It's sunset and I'm standing on a deserted beach. I look out onto the flat placid ocean, which begins to curl up rapidly, then build and then shoot up into a wall of water above me. Something like dread punches me in the stomach as it reaches its highest point and I think, "This is it."
I have a fear of waves. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I was never properly introduced to the ocean. Maybe I thought having a big fear like that would make me more interesting and then one day I started to believe it.
I do know that I have nightmares of 80-foot tidal waves smashing onto my head, and it's probably because I've had terrible luck in the ocean. Every time I try, a wave wipes me out and I feel like I'm drowning. More than one person has told me, "But that's the FUN part!"
A woman once told me there was a spiritual reason for why this is the fun part for everyone but me. She said I'm afraid of waves because in a past life I drowned. She also said this was why she was afraid of explosions. Because in a past life, she had exploded.
One time I went into the ocean in Mexico and a wave came and the current swept me under and I tumbled backwards in the ocean like I was in a washing machine. When I got up, my bikini top was 10 feet away from me. Ten feet away from my bikini top was a group of teen boys playing fútbol. The teen boys and I had very different reactions. Years later my ex sent me a tragic New Yorker article about how a man lost his fiancée on that very beach. So, my luck is not that bad, but it's still not great.
But every now and then, I try to screw up enough courage to try to beat it. Every now and then, I say "Yes" instead of "No" and go into the water up to my calves when my boyfriend wants to go to the beach to, quote, "Relax." One time I got really ballsy and rode my bike into the ocean for a comedy bit.
It was terrifying, but that dumb stunt helped me get a little braver, and recently I did something I thought would build up my courage even more. I went sea kayaking. Up until now whenever I thought about "sea kayaking," I, like most people, immediately imagined a herpes commercial — after they got treated and every day was filled with sea kayaks. And that's the way I liked it. But now I thought I'd actually like to try it out for myself.
It was 30 minutes into the trip when I realized the whole time I'd been clenching my teeth. Until then, I had the mindset that I was paddling for survival. I unclenched my teeth and told myself, "This is fun. You are having fun." And I chilled out and actually had fun. I mean, we saw seals. Happy seals sunning themselves on rocks like wet puppies with fins. I also picked up this really cool piece of algae. It was purple, and we went into a bona fide sea cave! My stomach was still queasy and I still had a headache, but I thought to myself, "This might actually be okay."
Then it came time to go back. And on the way riding the waves back, our kayak tipped over and a wave sent the full force of my boyfriend into the back of my helmet — he'd been in the back of the kayak, which up until this moment had been of great assurance to me.
"Done! I'm done!" I thought. I thanked my boyfriend’s parents who were very kind to pay for all of us to do something fun together, and then went home and took a shower to get the sand out of my teeth. I blamed myself. I mean, I'm the one who attracted the bad ocean luck. I can't even have fun like someone with herpes on a regular day.
Then, somehow I remembered a nugget of wisdom from an inspiration poster about how the winning is in the trying even if you fail. I almost drowned, but that's okay, because I tried.
Want to see Taylor Orci in person? She'll be on stage Jan. 28, at 8pm, at Comedy Central Stages. She'll be performing "Maybe I’m The A-----e," paired with Carmen Angelica’s "Who Am I, and What The Hell Am I Doing?!" Tickets are free, but you need to RSVP (323-960-5519). The Comedy Central Stage is at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, LA CA 90038.