|Annie Crawley Biography|
|Saturday, 26 April 2008|
Annie AKA "OCEAN ANNIE" has become one of America’s leading ocean-environ educators. Founder of www.DiveIntoYourImagination.com, her company changes the way a new generation views the ocean. As an underwater cinematographer and educator, Annie has created a series of award winning books, DVDs, motivational art series and has become a Les Brown Platinum Speaker. Visit the store now to give the gift of the Ocean to a special person in your life!
In the past two years, Annie has been on a public speaking tour reaching thousands of children, parents, professionals and corporations. Dive Into Your Imagination has received many awards including those from the Teachers’ Choice Award, Kids First endorsement, three iParenting Awards, and three platinum and one gold award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2009 Awards. In addition to this, Annie has written instructor training manuals, launched www.DiveIntoYourImagination.com, and her signature collection of images, posters, cards, magnets, window clings plus more partnering the ocean with inspirational messages.
“I want you to Dive Into Your Imagination and live your dreams. Come explore our world with me!”
In Annie's Own Words...
As a child, I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. City blocks with rows of houses interspersed with a park about every mile became my playground. I remember being the President of a tree climbing club on my block and we used to pretend we were in a forest. My mom filled our summers with Lincoln Park Zoo, The Field Museum, John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. We would go to one of the museums in the morning and North Avenue beach on Lake Michigan in the afternoon for swimming. I was taught to use my imagination at an early age. Our favorite games were never ones that were store bought, they were all make believe. The basement became a hospital. A card board box became a train to take us away. I went on great archeology digs in my backyard and wanted to be an oceanographer and dolphin trainer. I wanted to be Laura Ingall from Little House on the Prarie. I was a farm girl at heart. We used to go camping on family vacations: hiked, explored, rode horses, canoed and built camp fires. I can still remember the day my mom told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I was in kindergarten and she was walking me a mile to school, I had a pretty pink umbrella that looked like a parasol, and my mom said that I could even be President of the United States. I said, “Really?” and she said, “Sure, all you have to do is dream.” A few years later in 1976, my Grandmother went on her first trip overseas and came back with amazing stories. I still remember her doing the hang loose sign with all of us after a trip to Hawaii. She was SO cool. From another trip, she showed all of us cousins a photo of a camel ride and talked about kissing the Blarney Stone. Every year after my Grandfather passed away of Multiple Sclerosis she went on one trip: a cruise in Alaska, Australian aboriginals in the Northern Territory, The Golden Triangle. A world map hung on my Gram's kitchen wall and I used to spend hours looking at the map and imagining what it would be like to travel. Even though I traveled throughout Chicago and to Wisconsin, we were a middle class family with four kids. We could afford camping, not traveling on an airplane! With a twinkle in her eye and a smile that made her face light up with pure joy, my Grandmother would look me in the eye and say, “Do it while you’re young kid because when you get to be my age, you can’t climb the mountains you would like too.”
And that sentence got stuck in my head for the next fifteen years of my childhood. I got to travel in the back of a station wagon with my family. I knew the words to Helen Reddy, John Denver and Kenny Rogers. Girl Scout summer camp was a favorite of mine. Anything to get me into nature! I became lost in the woods as a young child. Away from family, away from school, rules, guidelines, feelings and emotions that as a child you don’t necessarily know how to deal with…these all left when able to explore nature. I just loved the forest and Lake Michigan.
It wasn’t until I picked up a camera at college during my junior year that I found the power of expressing the way I see the world through images. This expanded into story telling through creative writing, poetry and journaling. When I graduated college I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere because I dreamt a lot about what I wanted to do, yet none of it involved the traditional path of work. And I just could not see my true path. Everyone had expectations of who I should be and which direction I should go, yet none of them were what I really wanted to do. There was one side of my brain telling me one thing and another voice inside telling me another.
Then one day I just had this overwhelming thought, “Travel Overseas." and in the next moment, "Do it while you are young kid because when you get to be my age, you can’t climb the mountains.” And that was it. I was 100% convinced I needed to travel overseas. I saved my money for one year and the day my car insurance ended, I was on a plane to Australia. Faith, Courage and, Enthusiasm became my mantra.
I was free to be me for the first time in my life. The record album and book 'Free to Be You and Me' was very important in my life. When I was a child I stood up for my Godfather’s wedding and that was my present. I remember hiding in my room for hours while playing the Free to Be You and Me album and sing songs. I did not know what freedom was, but I knew I wanted to experience freedom. I learned to use my imagination. I became free of everything through my imagination. And after leaving home to travel overseas, I arrived in Australia, and for the first time in my life I found out what it was like to be free. I was free to be just me. There was no one watching me, judging me, telling me what to do, I could do anything and be anything. Nobody I met knew my older sister, brother, younger brother, family…I was a clean slate and could be the person I was meant to be, not the person I was in relation to everyone else. Freedom. WOW. And then I was free to do anything I wanted to do. I learned to scuba dive and sail. This changed my life and I never looked back. I found a job in Queensland around the Whitsunday Islands and truly experienced for the first time what it meant to LIVE! I had a burning desire to work around the ocean, I became galley and deckhand on a sailboat called FAME.
The most magical moment of my life was breathing underwater for the first time. I can recall the exact experience from my memory like a video playback anytime I want. Water and breathing underwater is just a part of me. A mermaid, dolphin, octopus, shark, I am all of these things and more. I could only imagine what my life would be like if I had not experienced the underwater world. In the instant I became a certified diver, I knew I needed the ocean full time in my life. When I began pursuing my passion in life, diving, sailing and walking to the beat of my own drum, I realized how magical life could be. Up to this point I was just another puppet on the planet of life, but with the ocean, I became free. I WAS COMPLETELY UNREASONABLE AND DID EVERYTHING I WANTED TO DO. I hitchhiked New Zealand, traveled with the rodeo, worked as a tour guide, and became a dive instructor. I was offered a position to stay and work in New Zealand for long term, but I knew that was not my path. So one day, I walked into a travel agent and traded in my ticket back to America for a ticket to Bali, Indonesia and went to teach scuba diving in Bali.
There are so many experiences I had on this journey in Indonesia, from having all of my money stolen to traveling on yachts all through Eastern Tengarra on private vessels as a personal dive instructor. With one of the Dive Masters, we recovered more than 96 bottle bombs that fishermen had dropped on a reef that did not detonate. I traveled and worked four years abroad. And I felt like life in the US was calling and that I needed to go and use my college education and follow another path, the path from my past that told me I was not living up to my potential and that I should be using my college education...and, and, and all the voices of negativity.
I tried traditional business and was very successful. I became a Training Manager at The Field Museum in Chicago, in charge of the training and development of more than 150 employees in the Public Services Department. I was a liason between all departments, scientists, membership, education. I could do this and yet there was something missing, the ocean I had found. I moved to California to be near the spirit of the sea and once again tried corporate America. I was the Account Manager for Snelling Personnel Services. Excelling at sales and marketing, I had an amazing job, lots of freedom, a great salary, yet I knew inside of me I could be doing more. I knew a part of my soul was missing. Then during a work conference I heard a speech by the amazing motivational speaker, Les Brown and he asked us, “Can you do more than you are doing today?” I went into the office on Monday, I gave my two weeks notice, sold my car, bought my underwater camera housings and went and worked on live aboard boats around the world. I taught myself underwater photography and filmmaking. Done. Just like that. I took advantage of the confidence I gained from travel that everything is easy, you just have to find your path and it twists and turns. Meeting people from around the world is fun, exciting, invigorating and a way that I enjoy life! Of course there are safety aspects you have to follow, you have to have common sense…but I was able to dive into my imagination and make this REAL. Belize, Galapagos, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea…the list goes on.
Yet, I still had another calling. I knew there was something missing. In all of my travels I was always an educator. I used to create training programs and lectures for the local people of every country I lived. I would create videos and send them home to family and friends to share my experiences. So it was natural I was able to get my dream job at a production company as the Underwater Director of Photography to make large format (IMAX®) movies. But after nearly two years of working for another production, there was no more funding, they let me go. I was released because there was no money, WELCOME TO PRODUCTION! I didn’t let that stop me. I looked at my life and knew I had always wanted to create children's products because I am a big kid inside...and ever since my sister, brother and friends started having children. Instead of my life ending with my dream job, I reached beyond and said, I am going to make my creative dreams real! (Thanks to Planet Sark!)
And the next thing I knew I was putting together a fake book and mock up DVD to go to Book Expo of America and sell my idea of a book and dvd about the ocean to a big publishing company. And that is what I did! Ocean Life A to Z book/DVD has sold more than 100,000 copies and has only been in the market since February 2007. The contract took a long time to get because the publisher didn’t want to publish. I had three women exec’s championing for the product. I want to sell a million copies of all my children's products because I want to inspire children the same way I was inspired.
And as this project took so long, I developed my own line, Dive Into Your Imagination®. I realized that when you work with large companies there are many advantages, but timing can be a huge disadvantage. So as I completed the project with them, I had already begun moving forward with my own series, Dive Into Your Imagination®. I realized that there was nothing on the market to share with children what really happens in the world. Although I loved Finding Nemo®, because of the exposure it gave to our oceans, it was only a story. I wanted to give children the real story, have them exposed to the real animals and talk about the natural history of the animals because they are so “animated” in their natural environment that they don’t need any stories but their own. I created the Dive Into Your Imagination series for kids to get them out of the virtual world and into the real world, it is better than cartoons! I truly believe that kids will help educate their parents and many of the myths about our oceans and water will be dispelled. I want kids growing up loving the water and all the animals because we protect what we love. A hard concept for people to grasp is everything we do on land affects the lakes, the ocean, our planet. We look at a body of water and we don’t think of it as a living breathing organism that is the home to thousands of animals. Depending on our understanding and experiences, some people even fear Mother Ocean. This is what I hope to change, transform through entertaining education. Save Our Seas, a foundation from Geneva, helped me with three grants during the past three years. I have been fortunate to have their support in getting the educational messages about our ocean out into the world!
I want everyone to understand the importance of the ocean. It creates about 70% of the oxygen our planet needs for survival.
My life changed with my first breaths underwater. Completely changed. I would have never thought I would have been exposed to the wonders you find within this website. I want to touch, move and inspire children and adults that they can dive into their imagination and create the future they want to live. We are not creatures of our past, we can be anyone we want today. Our lives are filled with possibilities and choices if we are there to take them. I live within a future world that our children are empowered and want to live on a healthy planet that they help create.
So please, Dive Into Your Imagination with me!
Reading, activites, and art for kids of all age; visit the Kid-Safe fun in the Kid's Corner.