Before I Go Into Learning Scuba Diving: My Fears and Expectations

I did something. I called up a scuba instructor (also a dive shop owner) nearby my city and told her I was interested in learning to get certified. I’ve always had scuba diving on my bucket list, so I do feel eager to be certified and this wasn’t something out of the blue. I thought about it for a while, but more so seriously since I started working a full-time job because now I can think about keeping up with the expenses for it. I’m like what most people will feel when they are expecting something: I’m excited but nervous. Excited because I get to try a new experience and nervous because there are fears I need to overcome.

Update: I did pass the scuba written exam and I learned a lot of the basic techniques and practiced diving while taking a few classes. But, I am no longer pursuing scuba diving because of a few things. I’ve decided I’ll put it on hold and pursue it again later when I feel confident again. A lot of my fears have put me out from continuing with it such as this one time, I had an earache for weeks and I almost drowned once in scuba school. It’s still in my bucket list to one day get back to trying scuba diving and actually go diving in nice spots, but for now, I’ve put it on hold.

However, you can continue reading if this is something you’re interested in getting into trying. I would never want to discourage someone from not trying it. It’s been one of the best unique experiences I’ve done with no regrets, but personally, I wasn’t ready to go further into it. Also, there’s always another time until it feels right for me!

Yesterday, I started my first “try scuba” experience before I start my scuba classes and it was interesting! This introductory lesson is to help me recognize if I want to continue getting certified by trying it out physically and I really did end up liking it and I am ready to take that next step.  I learned how weird the sensation feels from breathing out of a regulator and an oxygen tank to help me breathe, how I have to carry a 65-pound equipment on my back which translates to weightlessness in water, how to clear your mask, what to do you if your regulator accidentally gets out of your mouth, how to use your buoyancy control, how to put on and remove the vest, and how to swim with fins underwater. I even got to the very bottom of that pool at 12 feet (that’s how deep it goes)! 

These things would all need practice and even though my instructor said I did a good job for my first time ever, I can see myself having to work on my breathing, swimming with fins, and even more technical skills that come with it. Scuba diving is something I was thinking of learning and being certified in from the last 6 months (pretty much when I started my job!) but there were things that made me even more warm up to that idea before then…

It was always on my bucket list.

I grew up around oceans and beaches as I’m from New Jersey, so I am no stranger to the ocean. I would swim around rough choppy water in the ocean a lot and even dive with head in huge oncoming waves. The Jersey Shore will always be considered home to me in some way or form. It made me appreciate the water but I knew I always wanted to see more. I know there’s a world under my feet beside the occasional swim above the surface and trying to save myself when waves push against me.

Swimming in Belmar Beach, New Jersey at night

70% of the surface of our Earth is covered by water. So yes, there IS so much to see. There is certainly another world under the sea and I feel like I’ll be missing out on a lot of exploring. I’ve always found myself drawn to the sea, from having a hard time leaving the beach when I would spend hours at a beach day between my friends and I to driving early before sunrise to see it by the beach in my home state to having the desire to see the ocean up close whenever I’d travel to a location with an ocean.

What pushed me to do this: I was inspired by my own experiences and from what I’ve watched.

I was inspired by my own experiences.

I completed the 52 Hike Challenge in January 2020 and I mention a lot on this blog that I fell in love with this outdoor recreational activity of hiking. If you read my blog post there, I do mention that I felt like after participating in the challenge that I feel that I can feel more up to doing anything and I feel like I want to involve myself in new activities. I definitely feel like a big part of doing the challenge helped me to find confidence in that and I’ve definitely felt like I can be physically strong too.

One of the biggest motivators as to why I felt this is the time to try learning and being certified is because I live in one of the hottest states in the country (you probably guessed it: Arizona). I can’t really go hiking during the summer unless I want to push myself to wake up at the first sign of dawn. I just don’t feel the same and as positive with myself if I’m not as active and being active became a big part of my life. 

My state absolutely has no beaches (and the closest ones are in California and Mexico) so of course, with being used to hanging out at beaches, I am craving the ocean A LOT. I miss the feeling of being in the sun, drenched of saltwater, exfoliation from the sand, and then going home feeling refreshed and makes me want to sleep early from exhaustion. I would love to feel that weird sensation of water and what feeling of calmness it can bring to your body. (Here is an interesting article on Outside Online about how water can benefit the brain as proven in numerous studies.)

That being said, for someone who goes through struggles of their own mental health, being in the water is absolutely therapeutic and I want to cope with mental recovery at times, especially when things get too hard. When your body is submerged underwater, you can actually feel similar effects to meditation as your body will feel levels of epinephrine and dopamine.

The last motivator that hit me hard was that during this COVID-19 pandemic and being quarantined for most of the time, and not that I knew this before but it makes reality fall more “in your face”, but life is so f*cking short. On my bucket list that I wrote here, I wrote “Get my certification in scuba diving and go scuba diving in a few locations”. If we’re going to make a bucket list and if you can make it possible even when a pandemic is present, then make that happen! 

It probably wouldn’t have been realistic for me to try to pursue it last year because I wasn’t 100% on this idea at all and thought it was far-flung. Also, I believe things will fall to your lap when the timing is right. For me, it’s the timing when I could actually afford to do such activity and when I’m a little more warmed up to going in for it.

Of course, you want to be responsible with your bucket list items and choose to do something that won’t cause too much trouble. 

I always knew I was always drawn to the ocean like no other. Aside from talking about me growing up by beaches, I used to take some vacations doing water activities like snorkeling in the Caribbean and witnessing beautiful fish and coral reefs, swimming underwater in the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea in Italy to see coral reefs and crabs there, and even swimming under the stars in the water in those locations was also one of my most beautiful experiences. With scuba diving, I can definitely see myself being closer to the ocean than ever before.

The spot where I went to swim under part of the Mediterranean Sea in Naples, Italy
Snorkeling in the Bahamas

I was inspired by what I’ve watched.

For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to watching YouTube videos of scuba divers even before I knew I wanted to try it. I don’t know if it was the subconscious part of me just liking what I saw. I am not even a scuba diver (yet) but watching scuba divers discover what’s under the water is so educational and makes you feel like they bought you to their adventures.

Some of the scuba divers I watch on YouTube are DALLYMYD (also known as Scuba Jake) and Adventures With Purpose (Jared Leisek). And my most favorite and one I’m obsessed with, I love being educated by Jonathan Bird’s Blue World TV series.

Here’s one of my favorite exploration videos from Jonathan Bird:

They’ve searched for treasure, discovered different fish species up close, find underwater structures, and they have even been able to recover dead bodies and weapons. I think that’s pretty cool and adventurous, don’t you think?

From my blog, you can tell that I love doing adventures where I can learn about the world around me from history to geology to just epic places that can only be reached through long road trips or hikes. I will be missing a huge part of exploring places if I don’t try scuba diving and take on some adventures using this technical recreation activity. Like I said, our earth is made of a big percentage of water!!!

My fears

So now if you made it this far, you learned why I’m so eager to try to get certified in scuba diving. But of course, with every dream you have, you don’t just always get into it without having some fears.

What puts lots of people off from trying scuba diving aside from the expenses it comes with is the dangers and risks you have to take.

When you scuba dive and are getting certified for it, you are expected to follow all these rules and regulations that will be trained to you so as long as you follow them and listen well into your instructors, you will reduce risks. But, also in scuba diving, which requires you to go in depth underwater beyond the surface, your body will start to experience changes and you get a feel for sea-level. 

As I’m reading, you should never want to ascend quickly or your body has a risk of absorbing too many bubbles formed from your dives, which could cause a condition called decompression sickness. Decompression sickness, also known as “the bends”, can cause tissue damage and in extreme cases, it can kill you. 

And that’s only a few conditions to worry about that scuba diving can cause. There are other risks in scuba too: oxygen toxicity, carbon monoxide poisoning, possible lung overexpansion injuries, etc. The least concerning (but still a concerning one) could be ear infections and I only had experienced that once or twice when I was younger and it is painful to deal with. 

Some things I fear too is… “what if something goes wrong, what if I accidentally do something wrong?!” There are so many technical things to check up on and plan before diving and I know that’s one of the best ways to prevent accidents from occurring.

Those things are what scares me more about the recreation of scuba more than fear for marine life, but even marine life, most obvious being sharks, can be scary to experience in real-time. Animals can attack at any time, at any unpredictable time. 

Took this picture from the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto, Canada in 2017
Took this picture from the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto, Canada in 2017

But as much as I feel like I’ll be scared of marine life, I am still so fascinated to see them and what they’re actually like without just referring to Google photos, book pictures, or go to an aquarium. They are actually just one of the most incentive reasons as to why I want to learn to scuba dive!

And regardless of what I fear, I was told that everything you do has a risk and if I let those fears get to me more before I can try it, then I would probably wait longer or never to try it. 

You could never see your life unfold in front of you in great ways if you don’t chase or pursue what you’re curious about and see where it could lead you to. And with time and confidence, those fears will diminish. (I mean, would I have ever thought I’d even once attempt to do anything with solo hiking and then continue to do that…?)

And I have big plans with what I can do after taking this open water certification course.

I certainly do want to travel more and some of my travel destinations for the future have the ocean or beaches near them (pretty much all of Asia!) and scuba diving would be a perfect activity to do on my travels. I can see it being super awesome memories to look back on and it’s one way to travel around a location.

As I mentioned, I currently live in Arizona and my scuba instructor told me that Arizona has one of the best international airport hubs in the country so you can really fly out anywhere out of there. There’s also California and Mexico beaches you can drive a few hours away to. These are all great motivators to continue to get out there and explore.

I am aware though that scuba diving is no cheap sport and expenses do add up, but for something so different from compared to being on land, I think scuba diving will certainly have many benefits to it that will be worth pursuing furthermore.

I will share my journey of being certified in scuba diving so stay tuned!

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