When I was a girl, I had a fear of diving.
When it came to jumping in the water, I was the first to take the plunge—cold water and all. But the thought of going head first terrified me. The thought of the water crashing on my head, waves rushing over my eyes, blinding me, made my head swirl with trepidation.
I was a swimmer, so how could I be afraid to dive? At each swim meet I would stand on the starting block and wait for the gun to signal a start. I envisioned diving in, but when the gun fired, I couldn’t do it.
I jumped in feet first, having to make a complete about face right at the start.
My delayed start slowed me down. If I could dive, I would have been better and qualified for a better team. But the thought of being blinded temporarily by the rushing water scared me. If I couldn’t see where I was going even for just a split second, how could I be sure I wouldn’t crash into the bottom of the swimming pool floor and crack my head?
With all this fear of being blinded not knowing the direction the waves would take me, how then was I so willing to fall in love? When all the warning signals were there—he was impulsive, a ladies man who occasionally used drugs—I didn’t care.
None of this scared me like diving into the water.
When it came to love, I was blind and I didn’t care.
I can still recall the feeling when I first saw him. It was a mixture of butterflies in my stomach, a swirling head and excitement. I didn’t know him and had yet to utter a word to him, yet I felt this inexplicable attraction to him. He felt familiar and safe.
I was young, innocent and yet to fall in love. But I was sure I had as he approached the front counter of the luxury retail boutique I worked at that summer. After I finished ringing up his sale and wrapping his shirts in tissue paper, I handed him his shopping bag and he asked me out.
I said yes.
Without hesitation, I dove in blindly.
I didn’t think of getting hurt like I did when diving in water, I just went head first into this uncharted territory called love. I thought that was it, like how I imagined being able to dive into the water without fear would be—it magically happened and all my worries were over. But it wasn’t that simple. So I gave my heart without looking forward, without any precautions, just like I had wished all those years ago I could have dove into the water.
I didn’t crash on bottom and hit my head right away; it happened gradually, as we were dating. The first days were blissful. We were inseparable and I had that same feeling of connectedness I felt the first time I saw him.
Then on day 22, he disappeared. He did not answer my calls. A few days later, he called like nothing had happened. When I asked where he had been, he was evasive.
His disappearances became more frequent, each time without explanation. The feelings I had for him were not the same as when I first saw him. Now I was starting to feel like that girl again, the one who was afraid to dive in—but it was too late to pay attention to that fear, now, because I was already in it.
I finally hit the bottom after one of his many disappearing acts. This time, we were engaged to be married and I was waiting for him at the bar of a restaurant where we were to have dinner. He was 30 minutes late when he finally walked in.
The girl next to me with whom I had been chatting saw him wave to me from afar. She asked, “Is that your boyfriend? I slept with him last week.”
My heart sank, just as I had envisioned my head hitting the pool floor all those years ago, I dove in and crashed blindly. All this time, all those disappearances, yet I did not see his countless infidelities.
As I look back on this, I realize that I do not regret diving in head first, having crashed. For I would rather have experienced the head rush, the swirl, the opportunity to just let all my fears go and be free.
After all, that’s what falling in love is all about: taking a blind chance before we can fully see.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Tim Marshall at Unsplash