I never lived near the ocean. My only connection to it was through vacations to the east coast of the United States every summer. Even though I didn’t live near it, I would listen through seashells to hear it speak to me and decorate my childhood room with all the treasures of the sea. I was far from it but never too far.
Something about the ocean’s mystery never let me forget it and always steered me back to it. Growing up, I always envisioned myself involved with ocean research and conservation.
I did not fully understand all the opportunities open or available to me, though. I decided to attend college in Nebraska, even further from the ocean, but just like my connection to the sea, I felt a connection to go to school there and followed it. The decision was not clear to me, then. If it had been, I would not be where I am today.
I tried out many different things in college, sincerely loving all of them, but I kept hearing a call from the sea to go to it. Because of this, I decided to attend a week-long field course with my university to the coast of Georgia to study coastal ecology. My experience around like-minded and equally passionate peers during this week ignited my drive to finally listen to the ocean’s calls and my heart.
This was not without its setbacks, though, as it proved difficult to find opportunities in a state that was 1500 miles from the nearest ocean.
I applied to many different summer programs without receiving a single offer letter. I battled this for about two years until I broke down and thought that maybe there is no space for someone like me who has no experience in the marine world.
I focused my attention elsewhere, convincing myself that I did not belong in that world. I was happy doing other things, but something was missing. I felt like a piece of me was still longing to be found. In my last year and a half at university, I had many opportunities to create individual projects focusing on any ecological topic and system. I decided to revisit the sea and try and rekindle my relationship with it.
Through creating management plans for heavily exploited sharks and choosing to complete an undergraduate thesis focusing on anthropogenic threats to marine megafauna, I felt the most home I had in months. COVID-19 sent me home through these projects, but they came to fruition and being home ultimately helped me refocus my attention on my connection with the ocean.
I decided to get SCUBA certified during this time, and I felt a sense of peace and calm that cannot be explained but just felt. Combining my certification with my focus on marine-related topics drove me to make my next move.
I had known about the Bimini Shark Lab for six years before I decided to apply. For some reason, the time had never felt right to apply before I finally did. I decided to try and applied in July of 2020 and anxiously awaited my answer.
Because of the frustrations I had experienced and all my resources being exhausted because of where I was located, I felt more passionate and drawn to the sea than ever before.
It was not until I applied for this opportunity and eventually got it that I realized there was a reason I had to go through those experiences.
I have loved every minute of where I’m at right now and have had so many opportunities to grow throughout it. The little girl in her room listening to waves crashing through seashells always knew where she was supposed to be, even if the adult version of her did not always believe in herself.
She always dreamed of the day she could dive with fish circling all around her and look a squid in the eye and see all the magic of the world, and now, they are all my neighbours.
Most of all, through this experience and all the ones leading up to it, I have learned that there is space for me. Even when it did not feel like it, I could always hear the ocean’s call bellowing above everything else and telling me to make waves where there was no ocean.
If there does not seem to be space, make it because if you are supposed to be somewhere, you will always find your way to it. Create your own opportunities.
That’s where dreams are born, and that’s when you feel the most at home. It’s hard because sometimes people that understand you and listen to your dreams can take a while to find, as I did not start finding a lot of these people until my last years of college, but I found them.
I’m not saying that there will not be rogue waves along the way, believe me, but stick to it even if no one else can see the dream but you.
No matter where you are, where you come from, or who you are, if the ocean is calling you home, swim as fast as you can into its loving arms.
Written by Baylie Fadool (@baylie_amberr)
Hi! My name is Baylie Fadool, and I am from Nashville, Tennessee, US. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
After I finished my undergrad in December of 2020, I arrived at the Bimini Biological Field Station in January 2021 as an intern.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to become the media assistant for the lab where I have been able to combine my love for the natural world with my love for photography.
To follow my journey or send me a message, my social media is below!