I was about 16, I think. In Eilat, Israel. Someone had suggested to my mother that I would like to swim with the dolphins, that it was an amazing experience.
So she took me, and I, being a 16 year old, was not aware that I was doing something so special or interesting, but it seemed cool. I was too afraid to scuba, so I went with the snorkeling group.
Before you do these sorts of things they take you into a room and teach you for about twenty minutes how to be safe and what exactly will be happening on the trip.
I still remember sitting in this touristy sort of hut, the kind that makes it seem like you’re in some place constructed that day out of leaves and bamboo but is really plastic and made to last. It was so beautiful out, stunningly sunny. Again, I don’t think I really noticed. It was interesting, I guess.
But I remember noticing this one woman. She had this nervous energy that you could sense from her before her even speaking. Something was moving inside of her, this energy, this liveliness, this excitement.
Eventually, it couldn’t be held in. She was this German woman, and I think this may have been her first time traveling to a tropical sort of environment.
It turned out that this woman was obsessed with dolphins. Her whole life, she dreamt of being able to be near one, but being German I suppose there weren’t so many opportunities for that sort of interaction.
In other words, this was the most exciting day of her life. Since she was a little girl, she had dreamed of this moment. She was positively radiant.
Although I didn’t see what she was so excited about, that excitement fascinated me. I remember wondering how someone could be so passionate about something. Something like dolphins.
There was this sort of communal feeling of good-will between all of us fellow snorkelers when German Lady revealed this aspect of herself. We were happy for her, and some of the passion and excitement she had spilled out of her cup and fell into ours.
Once the presentation was done, we got outfitted and dove into the ocean.
I remember being astounded at the ocean. I guess I didn’t realize how beautiful the ocean could be, how stunning and alive and clear and full of life. There were bright fish, flowing animals that looked like plants, and the water was just so blue.
And then the dolphins came. They just came up to us. Like we were their friends and they wanted to hang out. One came close enough to let me touch it, and the feeling on my skin, under that water gave me a rush of excitement. I was interacting with a different species in a totally human way.
But soon I noticed something weird. Some of my fellow snorkelers were looking at something, not paying so much attention to what was going on near them. Curious, I looked in the same direction.
What they were looking at, it turned out, was German Lady. She was surrounded by dolphins. They were all coming to her, circling her, playing with her. While I had only one dolphin come up to let me touch it for a moment, these dolphins stayed close to her, letting her pet them over and over.
Not one person in that group came even close to getting that attention from the dolphins. They zeroed in on her and fell in love with her.
Even underwater, I could feel her joy.
I have a pretty crappy memory, but I will never forget the look on that woman’s face when we finally came out of the water.
That joy that I felt from her underwater was incomparable to the joy on her face. She was bright, glowing, alive. Her eyes were wet, and I don’t think it was from the ocean.
I think there was something in that moment, in that joy, and how this woman’s passion became so fulfilled so fully that profoundly moved my philosophy of the world at the time.
At 16, people keep telling you to chase your dreams. But at that time in your life, it’s hard to really imagine dreams coming true. It’s all this potential. And when you aren’t getting any of your present-day dreams fulfilled, from dating pretty girls to being able to play video games 24 hours a day, dreams seem kind of like a bust. Fate, God, purpose… these things all seem very far away. At least to me they did.
There was something divine in witnessing that moment with German Lady. Maybe there’s some sort of scientific way of explaining why dolphins would gravitate towards her, like that they could tell in her body language that she was more open or something.
Regardless, the reason for it didn’t matter so much to me as seeing the way this woman’s dream unfolded in front of her like a gift being unwrapped by an invisible hand.
With my own eyes, I saw that dreams do come true, that the world is beautiful when we pursue its beauty, and that there was an invisible thread that moved the world beyond what seemed obvious and logical.
I still think of that German Lady sometimes. I wish I could thank her. The way her eyes shined so bright changed my life. It made me understand that if I wanted, my eyes could do that too.