After visiting Mayan ruins and eating delicious Caribbean food, Carlos, Blue Morpho tour owner and guide, led us on our final stop for the day: a waterfall hike at Big Rock Falls. On the way, he unloaded endless amounts of Belizean history and bonded with one of my friends, whose family is from Belize. He also shared his dream of flavorful storytelling with a culinary fusion featuring the traditional dishes of the Yucatán Peninsula indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans. Cultural pride and generational beliefs restored Carlos’s faith in bringing people together and positively impacting this world. He expressed that faith is only possible when we fight to own our narratives and believe they are worthy of sharing.
While listening to Carlos go on about the other culinary inspirations he’d add into the mix, we made our way down the steep trail crowded with boulders and supported by a few dilapidated makeshift staircases and equally unreliable handrails. Upon finally reaching the beautiful waterfall, I felt the pressure and sprays of cool droplets fill my pores. The subsequent streams subdued the rushing sounds of the waterfall into alluring tranquility. Nature reminded me that all I perceive as impossible or highly problematic are small and meaningless symptoms of our simulations and simulacrum. These things are only as big and objective as the energy expended by the collective belief that they indeed are.
Gripping the boulders for security, my two friends and I crouched down and anchored ourselves in the muddy creeks between them. As we undressed, Carlos excitedly rushed to the top of a cliff’s ledge I had assumed, from its growing queue of excited Americans and Europeans, had been a popular launching point. Carlos waited for us to throw our last pieces of clothing onto the dry rocks before gesturing to join him on the ledge.
Being the only one who could swim in the group, I still couldn’t trust my body —not having swum for several years in deep water and losing confidence in this now cumbersome fleshy mass due to medical treatments and procedures — to have the strength I once had to propel myself upward from the dive. Instead, I slowly entered the water and acclimated to its chilling temperature but clumsily slid down the mossy-covered rocks. Ultimately gaining a sturdy grip and stationing myself for a bit, I looked up at the ledge for Carlos, who had long since dove into the waters and swam to the other side of the stream.
Gesturing once again to follow him, Carlos shouted instructions for how to navigate the water’s current and to avoid injury should it push me toward the cascade downstream. I began nodding and focused on calming myself down when my deepest fear of not being good enough crept up the nape of my neck and hooked itself in my mind. I allowed unresolved fear to crush my confidence. My sudden reluctance was evident, so Carlos followed up with his arm extended, “Should all else fail, you are not alone. I’ve got you.”
I never felt I could trust authoritative figures or guardians because, too often, I had been disappointed by the people I hoped would protect me or have my best interests in mind. Mostly, I hadn’t been able to trust in myself. I was resolved that the negative experiences and people who molded my perception of myself and others were correct; no one, including myself, was worth trusting. But I was tired of living a faithless life, believing in nothing because I could not trust. I was ready to start believing.
I propelled my body from the slimy rocks into the deep water, pushing against the current to reach the other side of the stream. The depth tugged at my body, and as I felt the water swallowing me, I began to swim forward powerfully. Carlos yelled, “Pace yourself! It’s not a race. You’re starting to doubt yourself, and you’re gonna tire yourself out!”
Doubt. How could I slow down? I conflated speed with safety my entire life. So long as I didn’t slow down to face important life lessons or become self-aware, I’d be safe from making choices that actually made me happy. I was afraid of being happy because I believed happiness, for me, was too good to be true. Once again, I was tired of living a faithless life. I was ready to start believing.
Eventually, I reached the other side, exhausted and out of breath. Embracing me, Carlos warmly shared, “I haven’t steered you wrong, so there is no reason to be afraid. You have a lot in you that you need to let go of. Now that we know you can make it here, you can make it there or there. You ready to get right under that waterfall?” Following the multiple directions he pointed out and the other probable swimming challenges I’d faced, I decided, per aspera, I shall persist.