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  • Sam Salerno

I Touched the Butt


I'm not a huge selfie guy, but today I touched the butt and felt like a million bucks, so I had to snag one for posterity sake.


If I haven't told you yet (and if I have told you then I'm going to tell you again just for emphasis), I'm an ocean nut. Oh yeah, I can go for days on how dang awesome the ocean is, how it affects every weather pattern on earth, how we know less about it than we do outer space, how jelly fish are the coolest animals ever, how volcanoes happen on land because of mid-ocean ridges...the list goes on an on and on and on...and on.


When I found the apartment I'm currently living in, I didn't fall in love with it for its charming uneven floors, the fact that it sits above a tattoo parlor, or even because it has a world-class view of an autobody shop. I fell in love with it because it's a mere 3 minute walk from my front door to the beach, and, at night, I get to fall asleep in my cozy bed to the sweet deep rumble of the breakers hitting the shore.


I'm addicted to the ocean. Period.


Anyway, back to the butt...


Right offshore floats the bright yellow #2 buoy. I see it nearly every day as I'm walking on the beach to my favorite coffee spot, and every time I see it, I think, "I'm gonna swim out there one of these days."


Well, it's been a long time coming, but that day was today.


Ocean safety protocol says you should never go out diving, surfing, or swimming alone – or at least make sure someone on shore knows you're out there so they can call for help if you get eaten by a shark or some other freak accident. For this reason, I usually keep my solo swims/floats pretty close to shore. Two reasons: one, for my personal safety; and two, my anxiety sometimes gets the better of me and keeps me from going much farther out.


After work today, though, I was determined to push the boundary a little bit and stretch myself (aka clear some of the garbage that's been on my mind and simultaneously punch anxiety in the face). So I suited up and took the plunge.


When you're in a pool, it's pretty easy to gauge the distance from one wall to the next. It doesn't work that way in open water. Sure that buoy didn't look too far off from the shoreline, but when I started getting out there I realized it was probably a solid 150-200 yards. Much farther that I had anticipated.


I flipped onto my back around the half way point to catch my breath. At that distance from the shore, you don't hear much: your breathing, water rushing by you, and the occasional shore break. Otherwise, it's silent.


Despite being the most powerful force of nature on the planet, it's crazy how peaceful the ocean can be.


Then came the rain. Not long after I had laid out, I heard the familiar plip plop sound. It was slow at first, just a light drizzle, but then it picked up and started pouring. The silence was replaced with a sound that I can't even describe. The only way I can put it is if I think about being applauded by thousands upon thousands of tiny angels doing golf claps. It was pretty surreal.


Amidst the entertaining sound of a thousand of angels clapping for me to keep going, I pushed on towards the buoy.


50 feet.


20 feet.


10 feet.


Win.


I slapped the side of the buoy, let out a few choice words to seal the deal, and pushed off back towards shore.


As I swam back, the only thing I could think about was Finding Nemo – the inspiration for this blogs title. There's a scene near the beginning of the movie when Nemo and his friends head towards the Drop Off, the edge of the reef that...well...drops off into oblivion. At the Drop Off they see a boat (mispronounced "butt" by the kids). They joke about swimming out into open water to see who can get the closest, but right then Nemo's overprotective, anxious father, Marlin, bursts onto the scene and begins scolding Nemo for being unsafe. In front of Nemo's new friends, Marlin points out Nemo's broken fin and how he's not good enough to even make it out that far. It's a soul-crushing moment. In a split second, however, Nemo decides he's had enough. While Marlin begins berating the other children for egging on his "gimpy" son, Nemo slips away and sets out towards the "butt" to prove that he can do it – that despite his father's words, he can take action for himself. As he gets closer to the boat, Marlin begins yelling after him: "Turn around right now!" "What are you doing?" "Are you crazy!?" And then, defiantly, Nemo slaps the "butt" to the outrage of his father and the admiration of his new friends.


The rest of the movie plays out all well and good, but this golden scene sticks in my mind.


Come to think of it, maybe I'll name my anxiety "Marlin." It's fitting. Anxiety always means well; it's a defense mechanism our body uses to keep us out of danger. Our hearts beat faster to get more oxygen to the body, our hands start tingling because blood is being redirected to larger fight-or-flight muscle groups, our senses get amplified so we can react faster to threats, and we often get super-human strength and speed (which is freaking sweet). But many times, anxiety gets triggered in low danger situations. That's when it's more of a hinderance than it is helpful.


Today, I played the part of Nemo. There stood Marlin on the shore, yelling at me to come back, saying I could never make it, and trying to make me think that I'll never be able to keep up with friends on account of my anxiety.


But today I proved him wrong.


I won.


I touched the butt.

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