Let it Go and Live

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Mike

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In competition

Asher tentatively climbed the stairs to the plane, realizing he was at the point of no return. What had he gotten himself into? Where did he get the courage to plan this trip?
Although well-liked throughout his life, Asher lived apprehensively, turning down valuable opportunities outside of his comfort zone. He had every reason to be confident but consistently doubted himself in life. He was known for “playing it safe” in life and avoiding risks at all costs. However, six months earlier, he had discovered a volunteer internship in Ghana that he knew would change his life. The internship consisted of coaching and counselling adolescents at a soccer academy – something Asher was very passionate about.
His mind was racing as he took his seat. Having never been outside of North America, Asher had no idea what to expect. Part of him wanted to run off the plane and return to his secure life. The other part of him was ready for the adventure, excited to see what the following five weeks had in store.
The journey took almost 24 hours, so when Asher finally arrived in Ghana he was more tired than fearful. Without any setbacks, he found his assigned driver and set off for the academy. Given that he arrived late in the evening and with the lack of streetlights, it was difficult to orient himself. He became increasingly nervous the longer the car ride took. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Asher arrived at the academy and met other volunteers and staff. Most of the other volunteers were his age and shared similar interests in coaching. All were welcoming and helped him get settled in.
Over the next few days, Asher became acquainted with the other volunteers and the youth soccer players. He truly enjoyed interacting with the adolescents and learning their culture. However, he remained passive and others were unable to get to know him well. He had traveled across the world but was still unable to break free of his hesitance. Various opportunities were available, but his fear continued to hold him back. Asher believed if he was unable to shake his timid mindset on a trip like this, he never would.
One Sunday afternoon, a few of the other volunteers decided to spend some time at a nearby beach. The beach was known for its’ beautiful white sand and cleanliness. Asher decided it would be fun to explore the area, so he joined them. Upon arrival, a lot of the volunteers played beach volleyball with some of the locals. Everyone was having a great time, enjoying the scenery and relaxing by the incoming waves. After a few games of volleyball, a few volunteers decided to swim in the ocean, Asher included. He was not a particularly strong swimmer but thought nothing of the big waves. Besides, he planned to just cool off close to the shore and then relax in the sun. They began to swim out leisurely, unaware of the apparent danger. Unknowingly, the tide slowly pulled the volunteers further and further away from shore. Eventually, other volunteers back on land began screaming for them to swim back. At first glance back to shore, Asher did not see reason for their panic. The distance seemed reasonable and the waves were not overwhelming. The volunteers joked about the others’ dramatic display and began to swim back. At this point, they were completely oblivious to the struggle they faced. After just a couple minutes, Asher and another volunteer lagged behind the others and he could sense her panic. Through the waves, she told him that she was exhausted and that she could not make it back to shore. This terrified Asher because he was already quite exhausted. Just then, a large wave came and separated the two of them. As he glanced up, he realized he was no longer making any progress – he seemed to be getting farther away from shore. Each wave pulled him under and he was unable to fight back to the surface for a few seconds. Between waves he would gasp for air before being pulled under, again and again. At one point, he gasped for air but ended up swallowing a large amount of water, resulting in a coughing fit. He was no longer concerned with getting back to shore, he simply wanted to be able to keep his head above water. He slowly felt his legs giving up, he could barely tread water. He had lost track of the other volunteers and felt very disoriented. Being constantly hit by a large wave and then being dragged underwater for a few seconds was taking its’ toll on him, physically and mentally. As he lost the strength to keep fighting, a strange, peaceful feeling came over him. It was at this point that he saw a local lifeguard in an absolute sprint towards him. Asher was again pulled underwater and felt unable to fight to the surface, he had the presence of mind to raise his hand in the air so that the lifeguard could locate him. He felt two strong hands pull him up onto a rescue buoy and was told to hang on tight. The lifeguard effortlessly led him back to shore; Asher was shocked at his strength. As they arrived back on land, Asher collapsed and began dry-heaving. He did not have the strength to stand and had swallowed a dangerous amount of salt water. Eventually, other volunteers helped him to a chair where he sat for some time, staring out at the ocean. He was relieved to see that the girl was also saved by the lifeguard. His mind was racing. What would have happened if the lifeguards were not present? Why had his body and mind given up on him? Why did such a peaceful feeling come over him in such a tragic moment? He felt completely powerless.
Suddenly, Asher felt a strong hand on his shoulder. It was one of the men that had played volleyball with them earlier. “You survived Asher. Now let it go and live”. Asher locked eyes with the man and was overcome with emotion. It felt as though the man knew his personal struggles because it was exactly what he needed to hear. How many times in life had he allowed a setback to hold him back?
Asher had two choices: allow the experience to increase his passivity in life or to become grateful for every moment and live freely.
His decision drastically changed the remainder of his trip and the rest of his life. He connected with all the other volunteers and established deep relationships with a few of them. He began spending more time with the youth soccer players, applying himself at practices and waking up early to teach them how to read and write English. The adolescents loved spending time with him as he taught them many life lessons and shared laughs with them endlessly. He had a quiet confidence and his demeanor was relaxed. His final two weeks in Ghana were the best days of his life. He felt at ease and comfortable with himself. This made leaving extremely difficult. As he walked to his taxi, the young athletes gathered around and began to applaud for him. It was a very emotional experience, one he would never forget. He fought back tears as he said goodbye to them all. They thought he taught them a lot, little did they know what this trip had taught him. As difficult as it was to leave, Asher was eager to return home and confront the many challenges of life.
Three years later, Asher entered a plane with confidence. He was off on another adventure to Ghana. He could not help but reminisce on his first journey to this beautiful country. He had learned so much and grew in ways he could not have imagined. His life since the trip had changed in unfathomable ways. Fear was no longer a part of his life. He took advantage of every opportunity and lived with the upmost gratitude. Although he almost lost his life in the process, the near tragedy taught him to find true meaning in all aspects of life. What would he find this time around?

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