Another year would go by before I decided to take the plunge and purchase a reptile. A snake would have been too much too fast. I thought that maybe if I purchased a small lizard that my mind would get off the affordable price of that majestic serpent. I did copious amounts of research on all sorts of lizards, and found myself most drawn to the crested gecko.
The crested gecko is not only cool looking due to its deceptively soft spikes, but incredibly easy to care for. A perfect first-time reptile. Additionally, I had found out that as recently as the early nineties, they were thought to be extinct, but that an explorer found them on an island and bred them for the pet trade. In doing so, crested geckos are now one of the most plentiful reptiles in America, finding their habitats in the homes of many reptile fanatics.
It turns out that the pet trade not only saved the crested gecko, but was also used to save poison dart frogs. In one conversation my husband and I had with a carnivorous plant and poison dart frog retailer, local governments paid for breeder to flood the market with poison dart frogs as pets in order to make them less profitable for poachers. Without the poachers hunting them, the frogs’ numbers returned to manageable numbers and correcting an imbalance in the rainforests.
I found my gecko at Repticon. Yup. That was its name. Repticon. I had been in contact with a breeder who also is a therapist (Oh! Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, I’m a mental health therapist. Don’t judge me.). I figured I could talk with her about my anxieties and that she would get it and soothe me prior to purchase. That did not turn out to be the case, however, deciding on what gecko was surprisingly easy. As it would turn out, she and her husband were taught to breed crested geckos by that very same man who had re-discovered them close to thirty years ago. Not only that, but she had one of the very geckos that he had bred and sent to them to sell from California! I brought him home and named him Fezzik, after the Andre the Giant’s character in Princess Bride (“anybody want a peanut?”). I figured it was an appropriate name since “cresteds” like to climb up the glass of terrariums and Andre the Giant had to climb up the cliff of a mountain with his comrades and abductee hanging from his gargantuan body.
Despite officially entering into the realm of being a crested gecko owner, my mind kept slithering back to that ball python. How in the hell did it go from $8000 to $300 in just over a decade? That makes absolutely no sense! I embarked on a quick google search. About a decade ago, I recall there being about eight to ten morphs. Now, per the Google, there are twenty-six well known morphs and over a thousand in total. The new morphs must have saturated the market demoting the piebald as exotic and placing it firmly at pedestrian status. This story sounded not too dissimilar to what had happened with those poison dart frogs. Good news for me! Wait…
My excitement was building. As was my concern about that excitement. Ryan, you have never voluntarily touched a snake in your life. What the hell are you so excited about?!
This thought process is not so unfamiliar to me. Matt finds our vacations pretty hilarious. I was uncomfortable around birds, so we went to the Pittsburgh aviary, where an Australian pigeon chased me up and down the boardwalk, we listened to birds that sounded like the raptors from the movie Jurassic park, and then I voluntarily walked into a parrot enclosure and became covered, almost immediately, in lorikeets.
Another time, I decided to face my fear of heights. While on vacation at a luxury hotel, I spontaneously requested that Matt and I do a ropes course. Next thing I know, I am shimming across a rope what felt like a hundred feet in the air, trying not to pee myself. At one point, I was so frozen, I couldn’t jump to use the zip line. My head was ready, but my body was saying “fuck to the no!” Eventually I did it, and I was totally fine. I might even dare to say that I had a fun time.
In a recent trip to the beach, I thought I could use some help on the heights issue as well as my fears about the open ocean (I watched far too much Shark Week growing up, and noted how the advice for survival would occasionally change dramatically. In other words, swim fast and good luck!). My solution? Let’s go parasailing! It was really fun, however, the take away was finding out that you could see sharks from that far up. I had no idea they were that close to the shore…
My relationship with anxiety is a deep and complex one. We clearly don’t always agree. And again, we have found ourselves at an impasse. Luckily for my anxiety, it would be another year before I would feel confident enough to buy my first noodle.