A couple of weeks I found myself nose to snout with a very, very large seal, its head the size of a Shetland pony. I was around 700 meters from the shore (my ability to touch the bottom having disappeared several hundred meters ago), it was late September in The Irish Sea and I was wearing a mere swimsuit designed for far warmer climes. Previously, fear of being 'a bit chilly' would have been enough to deter my risk-averse self from entering even more exotic waters, irrespective of the fear of drowning or death by seal. However with a recently acquired understanding that in order to embrace life we must be prepared to risk, my best friend Liz and I swam to where we had spotted said animal. Feeling a bit gung-ho, I carried on swimming till I was alone and mush-to-mush with this horse-sized beast. I looked at Seal. Seal looked at me. I spoke to Seal. Seal did not reply yet remained just a meter away, staring at me with a similar amount of intrigue, fear and astonishment. After a few minutes Seal disappeared only to re-appear every 30 seconds to check he wasn't seeing things. It was a phenomenal moment. I felt like a spandex clad Dickie Attenborough.
2013 has been a year of great adventure and change for me. Anyone who saw my Edinburgh show Miss-Adventure would know that I am in a very different place mentally, emotionally and (albeit to a lesser degree) geographically than I have been previously. In my first ever blog, written in 2012 for Funny Women, I detailed my discomfort in attempting to write from any coffee shop other than my regular haunt. My natural impulse for exploration had long been suffocated by a fear of the unknown and the potential for death. Every new possibility was weighted against the likelihood of carking it. With mortality as my yardstick, it was possible to place nearly everything in the 'high risk' category.
After a whole load of deaths (though clearly not my own) and other unhappy endings in 2012, I came to realise that I could worry all I like - my anxiety will rarely prevent the bad times but will likely inhibit the good. Now a desire to embrace life and all its insecurities has become the mainstay of my existence, having moved house every 6 weeks since the start of the year to live with complete strangers, put my Edinburgh show in the hands of a woman I had known only 5 days and jetting off to Croatia with a chap I had know a mere 5 hours. In between all this I have had jaunts with the Hare Krishnas, accidentally ended up at a group masturbation session, become a volunteer gardener, attempted to find love via the Internet and discovered the world of Clowning and Bouffant.
It hasn't all been plain sailing and some encounters and incidents have been goddam horrendous. I do not regret these however, given that they have provided me with newfound wisdom and some darkly comic dinner party chat. Others, such as my encounter with Seal, have changed the way I think and given me the courage to risk more and thus gain more.
With my 31st birthday having just passed, I am acutely aware of the things society tells me I should have achieved by now; house, husband, sproglettes. There is also the TV sitcom and Soho Theatre show I intend to write and star in that are yet to be commissioned, as well as a spot of creative world domination. However I know one thing is for certain, unless I keep taking risks, trying things out, failing and trying again, my dreams will remain unrealised.
There are however numerous occasions when fear and doubt creep in. At times I crave some so called 'security', preferring rather to stay at home, gaining nothing yet also risking nothing. It is then I turn to the words of more experienced minds. This week saw the 169th Birthday of the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a firm believer of living life to the full. Therefore, given I think he would fully approve of my quest, I feel it is only fitting to leave you with a quote from the birthday boy himself - "The devotion of the greatest is to encounter risk and danger, and play dice for death". You never know, you might just find you roll a double six, or at the very least, become pals with a seal.
Follow Leanne Davis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leannedavis