It’s been over a year since I went through a course to become SCUBA certified. I finished my final “open water” dive in March or April of last year. More on that later, but first some context.
When I was about 13 years old my family took a vacation to the Florida Keys, this was not a super monumental vacation since we lived outside of Miami at the time, but it was still a memorable trip. Although I grew up in and around beaches and oceans I had never been snorkeling and I had certainly never been near a coral reef. On this trip I got my first (and last) taste of the beauty and magnificence of coral formations. It was a fairly standard boat tour, loaded with tourists, a laid back captain who was probably more concerned with the safety of the marine life then of the tourists (knowing how threatened the world’s reefs are I’m not sure I could disagree with his priorities). As a somewhat neurotic 13 year-old I was naturally a little apprehensive the night before: I’m a great swimmer and have always loved the water but I had never gone 10 or 15 miles from shore and just hopped into the blue abyss.
I’ll always remember the beauty of that reef and how free I felt, slowly gliding over it. I was only limited by the necessity of staying on the surface the majority of the time to get air through the snorkel. So naturally I started thinking, “the only way that experience could have been better was if I could have stayed deeper for longer and not been so limited by the need for air.” I think it was at that moment when I, subconsciously, put ‘SCUBA certification’ on my bucket list.
Fast forward almost 10 years. My roommate, the consumate outdoorsman, had signed up for a SCUBA class offered through the university and was pushing me to join him. As usual, my fears about money and non-commital nature had me waffling for about a week until the deadline past and the decision was made for me without me having to use any degree of agency. I lived to regret that period because for 10 years I had dreamed of learning to SCUBA dive and a cheep and easy opportunity to learn with a friend had past.
Three years later: I learned that the school I had transfered too was offering a SCUBA class in the spring semester. Having learned from painful experience I was not about to pass this opportunity up and I hit the “submit” button on the registration form with righteous determination! I took the class and it turned out that SCUBA diving was everything I had hoped for and more. The freedom of feeling weightless and totally at peace, the calming but muffled sounds of the water all around, the overall feeling of having a superpower: breathing underwater. Diving is an amazing experience and if you have a chance it’s not something you should pass up like I once did.
After that class I began plotting how I could get back into the water as soon as possible, I planned to go on a few trips my local dive shop was having last summer. I thought about planning future vacations around the best dive spots. But I did none of those things.
Fifteen months after receiving my PADI Diver card in the mail I have not worn a BCD or stuck a regulator in my mouth. Although I have gone in the water all my attempts at breathing under it have, so far, been futile. So some may ask what the point of becoming a certified diver was, and why it was so important that I do it at that moment in time.
The truth is, I don’t regret that class at all, not for a minute. The certification is good for a lifetime and although my schedule and finances have not permitted any diving since I was certified I fully plan on diving in the future and seeing more of the world’s stunning (and tragically disappearing) reefs. However, even if I never go diving again in my life, which I sincerely hope will not be the case, I wouldn’t regret getting certified. We all do things in life that don’t end up panning out, we make plans that get canceled, learn skills we never use, get certifications for jobs we end up quitting. Were these things a waste of time? Only if we choose to see them as such. I had always wanted to be a diver, it was a major goal of mine. Of course it would be better if I could say I’d been on 30 dives in the past year: I haven’t, but I still have the skill and some small degree of knowledge about SCUBA diving. It changed the way I see the water, the weather and think about pressure and the human body. I think there is a lot to be said for pursuing your interests even if they don’t look good on a resume, even if they don’t change you life, even if you don’t end up becoming a guru. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something you’ve always wanted to do even if you have no chance of using it in the foreseeable future, just don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was a waste of time or money.