My black fins dangled over the edge of the dingy white platform at the back of the boat. I peered through my foggy mask and stared down at the deep blue Hawaiian water. My body rocked from side to side as I tried to keep my balance from the waves splashing against the side of the craft. I gazed upon the seemingly endless ocean. It was time for the ominous night dive, the third of five dives I would complete to earn my advanced diving certification. Rays from the setting sun cast an orange shadow over my black fins. Holding my mask in place, I lifted my leg and plunged into the deep.
Fear consumed me as I peered into the water’s vast darkness. I was afraid of the unknown. Taking a leap into the water was taking a leap of faith. I did not know what I would encounter while underwater; the fact that I had no way at knowing is what bothered me most. Underwater, I was not in control. I feel comfortable when I have a plan for everything and am able to prepare myself for events in my life. In this situation, I could not prepare myself for what was to come; I could only speculate. This speculation led to my anxiety and fear about diving. I prayed I wouldn’t see a shark swimming eerily in the deep. Even though I tagged Leopard Sharks and Shovelnose Guitarfish the summer before, something about being immersed in their habitat made me anxious. I was not in control of the situation.
Bubbles floated upward as I descended deeper onto the rusty metal ship. The water absorbed the beaming white light of my flashlight like a wall of fog. My stomach flipped as I reluctantly let go of the safety rope and ventured out onto the wreck. I swiveled my head and waved my flashlight rapidly trying to illuminate the ocean, but the water never brightened as I hoped. I was among others, but alone with my fears. In the past, fears, whether rational or irrational, overshadowed and even prevented me from experiences. This time, however, I was determined not to allow my anxieties to disable me. This was my motivation for leaping off the boat platform.
Patrick, our dive instructor, motioned for me to follow him onto the wreck and toward a cavern. Heart pounding, I clenched my flashlight and peered into the nook. I expected to be attacked by a shark, but instead a wave of enthusiasm overcame me. Vibrant sea stars covered the walls as multicolored fish darted about. At this moment, I realized I would have been disappointed if I would have given up this opportunity. I could have stayed in the boat and not participated in the night dive, as I had originally planned to do at the beginning of the trip. However, in my gut I knew that I had to complete the dive. My hand stopped shaking, I took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled. I smiled, ear to ear, causing water to leak into my mask, and I beheld the natural beauty and remoteness of the wreck.
As I eagerly swam into the dimly lit abyss I found myself hoping a reef shark would be sleeping in the rusted bunk rooms. My attitude had changed dramatically in a matter of just ten short minutes.
My pent-up anxiety was subsiding right as Patrick motioned for us to turn off our flashlights. Resting motionless on the ship’s deck in complete darkness, I held my hand in front of my face, squinting to see it. An utter and intense blackness surrounded me. I felt as if I was sucked into a black hole and entirely engulfed. The only noise audible were the bubbles emerging from our regulators. I never have experienced such silence. I took a deep breath and tried to relax my mind. Suddenly, a sparkle of white flashed before my eyes. I saw the outline of Patrick’s hand moving up and down. I mimicked his movement and waved my hand ferociously, illuminating the water in front of me. More beautiful than the wall of sea stars was the phosphorous effect I created. I was in space; swimming with the stars in unexplored territory.
Flashlights back on, I followed Patrick to the safety rope, grabbed on, and headed for the surface. I looked down toward the wreck disappearing from my gaze. Not ready to ascend, I found myself saddened, hoping, by some miracle, a shark would swim past.
My head broke the surface. The sun had completely set and the moon illuminated our path. We swam around the boat to the ladders that were hanging down off the back, moving with the current. Waves lapped against my face and I tasted the warm saltiness of the water. I deflated my BCD (buoyancy control device) and kicked harder to avoid submerging. Reaching out for the moving ladder, I hoisted myself up out of the water. I sat down, my back sagging with the heavy weight of the steel tank, and sighed. A sigh of relief, a sigh of disappointment, and a sigh of satisfaction. I was relieved and disappointed that it was over and satisfied with the conquering of my anxiety.
After arriving home, I purchased a print saying, “no regrets” to hang on my bedroom wall. It hung on my wall all through senior year and into the summer. While packing up my things for college, I decided it would be a good thing to bring with me. Now, every morning when I wake up, I peer over to my desk and read the words “no regrets”. This motto reminds me of my dive experience. I believe trying something new, even if it’s scary, is better than not trying something at all. This dive, initially out of my comfort zone, proved to be an amazing experience and one of my greatest personal accomplishments. This dive inspires me to intentionally look for things that push me out of my comfort zone because I long for the feeling of overcoming obstacles and accomplishing goals that initially seem out of reach.