The countdown, Hawaii, and I will pet a shark

There is a ticker above my head that is counting down. I can’t see it, and have no idea when the countdown ends, but I know it’s started. Rheumatoid arthritis has laid a claim on my body, and has begun shaping my future, and I don’t get to know what that future looks like.

I’m angry. I’m depressed. I feel hopeless. I question everything that I had planned for my life. I question what is worth pursuing now. What is worth putting money and time into? Do I continue to improve my photography, knowing that at some point, I will have too much trouble with my hands to work a camera? What dreams do I continue to chase? I’m angry that I can’t answer any of those questions, or the countless others that creep into my thoughts. I know that an accident could happen at any time, and change everything, but that’s somehow more comforting than knowing that a slow creep towards “disabled” is now my reality. It’s my family’s reality. I didn’t, couldn’t choose this, but I feel guilty regardless. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to slow us down.

With so much thought now of what my future holds, I’m looking at my list of things I want to do with a sense of urgency. The only thing on my bucket list that is a for-sure-cannot-miss event is “Pet a shark.” Not swimming near sharks, like you can do in an aquarium (although I could easily do so since I’m right by Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium). Not cage diving, either. I want to freely swim with wild sharks, and I want to touch them.

This isn’t an idea conjured up due to a mid-life crisis, or a subconscious death wish, and it didn’t happen after or because of my diagnosis. I’ve been fascinated with sharks since I was a kid. They don’t scare me. They evoke a very deep respect from me, as they should from anyone, considering sharks evolved 64 million years ago and haven’t changed since. And why should they? Even nature knows that you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

I’m 1,000 times more likely to drown than get bit by a shark, even free diving with them. I’ve researched how to make this dream happen, and going to Hawaii is the most practical method for us for many reasons, and O’ahu is home to the Pelagic Shark Program. The PSP focuses on shark conservation, research, and education. It’s not your usual tour- the PSP dives allow you to snorkel or freedive with sharks – no cages, no barriers. Sharks are not our enemies, and PSP strives to teach this.

In the end, maybe I won’t actually touch a shark, but just being in the presence of such animals frozen in time, evolutionarily speaking, will be worth it. This is a recent photo from their Instagram, and I look at this and just feel this sense of awe. It’s a priviledge to be able to share the ocean with a creature this amazing.


I’m busy now planning a trip to Hawaii. I’ve only been to a “sand and surf” beach once, back in 2008, when my ex and I vacation on South Padre Island. There’s the Puget Sound here, but it’s too cold to get in the water. I’ve always felt drawn to water, perhaps due to growing up in the Chihuahuan desert where water was so scarce. What better place to feed my need for water than a Hawaiian beach?

We will visit Pearl Harbor. My husband has a degree in History and is a history buff, especially anything military. Not going to Pearl Harbor on a Hawaiian vacation would probably result in divorce (mostly kidding).


There will be sunbathing and drinks under sunny skies.

laying on beach

There will be SO MANY PHOTOS of insects and plants.

chameleon-582841_1280 hawaii-729386_640 plumeria-584631_640

Note: All photos in this post are royalty free photos. I did not take them and cannot take credit for them.

I haven’t chosen our hotels yet or laid out much of an itinerary, but the plan as it currently stands is to go to O’ahu first, then likely either Maui or Kauai. We’re hoping to do this next month, after Labor Day, when there’s less families visiting and hopefully more peace and quiet. I’m  hoping to have a treatment plan in place by then, and less pain so that I can see more of the islands than I do the hotel room. Some days I do just fine, but others I have to take a nap by 2 pm. I’m planning this trip now because I’m afraid that if I wait too long, it will be too late, and I just want to pet a shark.

Dreaming of Hawaii: Sun, Sand, and my quest to pet a shark

Sharing at: Friday Favorites, Momfessionals, Weekend Wind Down, Saturday Sparks, STH Link Party, Small Victories Sunday

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  1. August 16, 2015    

    Stephanie, this sounds like a wonderful trip. Last time I was in Hawaii I stayed on Maui. What a wonderful week we had!
    Come share this post at Snickerdoodle Sunday. The party is in full swing. We start at 3 PM Saturday. Here is the link. Our party goers would love it. While you’re there share a comment on a natural wonder near you.

  2. August 15, 2015    

    I’m so glad you’re taking this trip. You’re going to love it in Hawaii. Oahu is like a big city and you’ll find a lot more nature and greenery on Maui/Kauai. I would make a trip to the Big Island if you can and see the green & black sand beaches, the lava fields/tunnels, and Mauna Kea – so much to see there. Have fun in Hawaii!

    • StephanieV StephanieV
      August 15, 2015    

      I think planning this trip will be the hardest part. Everyone has their “must see” things and if I did everything suggested, I’d need a month LOL. I have no idea how I’m going to narrow down the itinerary to a week.

  3. August 15, 2015    

    I”m so sorry to hear about the pain you are in & everything that comes with it. How fabulous that you are going to Hawaii though, I’ve always wanted to go & will probably never get there. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stand to be on a plane that long anyway. I’ve pet little sharks at our zoo, LOL …. but the real thing …. WOW! I hope you get to do it!!!!
    Have a great weekend! #debbieinshape friends

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