This weekend I learned a great deal about what courage is. It’s knowing that scuba diving in freezing cold water is an absolutely awful and unpleasant experience because you’ve just learned it firsthand, and then still choosing to do the same fucking awful thing again the next day because you’ve signed up for it. And choosing to do it with a smile.
Why would anyone go diving in freezing cold water? For a while I was wondering why I’m doing this to myself. Even though I’ve been putting off this scuba diving course for way too long, nothing bad would happen if I didn’t complete it this time. I could make a deal with the diving school to finish it in the summer, start it again in a warm tropical sea, or decide that diving is not my priority right now. It never was anyway, at least until now.
Yet somehow out of all the possible ways to spend a December weekend I chose to get my ass wet in a freezing cold lake. Me, who fucking hates cold water from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know how they tricked me into this. That’s not something I’d normally do, and for sure not something I’d normally pay for.
In the morning before the first dive I realised what I actually signed up for, and what an insane idea it was. Putting my diving gear together, still safe and warm indoors, I started freaking out that I will freeze there, get sick, or do something crazy stupid and unsafe.
This wasn’t a totally baseless fear. With the first wave of freezing cold water over my head my mind went blank and I instantly forgot the basic stuff I learned at the swimming pool. I couldn’t even keep myself afloat above the lake bottom. Our divemaster suggested I complete the mandatory exercises and get the hell out of there as soon as possible. I ran back freezing, crying, and already terrified I’ll have to do the same thing again.
Then in the afternoon I passed the written test and had to decide what I will do next. I could either put myself together and complete that one last round of diving exercises the next day, or put it off for who knows how long. As much as I hate cold water, I chose to do this crazy ridiculous thing one last time, and to try having fun while I do it. Even if the ‘fun’ part meant crying and laughing at my own misery.
This second time I’ve postponed getting dressed till the very last moment in order to stay warm for as long as I could, put as much clothes as possible under my wetsuit, poured warm water all over myself, and ran into the lake screaming “I’M A FUCKING NINJA TURTLE!”. (Well, wearing the diving gear I totally looked like one).
It was still as freezing and unpleasant as the day before, but I no longer cared. Neither the blistering cold water, the diving mask fogging up, my breathing gear going bananas, nor losing a fin halfway through the exam would make me lose my nerve. I stayed on top of all these the things, and surprised both our divemaster and myself asking him if we can dive around for 5 more minutes (but no more!).
I was wondering why I’m doing this to myself, but I think I know now. This experience made me feel stronger and more powerful than I was before. I still despise cold water, but once I made a resolution to go back there even though it’s so awful, I stopped letting the fear overwhelm me. I’ve let fear paralyse me way too many times, and now I finally know I can be scared but still stay in charge.
Cold water isn’t the only thing in my life I’ve been dreading, but now I feel I am able to face all these things. Maybe not everything at once, and maybe I’ll need to ask for help many more times than I’m used to, but if I survived the scuba diving crash course, there’s not much more that can stop me. I’m a fucking ninja turtle after all.