This past weekend, I went SCUBA diving with my mother and father. We went to a place called Gilboa Quarry, and I would tell you where that is, except that I don't really know. All that I know is that it is in Ohio, and is in the middle of nowhere.
The quarry itself is quite large. On the surface, it looks very serene and peaceful, but it's underwater where the fun happens. On Friday night, it was raining really hard, and it was about 9:30 pm. We decided that we didn't want to camp that night, which had been our original plan, so we stayed in a hotel. The next night though, we camped.
Before I describe the actual diving part, let me stress that the land was very very very cold. The temperature was barely above freezing level during the day. Saturday night, I was wearing six layers of clothing and snuggled in a pretty thick sleeping bag, and was still very cold.
So now knowing that part, imagine having to change into a bathing suit, then struggle for about ten minutes to put on a thick rubber wet suit. Not a pretty picture, eh? But we got through it and my mother and I headed to the docks to gear up.
The water itself was warm. Compared to the land temperature, the quarry felt like a big, large, warm bathtub. Our dive master, Dick, took us to a platform about sixteen feet down, and we showed him our mastery of skills like taking our masks off and sharing our extra regulator with our dive partner. He then took us around a bit, and we saw what underwater life was like. For starters, there were fish!! There was also a bunch of stuff that had been sunk to make the quarry a bit more interesting. There was an airplane, a motorcycle, and a school bus all covered in slime and surrounded by fish. It was actually very cool.
Now at this point, you may be wondering what the title has to do with it all. Don't worry! I'm about to tell you.
This past weekend was a charity fund raiser for brain cancer research. Since Halloween is coming up, the underwater life is decorated with "scary stuff" like rubber snakes and creepy looking clowns. The idea is, that on Saturday night, you go night diving, and you get freaked out by all this stuff.
I was excited for the night dive. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. My mom and I decided that we were going to do it. A couple of weeks ago, we bought some flashlights to prepare us for this dive.
It was night, and people were already in the water when my mom and I got down to the docks. I was going to dive with a very gentle dive instructor named Jim, and my mom was going to dive with Dick. This way, we were one on one with an instructor. It was my second dive ever.
I got into the water, and honestly, it was nothing like I was expecting. You can't see anything down there. This fact might be obvious to some people, but it's completely different from anything you'll ever imagine. This fact that I couldn't see anything somehow freaked me out a lot. I didn't know how deep I was going, and I didn't know if I was going to bump into anything, and my dive computer wasn't lighting up like it was supposed to so it wouldn't tell me if I was deep or not. The first time I tried to go down, I failed miserably. I didn't know where I was, and had no sense of direction, and I kept on shining my light into Jim's face, and it was not a fun time. I went up and tried again, but going down the second time was just as bad as the first. Then Jim gave me another 3 pound weight because he thought that I wasn't sinking enough, and then the third time, I was able to stay down longer.
I got down, and was still really freaked out. Not by the stuff, but by the loss of my sense of direction. Jim held my hand, and that made it a little better, but not that much, because the added weight was making me sink more and I couldn't control my buoyancy (though, afterward, my mother pointed out that I could have inflated my BCD). I kept on having to kick a lot, and that was terrible because SCUBA is supposed to be a not-kicking-a-lot activity. Since my weight was pulling me down, I kept on hitting the top of the plane and the bus. Then my mask started to flood, making it harder to see the blackness, and it was awful. I was also breathing really really fast. I couldn't see, I had no sense of where I was, I kept on sinking, I couldn't control my buoyancy, I kept on running into things, and my mask was flooding. It was scary. It was frightning. I was starting to panic, and the thought of oh God, if you're going to take me please do it as fast as you can was entering my mind, when I signaled to Jim that I wanted to go to the surface.
I actually started crying on my way up because I was so disappointed in myself. I couldn't do it. I was scared, so I couldn't do it. I didn't like the thought of fear keeping me from something that I really wanted to do. I got out of the water, and started to cry even harder, and all the while, people were coming up to me saying that it was ok, and telling me that they hadn't lasted as long as I had on their first night dive, and there were professional divers who wouldn't go night diving. I took off my stuff, and got dressed in my six layers of clothing, all the while thinking about fear.
I think that sometimes, we humans like to think that we're fearless. We see characters in books who do brave things and who seem like they have no fear whatsoever. They have fears too. We see people climb Mount Everest, and go to the deepest parts of the ocean, and we think that in some magical way, we are fearless. But we're not. At some point, we are reminded of what we fear. I was reminded of what I fear. I fear loss of control, loss of direction, and that's part of a list that includes fear of regret and fear of lionfish. I don't like fear though. I don't think anyone does. But the thing that I don't like about fear is that it limits us. It limits us to what we know, and doesn't let us "expand our horizons." How can we grow if we aren't brave?
So, no. We aren't fearless. But conquering our fears, isn't that what we've been taught ever since we were little and afraid of the dark? I was scared of that night dive. I'm still scared of some stuff to do with SCUBA. I'm determined to get back in though, and I'm excited for my next night dive, whenever it is. I'm excited to prove to fear that I'm not scared of night dives anymore, and I'm excited to see what fear's next challenge for me is.