Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why I Am a Mermaid

Today I decided to take some time to write about my experience with the ocean, and in conclusion, why I became a mermaid.
Its not a hugely exciting story, but it is in essence a large chapter of my life- one that I am still writing and will continue to explore.

We all begin life the same: floating in a warm bubble of life-preserving fluid. Some of us after birth never lose that connection- the water calls us, it is quiet and encompassing and welcoming. It wasn't always this simple for me, however. When I was a baby I almost drowned in a rock pool. I was only under the water for a little while before I was rescued- but after this, I was terrified of water. My earliest memories are of being at the beach and refusing to go into the ocean; running away from waves, sitting on the edge of the pool but never going in. Its not like I can even remember the near-drowning: but the experience buried itself in my subconscious so that it became a fear I never truly understood.

Then when I was five years old, my stubborn Auntie lost her patience. My whole family- right down to the pets- were water people. We were at the beach every weekend- surfing, snorkeling, fishing, diving. All the men in my family were fishermen; my father was also a surfer, my mother a surf photographer and ocean lover, my Auntie and grandmother were swimming teachers and avid snorkelers, and being the youngest of the clan both my older cousins and older sister were already strong swimmers and surfers. So you can see how it would effect the whole family when the littlest blonde child would refuse to get into the water. My Auntie had enough- she would MAKE me go in the water whether I liked it or not.

I honestly do no blame my Auntie for forcing me into the water. In fact, I am incredibly grateful. I cannot imagine the looks she would've gotten from fellow swimmers as she carried this little ball of screaming child out into the pool. But she persevered, and after getting waist deep- having me scramble up on her to the highest point possible- she told me to swim. This is where my memories get a bit blurry. It was like- suddenly, after everything, I had forgotten how terrified I was. Within minutes: I was swimming. Not very well, mind you, but I was enjoying myself like never before.

Mum still says she couldn't believe it- I was immediately comfortable in the water, despite all those years of tantrums and fear. Every time I went swimming I would spend more time under the water than on top, and she couldn't get me out when she asked me to! Even now, being under the water gives me the same feeling: like I'm being wrapped in a cool, safe blanket, with only my heartbeat in my head as company but somehow not lonesome. I think my near-death experience gave me a greater respect for the ocean- like almost losing my life to it led me to a deeper understanding of it.

As the years went by, visiting the surf beaches with my family gave me more time to feel the pull of the ocean- the way the waves crashed, the sucking undercurrents, the quiet between sets, the amazing roar of the swell. Every summer we would camp on the beach in a quiet cove, a sandbar created a natural marina where we dived for shells and chased fish in the seaweed-free bay. I had friends who lived at the Marina in town, and on hot days we would go diving there too- I would sit on the rocks at the bottom of the murky water and watch the blue swimmer crabs glide by, and look up at the bottom of kayaks as my friends paddled eight feet above me. My friend and I would stay with her family in a shack at a small town and swim out to her dad's boat- at first we would be walking in shallow water and then dive as the reef dropped off 10 feet. We would race to the sandbar in the middle of the bay- there was a time when a bull sea lion's blonde head popped up only a few meters away: he stared at us with big beautiful black eyes until he knew we were not rivals, and then slipped back under the surface to never be seen again- even though I dived after him.

I have been stung my more jellyfish than I can count. I have unintentionally swam with sharks and stingrays, and intentionally chased after dolphins, fish and sea lions (not that I could ever keep up!). I have slept with the ocean only a few meters away and watched purple and red lightning roll towards me over it; and on warm clear nights I have waded in the still water, leaving behind sparks of light in my wake (a chemical reaction caused by bacteria in the water). I have stood as waves thundered over my head, been turned upside down for what feels like eternity after jumping out a moving boat, and felt the ground be swept out from beneath me by rips in the surf. I have been scared, excited, elated, sad and at peace in the water. And I would not change a thing.

After all this, it seems strange to me that I only recently (in the past year or two) began to think of myself as a mermaid. Growing up I used to tie my feet together and swim like a dolphin, pretending to be Ariel or some other mermaid I had created. Even in my teenage years I still swam like this (minis the ties around my feet) as it just felt more natural. I didn't realize how strong a swimmer I was either until I was around 14 and we visited the towns swimming pool for school. There was a dare about who could swim to the other side of the pool underwater without taking a breath- this was at least 40 meters across- and even though one of the boys stood in my way to slow me down, I simply swam around him and made it to the other side on one breath. I didn't realize I was capable of such a thing- the only other person to achieve it was a boy twice my size who was on a swimming team, and he hadn't been obstructed like I had. It was from then on that I tried my best to increase the amount of time I could stay under water.

I moved to the city when I turned 18, and my ocean life dwindled. The water here was shallow, and always crowded. The only times I was able to truly be myself in the water was when I returned to my home town for holidays. I realized how much of myself was focused around the ocean. And it all fell into place.

This is why I became a mermaid.

It is not a hobby or a fashion or a faze. It is me being me. And I cannot believe how happy I am to have found ME. It is now my aim to fill my life with things that remind me of the ocean- nautical and cute pastel clothes, shells, photos, smells. And I am also saving up for a professional mermaid tail: one that will last me a few years, that I can wear to perform to people and give talks about our brimming-with-life waters.

I am lucky to have people around me who love and support me in all that I do- they know that this is who I am, that it all makes sense for me to be a mermaid. My family think its amazing. I love them all so much.

To think that my path has led me here: from a near-drown baby, to a water-phobia child, to a young confident swimmer, to a teenage avid water lover, and now to a woman who knows what I want to be in life. I hope I can make myself and everyone proud.

And this is why I am a mermaid.
  Thank you for reading <3


  1. Carrie that is such a beautiful and inspirational story! I am so happy for you that you have found your calling in life and will follow your dreams. You're so brave and beautiful and I hope you will find nothing but happiness and peace in life <3

    1. Thank you so so much <3 you made me tear up at work when I read this- thank you for saying such a beautiful thing <3 <3