Four Life Lessons I Learned from Scuba Diving
Learning how to scuba dive in Oahu has been an absolute dream. I never could have predicted the friends I would make and the breathtaking experiences I would have. More than anything, my recent scuba diving adventures have taught me about myself and this crazy world we live in. Following are four life lessons that I have learned from my time underwater.
1. Work Smarter, Not Harder
This has always been one of my very favorite expressions. When people are pursuing a specific goal, they will often give their all to accomplish it. Like someone trying to move a mattress into a small bedroom. They may push it from the back, shoving it as hard as they can, knowing that with the right amount of force, the mattress will bend the right way and make it into the room. This is working harder.
But maybe the mattress isn’t moving because of a lack of space, not a lack of strength. If this person were to take a step back and evaluate the situation, they would realize that with the right strategies, tools, and angles, the mattress will move quite easily. This is working smarter.
Scuba Diving is much the same. When underwater, covered in heavy and expensive gear, it is always best to think through your actions rather than forcing them. For instance, if you feel yourself starting to float to the surface, a natural reaction would be to work hard against this. Start flailing your arms and trying to rotate yourself downwards, kicking without much strategy.
Spoiler alert: this is a bad idea.
Instead, in this situation you need to work smarter. Deflate your BCD. Remember to equalize your ears. Stay calm and breathe slow, which will maintain your buoyancy. Having a strategy is always a better idea than flailing and hoping for the best.
(Side note: this is one of the many reasons that certification is important. You can’t be a good diver without learning the strategies.)
2. Even when you are in control, you are not really in control.
Scuba diving can be incredibly disorienting the few times you experience it. You enter a new world, where your body responds differently to both internal and external factors. Life under the water is completely different than that on land.
The ocean is a powerful and majestic queen in her own right. While in the underwater world, there is only so much you can actually control. Of course, you learn skills such as how to breathe, how to move, how to react to surprise or emergency situations. But ultimately, your humanity puts you under the control of the sea.
There is only so fast and so far that you can swim against a strong current. Only so deep that your body can handle going. Only so long you can survive with broken or improper gear.
This may sound scary, but in reality it is beautiful. For someone to be a good diver, they must be humble. They must understand that the ocean sets the stage, and she is allowing us to act within it.
Humans have become far too cocky on land. We take control of every resource and species we encounter. We use and abuse everything around us, including other people. So often, we make very specific and detailed plans of our lives, as if we are in control of them. But…we aren’t.
At the end of the day, we are all pawns in a game that the universe is playing. One small thing, out of our control, can change our entire lives. We are at the whim of something far beyond our control and understanding.
Scuba diving reminds me of my humble position as a mere human. I am a better person because of it.
3. The people you surround yourself with make all the difference in the world.
During my Open Water Diving course (the first level of certification), there was one skill I really struggled with: removing and replacing my mask underwater. I could fill my mask with water and blow it out, but there was something about removing it completely that filled me with anxiety and panic.
I spoke to my instructors, my husband, and even my therapist about this. Logically, I knew that I was not in danger. Nothing was going to happen when I removed my mask. I could still breathe, I could still see (not as well, but somewhat), and I was surrounded by trained divers that knew how to keep me safe in any situation. Yet, for whatever reason, I had a panic attack whenever I took off my mask.
I tried multiple times in shallow water. Every time, my panic resulted in me shooting up to the surface and gasping for air. I usually also started crying, and had a hard time catching my breath. It was terrible.
I tried doing it deeper under water, thinking that I would not be able to escape by rushing to the surface. But I tried anyways. It was so dangerous, and so stupid, but I panicked and reacted by launching myself up, losing my regulator, and not being able to breathe. It was scary and stupid and honestly, pretty embarrassing.
But it taught me a wonderful life lesson.
When I reacted this way in the deep water, my instructor was there with me and saw it happen. He shot himself up to the surface right alongside me. Before I even realized what had happened, he was next to me and inflating my BCD so that I would float on the surface. I was crying and hardly breathing, but he was calm and collected. We went back down with a plan.
After I collected myself, I was ready to try again. I knelt on the bottom of the ocean, while my instructor knelt in front of me. He helped me to find a calm and steady breathing pace. He asked if I was ready, and let me say no multiple times. Then finally, I removed my mask. He grabbed my arm, holding me in place and letting me know that he was there, that I was safe. I sat there and felt the panic in my chest, but reminded myself over and over that I was okay. My breathing was shallow and labored, but I was breathing! I stayed like this, just breathing through my regulator, until my body realized that it was safe. Everything was okay.
I put my mask back on my face and blew the water out. My instructor, and all the other divers with us, clapped and gave me high fives. It was an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
There is no way that I could have done this without my instructor. Seriously. Not a chance.
I tried so many times on my own, and failed every time. It was only when I had a partner that I was able to succeed. Someone to remind me that I was safe, to show me patience, and to hold me in place while I fought through my panic attack. (This is probably a good place to remind everyone how important it is to dive with a buddy!)
Yet again, this very important lesson I learned in diving translates to life on land as well. Everything that you do will be made better by those around you. Sometimes, they may only be possible with the right people around you. It is so important to surround yourself with people that make you feel safe and build you up to be a better person.
4. There is always more to discover
This lesson seems so obvious that I almost don’t even need to say it! But the more that I am reminded of my humble position as a human, the more this life lesson sinks in. (Pun intended.)
Every time I go diving I see a new type of fish, or piece of coral, that I’ve never seen before. I will move my body in such a way that will feel different than I’ve felt before. I will visit a new piece of the ocean, or a new corner of the world, that I never had the pleasure to experience before.
There is still so much of the ocean that hasn’t been discovered. I am not going to be the one to make any scientific breakthrough discoveries, but I experience personal discoveries every time I put myself out there and go diving.
Life has so much to offer for those that decide to indulge in it. We have millions of opportunities every day to discover and experience something new. It seems as though we sell ourselves short far too often, thinking that we aren’t good enough or aren’t worthy enough to try something new. To travel to a new country To cook a meal with an exciting new ingredient. To ask the cute barista on a date. To ride your bike down a back road you haven’t seen before. To join a book club.
There are new discoveries to be made around every corner! So swim around the coral, or bike around the block, and let yourself experience more of life than ever before.