Early last year I found a bucket list that I wrote back when I was 15 years old. The person I was when I wrote it was very naive, only worked part-time and had limited ‘real life’ experience and yet when I read over it again for the first time in over a decade, I was overwhelmed with this sense that I had to fulfil it.
I decided to post it on the blog as a constant reminder that ‘I’m too busy’ isn’t an adequate excuse to just give up on actually seeking out new and exciting adventures.
The older I get the more I realise that this scrunched up scribble was insurance for my future self; a way for me to ensure I don’t become one of those ‘grown-ups’ who is trapped in the rat race, always complaining that life goes too fast and everything is too difficult.
Flash forward 11 years and I just ticked off another item on the list: Scuba Diving.
Having read it on the list, for my birthday last year, my boyfriend bought the both of us our PADI open water diver course and 12 months later, we finally got around to doing the 2-day course over the weekend.
Waking up to the sound of rain smashing your bedroom window doesn’t exactly motivate you to jump out of bed and into a pool; especially at 7 am on a Saturday, but that was what we were faced with.
That’s when I started to feel a little uneasy.
I love swimming and being in the water so that wasn’t it, I think from having completed the theory component earlier, I was made aware of the risks that came along with it: ear damage, defensive sealife, and the whole being 15m underwater all playing a part.
We arrived at Abyss Scuba Diving, met our instructors and after the formalities of the morning, we jumped on the bus and headed over to the local community pool; and it was here the mental struggle stepped right on in. The physical exam of swimming 200m and subsequently treading water for 10 mins was a wake-up call of how unfit I am.
We set up and disassembled the equipment four times, just to ensure we had our head around what went where and why. We picked up the backpack with all the tanks and tubes, all 16kg of it, and jumped into the pool- that’s when I felt my heart-rate increase just slightly.
The first skill required us to kneel on the bottom of the pool with our breathing tube in but no mask on. The instant I let go of my nose, I’d forget to keep breathing through my mouth only and rush to the surface in a coughing fit.
In hindsight, it seems so ridiculous that I couldn’t do it, but in that moment I was totally overwhelmed with a sense of defeat; the “I can’t do it” and “I want to get out of the water” running through my mind on repeat.
My boyfriend had spent quite a bit of money on the course and I didn’t want to just give up on the first skill of the day. I didn’t want to look like an idiot so I was internalising the whole thing. Looking calm on the surface but panicking on the inside.
There was a juggling act between mental and physical and the idea of mind over matter was definitely put to the limits.
From time to time we are faced with a situation and our fight, flight or freeze response kicks into gear. You’re not taught in school how to overcome one response and flourish in another.
To cut a long two day story short, at each moment I felt overwhelmed or anxious or wanted to throw my hands in the air in defeat, I took a moment to pause, addressed why I was feeling this way, rationalised it and although not feeling confident about the issue, I felt confident I could overcome it.
I found an incredible quote from Nelson Mandela that I will keep top of mind for the rest of my life:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
It’s ok to feel scared from time to time; it just means we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. Look back to your 15-year-old self and wonder what adventures they planned for the future.
Are you making the “I’m too busy” excuses? Life is short and time flies, we know this, but it’s up to you what you fill your life with.
– tgfs x