When I was 5, I fell off a chair at a family dinner (because I was being too wiggly) and broke my collar bone. I don’t remember a whole lot about the experience but I do remember that I got a lot of life saver gummy candy, coloring books, and my favorite uncle sent me The Little Mermaid on VHS. (I still have it.)
I don’t know what it is about being a kid and becoming fascinated with mermaids, but I can guarantee that almost all little girls have had this moment. I desperately wanted to be a mermaid (fear of drowning be damned). I spent hours in the pool trying to swim with my feet together, trying to hold my breath for more than 10 seconds, and lying in the bathtub pretending my hair looked perfectly coiffed floating in the water.
I grew up. Clearly I didn’t become a mermaid, although I’m about as close to Ariel as I could ever hope. I left my biggest life goal behind me. I would never be a mermaid. (I got over my disappointment around age 6.)
AND THEN I SWAM WITH SEA LIONS.
I lowered myself off of the boat into the lukewarm water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. I could see the sea lions lounging on the lava formations around me. I took a deep breath, faced my mounting anxiety of breathing through a snorkel tube, and kicked off toward the colony of lazy, sleeping, sea lions. The babies were excited; they had play mates! They scurried into the water and began to swim toward us. The way they look at you, it’s like they’re searching you for something to understand, they gaze into your eyes and grab at your soul and you are hooked. They are the puppies of the sea.
Someone asked me what swimming with sea lions was like; “indescribable, unreal.” All of the sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks - I had played with mermaid puppies! We blew bubbles, booped noses (booped - technical term), spun in circles, danced, and I laughed so hard that I probably came close to drowning (still can’t hold my breath for more than 10 seconds).
I had this completely unrealistic goal at 5 years old; little did I know 22 years later I would actually experience the closest thing to being a mermaid. All thanks to an incredible experience in the Galapagos with ROW.