You Don’t Have To Like The Ocean To Appreciate It

I have a confession: I don’t like the ocean. It’s big, blue and scary and I have never liked it much.

Growing up, the only beaches I went to were the ones found skirting friendly lakes and ponds. On the rare occasion that I was near the ocean, I refused to go in without water shoes. This quirk was cute when I was younger but I assure you this practice is much less endearing as a college student or as an attendee of a weekend bachelorette party.

Photo: Ocean waves.

Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke

I think what scares me most about the ocean is its vastness. In particular, what scares me is the possibility that the vastness could be concealing any number of beasts waiting to gobble me up without warning. I have never seen the movie Jaws but don’t think I would react well to it.

For most people, a dislike of the ocean isn’t a glaring issue in their daily lives. My guess is that people who claim to not like the ocean think they only interact with it on limited terms as part of a vacation, natural disaster, or menu item.  Unfortunately for me, the ocean is a regular player in my daily life. Truthfully speaking, the ocean is a large player in all of our daily lives, despite whether we consciously decide for it to be or not—but I’ll get back to that. First, another confession:

For the past two years, I have been working as a member of the ocean education team here at National Geographic. As you might imagine, my dislike of the ocean poses a slight conflict of interest with my employer. This isn’t going to be a blog post where I confess at the end that I have come full circle, seen the error of my ways and that I now love the ocean. I don’t. I still don’t like it very much and I’m truthfully, still a bit afraid of it. You could say the “full circle thing” didn’t happen to me. However, here are some things that did happen over the last two years:

  • I had two birthdays.
  • I watched my little brother graduate from high school.
  • I ran in my first half marathon.
  • I ate two Thanksgiving dinners.
  • I burned at least one batch of cookies.

This list is not earth shattering. I’d hope that most people are basking in newly discovered companionship, knowing that many of us share in these events. In fact, here’s another event that we’ve all shared:

  • I took 7,884,000 breaths.

Over the past two years, I have taken 7,884,000 breaths. (If the average person takes 15 breaths a minute and there are 1,440 minutes in a day, 365 days in a year…) Half of those breaths, 3,942,000 to be exact, were made possible by the ocean.

Did you know that every second breath you take comes from the ocean?

Which, roughly translated, means I owe the ocean thanks for providing:

  • One birthday
  • Half of a graduation ceremony
  • 6.55 miles (a half marathon is 13.1 miles)
  • One Thanksgiving dinner
  • At least half a burnt batch of cookies

Thank you, ocean.

The big, the blue, the scary, the vast, the unknown; these are reasons to dislike the ocean. But they’re also reasons to revere it. These reasons integrate the ocean into our daily lives in ways that are magnificent and incomprehensible, terrifying and awesome. Regardless of whether or not you can see the ocean out of your window, the ocean is inescapable and is responsible for us being present in our daily lives.

You don’t have to love the ocean to appreciate it. Heck, you don’t even have to like it. There are lots of excuses to dislike the ocean or to feel that ocean issues or education don’t affect you. The ocean’s too big, too blue, too scary, too vast, too unknown—but it’s too omnipotent, here, there, EVERYWHERE to shut it out or write it off. Don’t be afraid to explore it; just remember to pack your proverbial, or in my case real, water shoes.

Written by Samantha Zuhlke, Program Specialist at National Geographic Education

4 responses to “You Don’t Have To Like The Ocean To Appreciate It

  1. Pingback: Creature Feature: Cicadas | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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