Tag Archives: #ocean

You Always Can – A Story of Coming Home to Myself

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I have always been drawn to water. Any body of water. Oceans mostly. Wanted to immerse myself. Dive in. Explore and discover.
But, as I grew up, I developed a spastic in my legs and couldn’t learn to swim properly. Later, becoming more and more aware of being stranded in a wrongly-gendered body, I felt too shy to take off my clothes and take the plunge. Until my 30ieth birthday it was all trial and error, climbing one obstacle after another. Searching for myself, slowly changing my body so I could truly become one with it, inhabit it, come home to myself.
After my gender reassignment surgeries, I gathered all my courage. Away with the shirt on hot summer days. Exposing ugly scars that looked like tectonic plates had clashed and created a whole new set of tender, jagged mountain ranges in the process.
At 31, during one stormy October week, I learned to scuba dive in the Mediterranean Sea.
One year later, I took swimming lessons, claiming the revitalizing, unpredictable element like I had always dreamt of doing.
In the years that followed, I left everything I knew behind. I lived barefoot on a Maldivian island, spent hours every day in the water – first as a snorkel guide then as a diving instructor. Every fin stroke brought me closer to my true self.
I hovered underwater. Weightless. Effortless. Aware. In the moment. Most of all: Alive.
I navigated pumping currents with the elegance of an adolescent dolphin. I helped people overcome their fear of the deep blue. Taught hundreds of students. Grew as a diving instructor until I finally even trained instructor candidates. Travelled the world. Then went on to coach performers underwater for ‘The House of Dancing Water’ in Macau – back then the biggest aquatic show on our planet.

Bottom line: Live your life. Own it. Dive deep. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do (least of all yourself). No matter how impossible or hopeless something seems at the time, no matter how daunting the circumstances: You can. You always can.

Pinocchio

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The biggest treasure underwater lies in the shallow depths of the coral reefs. And in the simple joy of softly gliding along weightlessly, being just one more unassuming organism within the endless depths. I love the wild beauty underneath those waves. The myriad shades of turquoise and blue. The diversity of ocean life all around me. Everything, big and small. Most of all the small critters you only see if you dive in slow motion, all your senses tuned to pick up the tiniest movement or irregularity around you.

We called this little Frogfish Pinocchio. He sat in his sponge for several months. On this particular dive, I watched him for sixty minutes as he braved the currents that shook his chosen home. Spreading his foot-like pectoral fins. Balancing himself so delicately… with a split that would have made Jean-Claude van Damme proud. I returned several times. We kept blinking at each other until, one day, he was gone. Instead, other mysterious creatures took his place. The oceans. A neverending source of wonder and, for me, a lifelong love affair.

(Photograph by Aquaimaging, 2005)

An Intricate Microcosmos

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“I often hovered motionless and watched the coral reef for a while, contemplating reef fish behavior. Each organism was busy defending its way of life. Tiny fish would attack divers the moment we ventured too far into their territory. There were all kinds of characters: the camouflaged, the timid, the curious, the bullies, the cowards. Some were defensive, others aggressive. As I watched the busy shuffling and posturing on the reef, I saw an intricate microcosmos, a perfect metaphor of human social life and daily struggles.” (excerpt from Paralian, chapter 24 “Indian Ocean”)

Bucket List

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What will the future bring … ? I don’t care much about amassing material wealth but, oh wow, my head is spinning just thinking of all the points on my bucket list…

The seven most important ones have been fulfilled already:
– travel the world and live abroad
– become a professional scuba diver
– spend lots of time underwater
– write a book about my life journey
– find my soul mate
– be truly myself
– be happy

But may I be greedy? There are quite a few more points on that list tickling my consciousness:
– write many books
– travel to all Pacific islands
– travel more of the world
– spend more time underwater
– see Galapagos
– learn to fly a plane
– jump out of a plane (preferably with a parachute)
– find a tiny house somewhere at the ocean
– escape the grind by keeping a low standard of living
– have less instead of more
– give a TED talk
– make a real difference
– never stop living life to the fullest

Lots to do then, looking ahead. And of course to not forget to enjoy the present with all my heart, too!

Salt on my Skin

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One week since I got back from the Red Sea… I still feel the gentle swaying of the boat under my feet, salt on my lips and skin. Need to get back to the ocean soon!

Heading into Cerulean Blue

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A long-awaited vacation is coming up… this exhausted author urgently needs two weeks of sunshine and ocean! But before I head out, I wanted to extend a BIG THANK YOU to all of you.
These past 10 days, you’ve all helped so much to push my Bored Panda story.

Because of your support, your multiple shares, likes and up-votes we’ve managed to reach 10’000 people so far!!! That is incredible. I’m humbled. Thank you for caring and being there!
It seems it still wasn’t quite enough to reach the numbers Bored Panda requires for a featured story. But it doesn’t matter. We did our best and got farther than I ever dreamed possible. People are still looking at the page as we speak.

I received countless messages, ranging from heartfelt thank you notes for sharing my story, to people seeking advice, to others writing scorching hate mail. Well, as a professor of mine used to say, “Nice doesn’t cut it. Only if people either love it or hate it have you truly touched a nerve.” It seems we have. And I’m glad we did. Together, I believe, we’ve made a little bit of difference.

So now Paralian is packing his bags to go underwater for a little while. Gliding stealthily amongst reef fish and predators like I used to – at one with myself and the world. I’ll be exploring new territory. The Red Sea is calling. Can’t wait to dive into its cerulean, invigorating depths!!!

Close Encounters of the Ocean Kind

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Another small excerpt from Paralian… a once-in-a-lifetime moment… experiencing my first close encounter with a sea turtle in the Maldives:

“The Green Sea Turtle rose slowly to the surface. I floated, staying completely still… Her head softly broke the surface only fifteen feet away from me. She took a deep breath, which sounded almost like a reverse sigh.

The gorgeous animal stayed floating comfortably on the calm water surface of the lagoon. Meanwhile, I let myself drift carefully closer. She was beautiful, a creature of the ages, perfect since the beginning of time. I closed my eyes to paint the image in my memory. When I opened them again the unearthly turtle lady was right next to me, still enjoying her rest on the gentle turquoise waves.

The long five minutes during which she stayed with me etched themselves forever into my heart. The turtle’s large eyes held a tranquility and innocence I had never before encountered. With an unwavering gaze, she seemed to see straight into my soul.

Her colors were myriads of green. Her scales reminded me of autumn leaves. Did I see a net of barely visible, fragile veins, or did my enraptured mind imagine them? What if they were nerve endings, letting her feel plankton and every droplet of the sea that touched her? Feeling everything, she would literally become one with the seas embracing her.
Small barnacles held on to her carapace. I envied them and wished I could trade places for a little while. Could there be a better place to be than perched on the strong back of a sea turtle?

She took one last, long breath and descended leisurely towards her underwater domicile. I swam back to shore in a dreamlike state, happy, and almost delirious….
The ocean was my true home. Now that I’d found it, I intended to consciously absorb every precious second I spent embraced by it.”