The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done… Maybe.

I remember sitting in the hard plastic seats of an outdoor stadium in New Haven, CT in ninety degree weather, listening to Sting’s wife give the commencement speech to the SCSU Undergraduates.  My robe was soaked in sweat and I could feel my skin burning right through the thin, black material.  I had lead a misguided youth (misguided by my own doing, but misguided nonetheless) and this was the first time in my life that I had ever tried… at anything. Honestly, I quit Girl Scouts the moment I crossed the ‘Brownie Bridge’, I quit majorettes, and cheering. I quit track twice, and field hockey three out of five years. Sure, I had graduated high school, but with below average grades and zero strikes left on the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ policy held by the semi-private high school that I attended. Now, I had cords, and a sash, and pins! I didn’t half ass this, I had tried really hard. College was one of the first things I’d ever completed and I crushed it with a 3.72 average. On this day, I thought to myself, “getting through college is the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. ​

Fast forward two years, I’m standing on top of Pike’s Peak, my first 14 thousand foot mountain.  James and I are only half way through the 26 mile round trip hike, my legs are on fire, my lungs feel like they’re giving out under the pressure of the altitude.  James is fine, by the way, hiking is natural and comes easily to him.  “This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”, I thought. 

Well, fast forward… again, this time two years.  I’m standing on top of Mt. Katahdin, the Northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  James and I have just completed a six month, 2,185.9 mile thru-hike.  I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, I’m beaming with pride and excitement.  Equal parts “Did we really just thru-hike the Appalachian Trail?” and “Did James really just propose to me?”.  On that day, I thought “this really is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”.  

Maybe it’s all relative and the further you get from old challenges, the less challenging they seam.  Here I am, another two years in time and we’ve been putting together this business plan.  I never dreamed that we’d own a business. Growing up, I never wanted to own a business (too much work and waaayy to much responsibility). Through this process, much like hiking the Appalachian Trail, we’ve learned so much about each other’s strengths and weakness’.  I find myself thinking, “planning and opening this business has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.  For James, on the other hand, it’s been as easy and natural as a jaunt up Pike’s Peak!

We’re so proud of this space that we’ve created to enjoy with the community.  We’re excited to share ideas about floating and its many benefits with anyone who will listen! I look forward to the next time… probably a few years from now, maybe on a mountain top, when I’ll chuckle and think to myself… “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done!”

– Amy Harder


Eight years ago, as we embarked on the journey of opening Float Harder, little did I realize the magnitude of challenges and triumphs awaiting us. James and I started with just three float tanks, operating tirelessly from dawn till dusk, shouldering every responsibility ourselves. The early days were a whirlwind of hard work and perseverance. But with each passing year, our team expanded and today, we stand proud as employers in our beloved Portland community, supported by a team of ten remarkable individuals.

Through Float Harder, we’ve had the privilege of encountering extraordinary souls, some of whom have become our closest confidants. Among them, our skydiving mentors, who not only taught us the art of soaring through the skies but also imbued in us the spirit of fearlessness. Obtaining my skydiving A license was a defining moment, leaving me awestruck, once again murmuring, “Well, there it is, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Our journey didn’t end with Float Harder. We ventured into uncharted territories, founding New England Float Partners, a venture that took us across the region, offering consulting, installation and maintenance services for float tanks. The birth of Ripple Float & Wellness Center in New Haven, CT, amidst the turbulence of a pandemic, tested our resilience like never before. It was a testament to our unwavering determination as entrepreneurs. And with every setback, we pressed on, even launching The Grateful Cup (a homage to the team’s musical passion) right here in the Deering Neighborhood, in the midst of the chaos of our bustling lives.

Amid the whirlwind of entrepreneurial pursuits, life threw us a curveball. Last summer, in the anticipation of impending motherhood, my world was shaken when my appendix ruptured. This time in our lives, was a harrowing ordeal of misdiagnoses, surgeries and the uncertainty of life itself.


I was 8 months pregnant and I had been sick for one full week with what doctors thought was a stomach flue, something there is no treatment for. I was sent home from the emergency rooms two times previously that week. As the pain intensified, I found myself teetering on the brink of despair. A week of agony culminated in a nightmarish ordeal when my appendix finally ruptured, plunging our family into the depths of uncertainty.

On our third visit to the emergency room, writhing in agony, the clock ticking ominously in the background, the simple act of starting an IV became an insurmountable challenge. Dehydrated and delirious, I watched in mute horror as the medical team, using ultrasound to guide them, struggled repeatedly to find a vein. I can still feel the weight of each labored breath, the silent mantra echoing in my mind: “Hang on. Stay alive.” Death loomed ever-present, a spectral shadow haunting the edges of consciousness, as I fought, clinging to life. “Is this how it ends?”, I thought. Doctors explained that teams on either side of me were all here for us, one team for my baby and one for me, ready to do their skillful jobs, but nearly 90 minutes had passed and there was still no IV. “How do we have a surgery without an IV?” These are the questions that are repeating in my head as look over at monitors displaying ever lowering numbers.

James  faced hours of uncertainty alone that night, his heart gripped with fear as he waited in a deafening silence, not knowing if our baby girl or I would make it through the night. Each passing moment was fraught with a mixture of dread and equal parts hope, every minute an eternity of unknown, stretching on.

Eventually, after what felt like an eternity of torment and quite possibly the last moments of my life of 37 years, doctors succeeded, resorting to an IV in the neck, a maneuver reserved for emergencies as it is less sanitary and comes with greater risk. The relief was palpable, but it was only the beginning of a long and arduous journey that would test the limits of my endurance as a human. And when the darkness finally lifted and I emerged from the haze of anesthesia, it was to the joyous news that we had a baby girl, a tiny beacon of hope amidst the chaos.

But the battle was far from over. For the next 10 weeks, I fought to reclaim my shattered semblance of normalcy, navigating the treacherous waters of recovery. In a startling entrance, our precious Althea, a fragile soul teetering on the edge of existence, faced her own recovery. For ten long weeks, we waged a war on two fronts, our bodies battered and bruised, our spirits tested to the breaking point. As I reflect on the challenges we’ve endured, I’m hopeful that this may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done… at least for a while!

Facing the stark realities of life, birth and mortality, James remained a steady presence, offering hope and comfort in the toughest of times. His calm demeanor and unwavering support provided a reassuring stability amidst the uncertainty and pain. Throughout our challenges, he stood by my side and carried me, both figuratively and literally, navigating the ups and downs of life’s journey. Together, we found strength in each other’s company, drawing solace from our shared experiences and a new beginning on our journey, together, as parents..

Looking back on that night, nearly one year ago, I’m reminded once again of the fragility of life, of the preciousness of every fleeting moment. And though the scars may linger, both seen and unseen, they serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and to the boundless capacity for hope in this life.

Here’s to the next chapter, brimming with endless possibilities and the promise of new beginnings.


Amy Harder