I scrambled back onto the Waverunner and told Dad to call Sea Tow. There is NO WAY I am going that big.
Well, I guess this Shark Girl isn't completely fearless.