Ten years ago I was a senior in high school. I hated high school and was bored, leading to less than impressive grades and attendance. Unlike most of my friends, I had no plans after I put on that cap and gown besides finding a job. A few ideas lingered here and there but a career plan and university weren’t quite in the immediate picture. It’s hard to decide your ultimate future when you’re a teenager.
I knew I loved writing and I loved marine biology. They were the passions that never left me. There was a nice program where you could take a college course at night, and yet get both a credit for high school and college, a 2 for 1 deal. I looked at the classes saw a listing for a Scuba Diving course. That sounded exciting! You’d get to do your first dive as a class in Mexico and you’d get dive certified as well.
So 2 days a week, after school, after my shift working at the local Chocolate shop I’d drive to the depressing local community college for the class. The first half was all the technical classroom work, a bit boring but obviously very important. We learned about first aid, and our bodies and calculating depth and all the very important logistics.
Then the second half of the class came the hands on skills. Obviously there is no ocean in Arizona so we practiced in a swimming pool. We had to endurance swims and tests to prove we could handle the open sea in every situation. When submerged it’s very important to breathe calmly and naturally. It’s easy to hyperventilate, which can make you sick. Holding your breath can be very dangerous, as well as coming to the surface top quickly. “The Bends” is not just a fantastic Radiohead album, my friends. These were all details I learned in the classroom portion.
Anyways, I put the regulator in my mouth and as a group we lowered ourselves underwater with the weights strapped on our waists. Breathing was something so easy and natural on land but this whole descent was intense. I began panicking and hyperventilating. My heart began to race and the teacher was giving me the hand signals we learned about but I couldn’t focus. I tried going under again and the same thing happened. Then I rose to the surface and inbetween deep sobs I exclaimed “I CANT DO THIS.” Though other talents, this wasn’t one of them.
Feeling fully embarrassed I de-rigged put my clothes on and drove home crying . I never returned to that class. It was such a strange feeling of defeat. I’d occasionally run into a classmate from the course and avoid eye contact. The instructor still gave me a passing grade as to not destroy my future grade point average, as my college years hadn’t even started. Then a few years later I became a nurse.
Then in later years I began traveling more. I sat on the sand looking out at the clear blue caribbean sea. I saw travelers who just got back from dive trips. I hated them. I wanted to be more like them and less like a mental patient. Id end up in some of the most beautiful/affordable dive spots in the world but being on land suited me just fine. I could barely even snorkel without panicking. How was it that the thing I loved the most made me the most scared?
I booked a sailing trip in the Whitsundays because I heard from multiple people that it was a must-do in Australia. It included a dive and so I pondered within, booked it, knowing it was just an option. No commitments.
As I signed the waiver it said “Are you Diving? Y/N” I wanted to draw a “Maybe” option in the middle but there was no room for it. I filled out the rest of the documentation avoiding that answer, then with a sickess inside I circled “Yes.”
Then we got on the sailboat. It was a hectic windy sail and for the full 2 hour voyage my mind came up with really good excuses to back out. I’d just explain that I’m sorry for the inconvenience but I’ve changed my mind. They’d have to understand.
As we anchored in the deep emerald blue waters and did the safety briefing I thought about Great White Sharks and every possible way to die down there.
The great Charles Bukowski said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.”
There are a lot of things you can continue to ignore your whole life. You can easily live calmly, conveniently avoiding your challenges. I knew that today wasn’t that day. If I was going to die today, I guess it’d be in one of the most beautiful places in the world with the most dangerous creatures.
I did a quick mental meditation. Dont be a dipshit Casey. I stepped out, submerged and took those first few breaths..
Oh my god diving was so beautiful and amazing. A massive sea turtle swam alongside us with it’s baby, looking right at us with its soulful eyes. We saw reef sharks I’d only read about and seen through aquarium glass. It was so exhilarating to be comfortably engulfed in this colorful magical world under the sea. We heard whales calling out under the water, knowing they were nearby but not seeing them. I glided my fingers through swirls of fish possessing colors your eyes just couldn’t even comprehend. There were several parrotfish and they were the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen.
The dive ended as soon as it began and with my massive permanent grin I knew immediately that it was just the beginning of my diving experiences. Anyways this post might seem totally dramatic and silly and I’ve said “I and Me” about 16,000 times but guys. Overcoming an obstacle is a really good feeling, even if it takes you 10 years to do it!