Get in the water.

Every time I stand near the ocean, there’s a debate between my hut (that’s what I call my heart + gut) and my brain.

“Get in the water,” says my hut. “You love being in the ocean more than anything. You will not regret it. You will feel so alive. Go! Dive in! Just get in for one minute! This is your one and only life! What are you waiting for?”

“But it’s a little cloudy today,” whines my brain. “Also, it might be cold. And besides, you’re not even wearing a bathing suit. You didn’t pack a towel. You just blow-dried your hair. It looks like it could rain. You have a lot of emails to answer. You have a meeting starting in an hour. And what about sharks?! Today isn’t an ideal day for swimming. Come back tomorrow. Not today.”

One morning, I found myself at this familiar crossroads. Get in? Or not? Hut and brain, battling it out. I stood at the edge of the water, a blur of blue, gray, and green. Waves rippling up and down, a never-ending electrocardiogram, a liquid pulse.

I wanted to dive in. But my feet weren’t moving forward. I began mutter-chanting to myself, “Don’t think, just get in. Don’t think, just get in. Don’t think, just…”

“Imagine you are the main character in a movie,” a friend once said to me. “The movie is your life. Everything’s rolling along. And then, there’s this moment when you’re faced with a choice. Right or left. This or that. Seize the moment…or not. Imagine the audience in the theater is watching you wrestle with that choice. They’re biting their nails and hoping you do the right thing. All those people sitting in the audience…what are they hoping you will do? Whatever it is…do that.”

I think about this invisible audience a lot. I imagine them groaning, slapping their palms to their foreheads, and rolling their eyes with disbelief when I do something cowardly, lazy, or apathetic. I imagine them cheering, leaping out of their seats, popcorn flying all around, when I do something brave.

The best choice isn’t always comfortable, at first. I know this. There’s a shock of cold water before the reward. Sometimes you have to mute your brain and crank up the volume on your hut. Sometimes a split second decision—one tiny burst of courage, one phone call, one email, one application, a knock on someone’s door, ten seconds in the water—can change the whole story.

I tore off my shirt and ran into the waves.

Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.

Get in. Get in. Get in.

Today. Today. Today.