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Refusing to play follow the leader

Published March 16. 2013 09:02AM

When I was a kid, I liked playing Follow the Leader. It wasn't a very stimulating game and we usually got bored quickly and stopped playing.

Sometimes, though, as adults we continue to play Follow the Leader, even if we don't want to.

Did you ever do something you didn't want to do, simply because "everyone else was doing it?"

Perhaps you didn't want to go along with the crowd because it didn't seem right or it wasn't safe. Or maybe it just didn't appeal to you. But you did it anyway, just to go along with others.

I've never been reluctant to refuse to do something everyone else was doing. Call it having a mind of my own.

Last weekend, my friends probably called it "being a sissy" when I refused to follow the crowd. This is what happened.

Our wonderful shelling club went to Cedar Key for our main trip of the year. A highlight of the three-day trip was a boat ride to a remote island. The plan was for the boat captain to drop us off at the island for a few hours of shelling.

As always, for our February trip, the weather turned cold and the winds kicked up. We can be having the most glorious Florida weather, but when we travel a few hours north for the February trip, we are hit with frigid temperatures.

Since it was balmy and sunny when I packed, I didn't think of packing insulated underwear and heavy clothing. But even if I had prepared for anything, I wouldn't have been prepared to be a polar bear.

It turned out we had to be polar bears for the day's activities.

When we boarded the boat early in the morning, I was wearing every layer of clothing I had in my suitcase. But I was still shivering in the cold wind.

When we got to our island destination, the captain said, "OK, everyone. This is as close as I can get. You'll have to walk in the water the rest of the way."

I laughed at his joke. Turned out, it wasn't a joke. With the winds, low tide and a sandbar, the boat couldn't get any closer.

We were about a football field away from the island.

The water temperature, according to one Internet source was 58 degrees. Another site listed 62 as the water temperature. Didn't matter to me which one was right. It all translated to one thing: It was too cold to be in the water without a wet suit.

"I'm not going," I said. "I'm staying on the boat."

"You can't do that," my friends insisted. "We came all this distance to shell. So let's do it."

At that, everyone shucked off their outer clothing and jumped in the water. Some had on bathing suits. Some wore shorts or Capri jeans.

Incredulously, I watched them walk in the water to the little island. They waded in cold water up to their thighs. Since I'm short, I figured the water would be up to my waist, if I were crazy enough to go in.

"Come on," said the captain. "Your friends are doing it. You can, too."

I looked at him and noted he was dressed in a warm hoodie with the hood tied around his head. On top of that he wore a heavy fur-lined parka with another hood.

"Sure I could do it. But I'm not foolish enough to go into frigid water. I'm staying here," I insisted.

When others saw I was standing my ground and staying on the boat, a few of them joined me. There were 28 women on the trip. Only seven stayed on the boat.

I didn't care if I were the only one. I wasn't going to do something I didn't want to do, just because everyone else was doing it.

The bottom line is, we stayed on the boat, shivering and shifting position to try to block the wind. The captain proved to be entertaining with his stories and I enjoyed being there rather than being in the water.

I took photos of the way the captain and first mate were dressed in Arctic gear. For contrast, I also took photos of the women in bathing suits jumping in the water.

When they came back on the boat, some said it was an adventure they would long remember.

"Were you afraid to go?" asked a friend.

"No," I told her, "I was taking an I.Q. test. I passed."

"Well, whatever that means, I'll share some of my shells with you," said my sweet friend.

There are times when, for the sake of a new adventure, I do force myself to do something I'm reluctant to do.

This summer, when David and I were with friends on vacation, they all decided to zip-line. That meant walking up an iron ladder, stepping off a small platform, and swinging through the air high over the amusement park.

It was great and I was glad I did it, even though I was at first hesitant to step off the platform.

Life is a balancing act where we have to keep adjusting our steps. We have to balance safety with our sense of adventure, knowing when to be cautious and when to step outside our comfort zone.

Of course, we have to learn to say "no" when we don't want to follow the crowd.

Follow the Leader is a game only for kids.

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