Manatees make me hyperventilate.

Now is as good a time as any to address the elephant in the room about switching some of my list items.

The most dramatic is the #6 switch – from scuba diving to cooking vegetables – and it’s the one I’ve been writing most about lately.

My sister likes manatees. A lot.

In a nutshell, I realized that I wanted very little to do with submersing my face in water and breathing through a tube at the same time. I realized this while trying to pet a wild manatee.

Last summer – almost a year ago?! – my sister and I drove from good ol’ KCMO all the way down to Crystal River, FL en route to Orlando so that she could start an internship at SeaWorld. Crystal River is known for one thing on a national scale: it’s one of only a handful of places where you can get in the water with a wild manatee.

Now, if you haven’t met my sister there is something important that you should know: she likes animals more than humans. And if she has a chance to interact with an animal – and I mean ANY animal – she will take it. She will approach raccoons at dumpsters. She will kiss Beluga whales. She will feed seagulls Cheez-its from the balcony of the tiny hotel room your family is sharing for a week so that when anyone walks out they are intimidated by the rats-with-wings who have been enticed by the salty goodness.

She has taken dozens of pictures of EVERY SQUIRREL she has seen since arriving in Florida, and has the Facebook albums to prove it.

When she discovered that you could swim with manatees she about died from the decibles emitted by her own squeals of delight. True story.

This is how I came to find myself on a flat-bottomed boat at 6-in-the-morning in a city without a Starbucks. Along for the ride with us were a mother-daughter duo – the daughter basically a carbon-copy of Martha, an the mother an embodiment of the feelings of ‘no-really-I’m-fine-on-the-boat-you-go-ahead’ that I was trying to mask.

“No, really. This is great!”

When we got to the spot with manatees, and I realized I had to get in the SAME water, I started to freak out a little. Heart pounding, shallow breathing kinda freaking out. Fun fact – when you’re trying to get a good, deep breath, a snorkel mask is the last thing you should be wearing. Martha was blinded by excitement, which was good because she just kept insisting I get in because “THIS IS SO COOL!!!!!!”

Baby manatee! Turns out they *don’t* eat humans. Or meat.
Martha, fearless as usual!

Turns out when I put my face in the water, I start reeeeeally hyperventilating, despite my best efforts to calm myself. And the cherry on top of all of this is that my mask wasn’t working properly – little suction thingies on the bottom designed to let air out but keep water from coming in had bent so that there were holes just big enough to let a sneaky amount of water in. When you’re already convinced you’re going to be eaten by a wild manatee, the thought of drowning is not welcome.

I climbed back on the boat after some frolicking with a baby manatee to figure out my mask. After that, I convinced myself it would be better since I’d be able to breathe a little more normally. I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either. I really liked petting the baby manatee – he was very sweet and playful and didn’t, in fact, try to eat me. I even convinced myself that he hugged me at one point. But I really wanted out of the water and to have the constant feeling of suffocation lifted off my face.

That was when I decided that scuba diving is NOT for me.

I could handle breathing from a tube (once it worked), and occasionally wiping the condensation off of the mask, but I cannot handle the thought of having anything that tight on my face long enough for me to get any good out of scuba-ing. And I can’t handle my nose being plugged for that long.

I could see a valid argument that my list shouldn’t just be full of fun things and baked goods, but things that ultimately make me better and challenge me to “get out of my comfort zone.” To that I say, this isn’t the item that would accomplish that. All that would happen is I would be uncomfortable for 3 hours just to say I checked something off the list, and that isn’t what the list is about. The list is about life experiences, not just a checklist. If there is an equally challenging or meaningful experience waiting to be put on the list instead, it’d be wrong to keep that experience waiting!

Plus, it’s my list so neener-neener-neener I get to do what I want!

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