Sitting on the edge of the boat, with my scuba gear on getting ready to hurl myself backward into the great, wide ocean all I could think about was somehow when I land in the water I’m either going to lose my regulator (the thing you breathe through underwater) and drown, or I’m going to get swallowed up by a shark who’s just waiting for me to be stupid enough to jump in the water.
Both of these fears were completely ridiculous and unfounded. There were about eight other people already in the water, so if for some reason I lost my gear and couldn’t swim or breathe, one of them would have rescued me. My scuba instructor even asked one of the people in the water to come right next to where I was going to land so that he could comfort me once I was in the water. And secondly, since there were already eight other people dangling in the water, if a shark were going to attack, it already would have eaten one of the other divers…he wouldn’t have been waiting on me, I’m really NOT that tasty. But the fears still felt very real and thinking about them almost sent me into a panic attack.
As I sat there gripping the boat with my life, the nice people from Splash (the dive center that hosted the scuba class) reassured me that everything was going to be OK. I tried and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t going to die, but I had pretty much convinced myself that SOMETHING was going to go wrong. Then, one of the men on the boat grabbed my flippers and said, “do you need a push”? Ummm, NO! What I needed was a double shot of whiskey.
Now that my flippers were off the ground and my regulator and mask were securely fastened, and I had an entire entourage ready to save my life should anything go wrong, I started repeating to myself, “I can do this. I can do this.” And slowly, but surely I started believing it. But I still needed a push to get me over the side of the boat because there’s no way I was letting go of the boat unless I absolutely had to. Next thing I knew I had softly landed in the water and I was looking up at the sunshine glowing through the top of the water. I was not being eaten by a shark and I was not drowning.
Bobbing through the water waiting for my instructor I couldn’t help but think, “F*ck yeah! I’m badass!” Not because I had done anything special. I mean, I DID just watch eight other people do exactly the same thing I did. And not because I so gracefully faced my fear because I pretty much went in to the water kicking and screaming for my mommy – which is apparently what I do whenever I’m scared because it’s the same reaction I had when skydiving.
No, I felt badass because I didn’t let my fear stop me from doing something I’ve always dreamed of – swimming with fishes and getting to see the wonders of the ocean.
It might seem like I take chances and do crazy adventures all the time, so I must not have any fear. I definitely have fears of a lot of things. And sometimes those fears really hold me back from doing things that I want to do. But as I try new things that scare me, the less I become afraid of.
After my scuba adventure, my comfort zone had been stretched just a little bit further, and my confidence in my ability to do anything I put my mind to grew just a little bit. Am I ready to conquer Mt. Everest? No, definitely not. But I am ready to start reaching for some goals that I’ve been too scared to try because I’ve been letting the sharks scare me.
Today, I challenge you to create a no shark zone in your mind. Think about 1 thing that you would LOVE to do, but have always been to afraid to try. In the next month, be badass and try it!
Beginner’s Guide to Scuba in Placencia, Belize
Top 6 things you need to know before you scuba for the first time.
- Although my biggest fear about scuba diving was being eaten by a shark, you should know that there are very, very few sharks in Belize that are of the man-eating variety which is why I chose Belize to take my first dive.
- Bring a towel. Sounds simple, but I totally forgot my towel and it made for a chilly day out of the water. You can also probably ask the dive center for a towel if you forgot to bring one or your hotel doesn’t provide one.
- The ride out to the dive site might be bumpy. You’ll most likely be getting to the dive site by boat, and that boat could be pretty small. If it’s a windy day, like the day I went diving, you’ll probably be riding through the open ocean on some pretty big waves. This could lead to a very bumpy, very wet ride. Enjoy it! It’s all part of the adventure.
- I dove with Splash Dive Center and I would HIGHLY recommend them. Everyone was very nice and the dive team was very good. My instructor was very calm and patient and she showed me exactly how to do everything I needed to do. Even as I was holding on for dear life to the boat, she calmed me down and made me feel much better about the experience. If you’re diving out of Placencia, give Splash a try.
- Go slow. Before you head out to dive, you’ll need to learn several diving skills and you’ll need to get comfortable with the scuba equipment. Take you time learning all of the things your instructor is teaching you because once you’re out in the water you’ll feel much more confident and you’ll have a much better time than if you were freaking out because you forgot how to clear your regulator.
- The pressure change sucks. Around 10ft deep, my ears started popping and hurting very bad. The pressure build up really only got worse as we dove deeper, but I was able to equalize enough by popping my ears that I still had an enjoyable time. I’m writing this the day after I dove and my left ear still feels pressure, so if you have any kind of sinus congestion expect some pressure build up.