Shark Attack

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Shark Attack

My mom and I once almost got attacked by a shark, sort of.

We were on vacation in Panama City, Florida – she and I were sitting about twenty feet out in the ocean, facing the beach; We were  in the warm, shallow water, leisurely chatting, when a few things caught our attention.  First, there was a small crowd of people on the beach, waving at us. Second, we appeared to be the only ones in the water. Third, the people waving at us were also talking to us. . We started to tune in more closely and discovered that the waving people would be better described as “gesturing wildly” people, and the things they were saying to us included words like “Shark!” and “Get out of the water!”


One thing that people who know me, know about me is this: number ONE on my list of Things-That-Scare-The-Pee-Right-Out-Of-Me is, in fact, sharks.

The realization that wildly gesturing people were using the word “shark” to my mom and me while we were very solidly in the water was very troubling indeed.

Naturally I did what every good daughter who loves her mother would do – I shoved her out of my way and started water-running my way toward the beach. She, meanwhile, did what every mother in the universe would do – she placed herself solidly behind me so that shark would get her first.

Have you ever tried to run in water, particularly sandy water? It’s like those nightmares where you try to run, but you’re moving in slow motion – there is simply no way to do it fast. So I was sluggishly water-running my way toward the beach, watching the wildly gesturing people add some new words to their repertoire, like “it’s right behind you!!!!”  I just knew that horrifying death was imminent.

And then I made it to the beach. And I looked behind me to discover that my mom, too, had made it to the beach (no thanks to me). And then the two of us looked out at the water to view the shark that had caused such panic on the beach. It took our eyes a moment, but we were able to discern a long gray shadow moving in the water.  We, along with our wildly gesturing people, watched the shadow come closer, close enough for us to get a good look… and discovered that our shark was actually a group of Stingrays swimming together.

Last week I talked about what’s real versus what’s fiction (Ghost Story).  It’s also true that things are not always what they seem. The shark turns out to just be a bunch of sting rays playing in the water. The aggressive behavior of a friend or co-worker turns out to be an attempt to hide feelings of fear or confusion. The problem that seems ALL CONSUMING in the middle of the night turns out to be, when faced in the light of day, just not that big a deal.

Sometimes you just need to look twice.

Is there a shark chasing you?  Turn around and face it.   Is it what it appears?  (If so, run like hell.  Otherwise, get back in and enjoy the water.)


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.