How finally learning to dive taught me a lot more than how to breathe underwater.
For some people learning to dive is a a doddle. Water? Pah. Don’t bother me. For some, like me, not so much. I’ve already posted before about about why me and water have never really got along but this post is a little different because I actually learnt to dive and in doing it, I’ve changed the way I approach difficult situations in life in general.
When I first learnt to dive in England in a pool, I hated it. I then dived once in the open water in Sardinia and, while that was beautiful, the constant fear of death slightly overwhelmed the whole experience.
Then I got to Sydney and I decided again, I’m going to have to go diving in Sydney. We’ll be in Koh Tao soon where the water is beautiful and I want to be able to dive there safely. I had to finish what I’d started, so I signed up for my four open water dives. They agreed and told me I could do the pool dives again, just as a refresher. Joy.
Why, you may be thinking, do I choose to put myself through this. It’s not like it’s something I have to do so why? The reason I was doing it is the same reason I struggled with it so much: the fear. I needed to know that I could get through that barrier and come out the other side; to get to that point where something that made me feel nervous and uncomfortable would became something I actually enjoyed doing. There are so many times in life where you have to push through the hard part to get to the good bits. Once you can succeed at something you’ve struggled with it makes you work harder because you have that faith that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Though of course the night before I dived again there was no light. There was a dark deep sea beneath me sucking me in. I was tossing and turning as I dreamt of all the possible ways I could die.
At the start of the next day Garry, our diving instructor told me that as I was already an expert (wink) I’d be more of an assistant on the pool dives. I shrugged and smiled. Bless your cotton socks Garry.
I decided though that instead of showing my panic I would instead just fake confidence. So there I was nonchalantly sinking down, removing my regulator like a pro, looking oh so comfortable in the water and at some point, I’m not sure when, I realised I’d stopped faking it and I actually felt ok. Not amazing – let’s not get excited here – it was cold and uncomfortable and I’d much rather be on land, thank you very much, but I didn’t hate it.
It was about that time when of the other girls in our small group started really struggling to come to terms with the whole thing and after a few goes of trying to take her mask off underwater (for anyone who has never done this, be glad you never have to go through the horror of water rushing all over your face and trying to make its way into your exposed nostrils) she decided she couldn’t do it and she was going to sit it out.
I really felt for her. As she sat outside of the pool looking embarrassed and downcast I told her about me and “the fear” and how many times on that first pool day in London I wanted to cry and give up and forget this crazy diving business and how much I’d secretly wished that some secret ear disease meant I wasn’t allowed to dive.
“Being scared doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it,” I told her, “but it does mean you’ll feel prouder when you get there.”
I think the pep talk was more for me then her but it seemed to cheer her up a little, though she still wasn’t ready to get back in. Hopefully one day she’ll get there and if she doesn’t so be it, maybe it’s not that important to her.
I got through that day and the next and after four 50 minute open water dives at Shelly Beach. We saw rays and a lion fish and sharks and beautiful little fish and so much more, and then, I’d done it. I shook Garry’s hand, hi-fived the guys in the dive shop and walked away as a qualified open water diver.
The moment I was most proud of wasn’t the moment I found myself mastering the skills and passing the course. The real proud moment was when I found myself swimming through the water peacefully, calmly looking around me at the glorious new world I’d discovered and realising the knot in my stomach had unravelled, the lump in my throat had gone and the fear had vanished.
That, for me, was quite pivotal. Sometimes when I think: I’m never going to master the French language or should I give up on this writing business or I can’t do this or that, it’s hard. I just think: hold on, you learnt to do something that made you feel physically ill at the thought and what’s more you learnt to love it – you can do anything.
Thanks to Garry Bateman and Dive Center Manly for your teaching, your passion and the awesome dives. If anyone wants to learn to scuba diving in Sydney, get in touch with them. http://www.divesydney.com.au/
Do you have anything you’ve done while travelling that has changed the way you approach things back home?