This is a photo of a crinoid, one of the world’s oldest living fossils. I shot this from a claustrophobic, PC-1203 Perry Class deep submersible (the size and shape of an old-school Volkswagen Bus with a glass bowl stuck on the front) 1,000 feet underwater in the Cayman Islands.
After squeezing through the hatch, climbing down the ladder and settling into the glass nose, I received a brief safety lecture, “Don’t touch anything and whatever you do, don’t pull that lever.” The interior light was turned off and we descended slowly in the water. I watched the colorful corals and fish life disappear as the surface light faded and we dropped deeper and deeper alongside the vertical ocean floor that makes up the Cayman Wall. The array of outside lights provided our only guide and allowed us to see the now mostly colorless marine life that was attracted to our “yellow submarine.”
Eventually the Wall turned into a sharply slanted shelf covered with white reef sand. As we drifted over it, the captain started methodically shutting down the sub’s power. First to go was the nearly useless slowly-rotating cooling fan that circulated the air (just barely). Next went the electric motors, “Don’t worry. If they don’t come back on we can pump the water out of the ballast tanks and float to the surface… If we don’t snag on anything.”
Finally, as I adjusted to the silence, out went the outside lights. My world disappeared into darkness – pitch black. No trace of light, no frame of reference. I hoped the captain had his fingers on the right switches and not on the lever he’d told me, in no uncertain terms, not to pull. It was eerily silent, breathtaking and terrifying all at once. The only sound was the creaking of the hull from the water pressure.
We drifted in the darkness a minute or two, then to my relief, the captain successfully powered the systems back on. We moved purposely across the shelf with the lights again displaying the colorless sea life surrounding us. Everything was devoid of color. The fish were white, the plant life was white, even the coral was white. It was all totally alien to me. The captain explained that at this depth, with no natural light, everything (living or dead) is white. The colorful tropical fish and vegetation that surrounded us near the surface can’t exist at this depth and pressure.
We paused to hover around one of the most remarkable sights I’ve ever seen. This pure white crinoid. It’s lived in the darkness, undisturbed since the beginning of life and would probably be here long after many of us have passed on. Its longevity reminds me of those head-down, make-no-waves, take-no-chances registered nurses who come to work every day, put in a 12-hour shift, clock out to go home to eat and sleep – all to wake up to repeat the same exact process the next day and the day after that. Like the world’s oldest fossil they live in a self-imposed darkness living a life devoid of light and color.
What about you? Are you going to be the healthcare equivalent of a crinoid, or are you going to step out and take a chance for a colorful life and nursing career? If you have a list of things that need to be perfect before you make a move or take a chance, take another look at that photo and remember that the world’s oldest living fossil lives in the dark depths for a reason.
Success Is Yours!
P.S. Comment and share how to avoid becoming a living fossil in nursing or life.