April 15, 2021

Lessons from The Cayman [Islands]

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g-17924 2016-06-29-11.03.02 IMG_4202 DSC_0402 2016-06-29-11.10.45 2016-06-29-11.11.22 IMG_4198From The Malarsie Project

When I tell people that I scuba dive the most common response is confusion. Most people simply can’t imagine what pleasure there is in diving when you can’t see anything  around you in the water. Perhaps there are some blind folks that would hate the whole experience but today I wanted to write some thoughts about why I love diving and think the Dive Pirates Foundation is doing some amazing work.

I spent last week down in the Cayman Islands and had an absolute blast! I’m sure some people go on vacation to forget about the “real world” and use it as an escape. Every time I go on a trip like this though I try to use it to learn something about myself. What I find joy in, what makes me feel fulfilled, and what sort of balance I should find in my life to maintain those sorts of feelings. This post won’t contain specific stories from the trip. If you want those make sure to listen to episode 16 of the podcast where they’ll be covered in depth.

For me, diving is a meditative experience. There were plenty of dives where I got to feel different types of coral and sea life but I also spent an entire dive just laying on the bottom of the ocean just thinking about life. Diving is an amazing way for me to tune out the noise of the world and focus inward instead. 

One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I won’t do something simply because that’s what society thinks I should do. I have to find the motivation within myself and then I can take my life in a new direction. School is an example of this. I’ve always planned on going back but the time has never felt right. I’ve been focused on my children and mixed throughout are trips like this where I’m able to examine my life and really think about what direction I want to go.

It’s definitely not necessary to fly all the way to the Cayman to do this but stepping outside my normal life and thinking about where I want to take it gives me a clarity that is much harder to find sitting at home. I don’t do it to escape from life but rather to think in depth and without distraction about what I want to do.

One of the things I took away from this trip is that I need to focus more on the simple pleasures in life. I need to be more present. Normally I feel like I do a good job with this but when I left the internet behind I realized how many good experiences I’m potentially missing simply by being so connected online.

When I left and shut my phone off I didn’t really know what to do at first. I felt bored until I decided to just start talking with the people around me. I met some unfiltered, passionate, politically motivated, odd jobs that just wanted to talk about all the things wrong in the world and why it’s the fault of everyone that doesn’t belong to their way of thinking. I met a lady that regularly flies back and forth between the US and the slums in Kenya to give children educations. And I met a Cayman local about my age that never wears shoes unless he’s traveling internationally. The stories were unique, the perspectives interesting, and I most likely would have missed it all if I would have had my phone in my hand. I found myself wondering how much we all miss out on because we’re so busy reading what everyone else is doing with their lives.

I’m not saying burn your phones and get rid of the internet. I mean, how would you read these posts and listen to our podcasts without it? That would be very unfortunate. Just like in all things there is a balance that should be discovered and maintained. I encourage you all to stop seeking constant entertainment and focus on really being part of this world we live in. Get involved!

Another thing I learned is that I’m ready to take the next step in my life. I’ve been traveling and having some amazing experiences but after this trip I found myself feeling motivated to improve myself in a new sort of way. I’ve already submitted the paperwork with the VA to return back to school. I finally feel ready to take that plunge and while doing math blind seems daunting I’m excited and ready to start the process! I met some awesome people on this trip and while talking with them, meditating at the bottom of the ocean, and considering my life as a whole, I realized that I want to do more to improve myself. I have no clue what career I want, no idea what I should study in school, but I’m ready to start the process.

This trip gave me the break I needed to examine myself and see what I need to balance my life. I don’t plan on quitting these trips entirely but again, there is a balance that I want to find and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

Going diving provides experiences that I’ve never had before and probably would never have had without the Dive Pirates. This trip was a reminder for me that when things get comfortable or simply routine I need to take action to shake things up. My life is about having experiences, not accumulating money and material things. I wouldn’t complain about money if it comes my way but it’s not a goal of mine. I want to be the sort of person that works so I can live rather than one that lives to work.

Huge thanks go out to everyone involved with the Dive Pirates for making this little personal journey of mine possible. Perhaps it would have happened sooner or later without them but they have helped enabled me right now to make more positive changes in my life! If you’re looking for an awesome organization to donate to then give these pirates a look. They’re doing some amazing work!

For more on this story go to: http://malarsie.com/2016/07/02/lessons-from-the-cayman/

About Us

Major General Byron Hepburn presents the Bronze Star with Valor to Staff Sergeant Mike MalarsieI’m fortunate to be able to say I was a TACP in the US Air Force. The military had always been a dream of mine and I got to do some really amazing things while on active duty. I thought I had everything figured out but turns out life wanted to take things in a different direction.
On January 3rd 2010 I was injured on a foot patrol in Afghanistan and now I’m completely blind. Turns out that it’s not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. I was so well taken care of and so many people did so much for me that the whole experience really did turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to me!

The ambush on my patrol killed four men I was working with. Sergeant Joshua Lengstorf, Specialist Brian Bowman, Private John Dion, and my teammate Senior Airman Brad Smith. When I woke up and heard that they weren’t coming home I knew I had no right to feel sorry for myself. I vowed to over come my new found disability and live my life as a tribute to them.

Since my injury I started doing some motivational speaking, took up scuba diving, continued my passion for snowboarding, started building websites and running podcasts, ran a few half marathons and Tough Mudders, went sky diving , and a whole heap of other things. Basically, instead of being slowed down by blindness I kicked life into high gear!

I met and married an Army widow named Jesse who is now an integral part of The Malarsie Project. We have been so blessed and this is our platform to give back, raise awareness for important issues, and do things to make people smile.

It took losing my sight to realize the beauty of life and instead of recommending that to all of you we just decided to start sharing our story and experiences to hopefully make the world a better place!

My family started a blog when I first got hurt that they turned over to me after my recovery. Since Blogger accessibility was frustrating I decided to start this website instead. The old blog is still around though so if you want to you can go back and read about how this all started.

JLM_4906-copy-200x300Jesse standing in a sun lit forest Jesse

Have you ever stopped in the middle of what you are doing and wonder where you are in life? What are you doing exactly? Are you just going through the paces? Checking the boxes of each day?

I have. For me it has been a process. It started when my first husband, Joshua passed away in an IED explosion in a land far away. I didn’t get a chance to say good bye. I didn’t get a chance to grasp the situation and prepare myself. All of a sudden I was a young mother whose dreams and future plans were gone. Wiped out. I felt so empty, so alone. The grief was overwhelming. At times I wanted to just sink. There was a nagging thought in the back of my mind though. What would that accomplish? What good would it do to just sit back and let life go on. No, I needed to stand up, brush myself off and get to work. I could take take that sadness and despair and channel it to do good. To bring about great things. I had to file that desire to do great things away for a bit. Life kept speeding along and now six years later I am ready to get out there.

I was extremely blessed to find love again and to find a soul that had the same desire that I did. To help others. Someone who wanted to turn tragedy around and build up those around us. I have been given two more little ones to watch over and we have spent the last few years finding our place. We realized we could do more out of the military then in which started us on a whole new journey. We are now in a place that we can put down roots. A place that has enabled us to open that box of dreams and actually start giving them wings.

So now you know why I want to be a part of The Malarsie Project. You know what drives me to reach out of my comfort zone. I am a wife, I am a mother. I am a photographer. A reader. A yoga enthusiast. I love to exercise and fuel my strength. I know I am divine daughter of my Heavenly Father and have a deep faith in Him and Jesus Christ. I love winter. My favorite months are October through April. I do love some good beach time and the mountains are my oasis. I love being outside and hope to do more exploring now that our kids are getting older.

I know the tough stuff in life has made me stronger and I am so grateful for all that has been given or has been done for my family. I am so excited for everything to come!

SOURCE: http://malarsie.com/about/

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