Oh fuck. I’m already overthinking my last two Advanced Open Water dives – Wreck and Deep, nervousness growing. I am nervous not because of going underwater – I am now very comfortable underwater – but because I have never had a dive buddy I did not know and I have never been diving with a group. Granted, I didn’t know my folks from Raleigh my first dive trip in Curaçao but I never got off the boat! I couldn’t do it. So, I am spoiled – I love diving one-on-one with my instructors – I have confidence and comfort with them. But I never had just a regular dive buddy I do not know. I…don’t like this idea. But I know I must make the transition sometime and I must quit being a baby about all this. I must grow up if I am to master this hobby. And so. Into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of N.C. with sharks I go. Angela will become an adult this weekend. I am excited but, yes, I am scared. And I am finishing Enriched Air this week before I dive. 3 new things on me. Maybe I am trying to do too much too soon? What is this fire that has been lit in me? I cannot control it…it feels so good…stay tuned for how these dives go.
Category Archives: Move to Curaçao
This morning I found my dive journal from June, my 1st time in the quarry, my first Open Water checkout dive. It seems nuts now as I get closer to finishing AOW: “I keep reliving the feeling of dying, of drowning. I’ve been obsessed with diving for months. I just spent over $2000 on my own equipment before even getting in the water. Another $5000 on a 2-week trip to Curaçao and part of that to dive. I guess I will like Curaçao but I do NOT want to go. Because I am afraid of diving. I no longer need to move to the Caribbean for diving. I am cured of that need. I absolutely do NOT want to dive ever. Being underwater is a misery. The pressure is too much. I will not do it. But I had to try though. I will never return to that hellscape that is the rock quarry – Fantasy Lake my ASS. My God, thinking of being under that water, I cannot breathe. I am sweating, heart racing. No, diving is not for Angela.”
I also share this for folks who think they cannot dive. #nevergiveup
Sept. 28, 2019. I must confess. I was nervous diving into the dark, mucky quarry today in 5-foot visibility. The water had all the visibility of swimming in a chocolate milkshake. But, here’s the thing. Once I got down there under the water, it didn’t matter to me that I could barely see my instructor or my dive buddy. I had lots of tasks to do so I didn’t care if I could see. And I realized when I am focused on several tasks, my awareness around me expands. I feel my body floating and I enjoy the sheer act of being in the water. And much to my utter happiness, I always felt so comfortable and calm throughout the tasks – though I still take FOREVER to equalize. So, today I finished Peak Performance Buoyancy, Search & Recovery, and Underwater Navigation. And I completed everything on the first try (well, no, not true – some of the knot tying tripped me up). Next week, I will do Deep Dive & Wreck – off the coast of South Carolina – with SHARKS! Again, I am nervous because I am so worried because it takes me so long to equalize that I will hold everyone up. But I cannot wait to see my first deep wreck dive. Tonight, after we finished up the dives, we walked over to the dive shop bonfire on the other side of the quarry – a few of us sat around in the dark, drinking beer and talking about…well…diving and then dating and then love…but mostly diving. I like diving better than dating right now (that has its own stories coming up). I genuinely love the path I am on…I have found happiness and joy in this sport. And there is such an amazing support group and community around me. Little did I know how walking into my dive shop back in April to sign up for OW and the trip to Curaçao would change the path of my life. I believe there are no coincidences in life. Or maybe they are all coincidences. But this chain of events from then to now took me out of my comfort zone and a life I was settling for. These experiences reminded me of how adventurous and brave and wild and free I truly am at heart. I found myself again. I lost her somewhere…but never ever again. Ever.
So, I am already jumping into AOW this weekend – Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Nav. I bought a sweet Suunto compass for this. I’m going to be in a dank quarry with no visibility. Though my dive instructor buddy tells me this low viz is good for underwater nav because I can’t cheat – I have to be precise. I’m nervous because I am used to the crystal clear warm waters of Curaçao. Will I get it done?? Stay tuned.
I’ve become a total dork – my perfect night in is with this smelly dog and my brand new, shiny, beautiful AOW manual and taking notes in my hot pink spiral notebook. Also, I deleted all those stupid dating apps. Who needs boys when you have diving? What is happening to me?
3 years ago today marks the 1st time I ever visited the Caribbean. I was staying at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas, USVI. That same day, I tried out snorkeling for the 1st time ever right there in that bay. I LOST it trying to float and wear a mask and was sure I was would die in 5 feet of water (little did I know I would have the same panic learning to dive just 3 years later). But that same day I got the hang of and from then on found myself heading all over the Caribbean about 3 times a year.
I knew from day 1 in the Virgin Islands I would live in the Caribbean and for 3 years I searched for which island was my soul mate. And then I landed in Curaçao this summer and we clicked and it was on. I loved the scruffiness, the everyday rawness of it, the desert, the European, Dutch precision and logic juxtaposed with the magical realism of the Caribbean. And I loved the clarity of the water, the diversity of the island, the fact there weren’t a lot of Americans swarming around yelling about sports (like in Aruba, which i visited once and I feel ambivalent about). The fact that folks in Curaçao are serious about diving, the arts and vibrant cultural scene and that it is big enough not to feel too confining (though, it’s small enough that everyone is only 2 or 3 people removed from having banged one another LOL – you gotta limit the sex or you will run through eligible partners real fast). Funny, this memory of my 1st time with the Caribbean pops up today because I…well, I’ll tell you later.
Well, gang, as of this morning – I have lost 25 POUNDS since my 1st trip to Curaçao this summer. It’s wild, it’s like the combo of 6 days a week working out and healthy eating has kicked my metabolism into some crazy overdrive. This is happening way faster than I ever expected – and I know the weight loss will slow down. But for now, I am doing this and committed to digging way down deep to achieve my goals. There’s a lot of dark, unresolved shit down there in the deep dark places I gotta go to dig deep, but this is how you clear out the soul and spirit. And as you know – I want to get to the point I have nearly no weight on that BCD.
First, I’ll tell you I am documenting my dive journey so that one day I can look back at the PROCESS of learning to dive. If I ever get to professional instructor level, I want to be able to recall the heavy psychology behind learning to breathe and move under water. Got it? Good.
So. Over the weekend, I signed up for AOW. Still in the fever and warm and fuzzy feeling of finishing up OW in Curacao last week, I could not wait to get back into the water. Back in Raleigh, I headed straight to my dive shop and signed up (not just for that but for a wreck dive in South Carolina and for a trip to diving trip Bonaire that is coming up soon). When I got home with my new AOW manual in hand, I flipped through it, wondering what all this cert would require of me. And I found that I have choices in what I want to pursue and specialize in – it felt like CHRISTMAS! Oh my God, I thought, I’m going down a rabbit hole and I don’t care. I’m going in with everything I have (and, it appears, with all of my hard earned money – pursuing this sport at full speed ahead requires, I have discovered, a serious outlay of cash. But the thing is, I don’t want to spend my money on anything else BUT diving. So this all works out. Also, I want to get as far as I can with diving BEFORE I move to Curacao so that I hit the sand running.
So what are my choices? I know for sure I want Fish I.D., Underwater Nav, Boat Diving, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Digital Underwater Imaging, Wreck Diving, and, yes, I want Search and Recovery. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I want to set myself up for eventual professional level. I know, I know, Angela, slow down, enjoy the ride. But I will tell you this – I’ve engaged in a lot of things in my life and I have never felt this passionately about anything in my life. I want to define it, reign it in, control the desire and passion. But I can’t. So I am just going to roll with it and dive deep deep into my soul, heart, and the blue, blue sea. I want this more than anything I’ve wanted in a long time. And I aim to get it all and take everything I can from this journey. And I will have some failures and anxiety and panic along the way. But that’s okay. That’s how we grow – by pushing our limits and blowing through the things that scare us.
[Diary from before I went to finish OW – I was diving to gain confidence in the water.] Sept. 3 – I DID IT! Today I had my very first full dive just for fun my lovely divemaster Laura at Coral Estates in Curaçao. At this point I have the Scuba cert. Afterwards, she said I was so calm and comfortable in the water – that I did an amazing job. Though, I keep going a bit vertical which is making me kick harder. I felt so calm. And I will tell you why – 1) she frequently swam backwards and beside me to let me know her eyes were always on me 2) she had me review basic skills before we went out – I realized I was very comfortable with my basic skills which made me confident 3)she asked me to do something just for fun that will help later with Open Water – take off my mask and breathe with the reg while floating. It was so easy – I didn’t know I could do it. She then said – we don’t even need this today for having fun – but now you know you can do more than you need. I felt like a master when she said that. Again, she built my confidence. Before I knew it, we were at the reef and over the wall. I was able to completely relax and focus on the sea life. I saw a massive flounder undulating and dancing a full ballet in the water AND baby trunk fish and other stuff I don’t know what because I need a Fish ID course…I had so much fun and pure joy and I am at a new level of progress. I have never been so happy in my life. I cannot stop smiling. I sat at the beach bar after by the dive shop and sipped a gin and tonic, watching the sun set and feeling like a million dollars. One thing I have learned about diving for myself –I must build confidence at my pace – and that this whole process is one of building and scaffolding. Oh, Curaçao, I love you.
Angela’s Diving Diary, 1st week of September: couldn’t dive today. I spent so much money coming from the U.S. to Curacao to dive and scope out real estate to move here. But I came mostly to dive. And I learned a lesson – a valuable one – about the respiratory system. As some of you know, I quit smoking a few years ago. But a few nights ago I went out here in Curaçao and ended up smoking WAY too many menthol cigarettes. When I get a few gin drinks in me, the desire to smoke a cigarette comes on strong. Way strong. Drinking and smoking always used to go hand in hand for me. So I started smoking cigarettes that night like I needed them to live.
And all of that smoking fucked up my throat – I wasn’t used to it. That combined with 2 days of breathing compressed air from diving led to extreme irritation. I called the DAN medline today to ask if I should dive and received quite a lecture on how very bad it is for a diver to smoke and to not do it anymore. I was told all of the biological effects on the lungs and how that didn’t jive with being underwater. She said I may even end up with a respiratory infection and to not dive until it is checked out.
I’ve worked too hard and spent too much time and money to be a diver to mess it up with something this stupid. I do not want to ever smoke again – ever. It is NOT worth it and not part of who I am anymore.
I think I thought I could incorporate some of my old lifestyle into my new one, but it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – the 2 do not go together anymore. I am not the same person I was – I used to love to party and be out all night and smoke all the cigarettes. But I don’t know, I ain’t feeling it anymore. Partying like I am 35 just sounds exhausting to me. And no good for my diving goals.
I have learned so much about who I am by being on this island and by diving. And those cigarettes must go FOREVER! I cannot believe I went there and I am kicking myself – these stupid things screwed up my Open Water certification plan today. I am really pissed at myself. #dontdostupidstuff #ilovecuracao #nevergiveup #girlgetyourprioritiesstraight [Editor’s Note: I did finish OW the next day, but still lost a day of diving in paradise because of smoking.]
Earlier this morning, a co-worker asked me how was my trip to Curaçao. I told him about finally getting Open Water and how this has inspired me to further immerse myself into the world of diving and ocean conservation. He told me about how much he used to love diving and that he got into it from a good buddy of his.
Jim: Yeah, my friend loved diving. He was obsessed with it. We worked in IT together at Verizon. He got sick of working in an office. So he decided to quit it all at 50 years old.
Angela: No shit, that’s awesome. To do what, be a dive instructor?
Jim: Well, to be part of a dive crew on a boat in the Caribbean.
Angela: At 50 years old? That’s some tough grunt work. Damn.
Jim: Exactly, he found out real quick that being on a dive crew is a young person’s game. Even though he was really fit and super healthy. He said he just couldn’t keep up the daily hustle.
Angela: So what did he do? Seems like the best thing to do when you get older is become a boat captain or maybe maybe run a dive shop. He could still have been an instructor.
Jim: Nope, he gave it all up and moved to Texas and became a cattle rancher. He’s still doing it. Loved it.
Angela: WOW. Well, the thing is, he tried out his dream for diving. Found out that wasn’t for him long term. At least he went for it. And then he went for another dream. Sounds like your friend knew one thing for sure – he was never going back into an office.
Jim: Exactly. I wish I could do what he did.
Angela (laughing): Jim, what the fuck are we doing here? Let’s just walk out right now. Let’s do it.
Jim: God, I wish we could. But, money, Angela. Money. Bills. Mortgages. Cars. Health insurance. RETIREMENT PLANS. That’s real life, Angela. Not scuba diving and cattle ranching.
And so ended my conversation with Jim. I’ll take diving and cattle ranching over life in an office any ole’ time. It’s ALL real life. But Jim has some legitimate points and concerns about making big life changes when you are older and feel you have more to lose. Stay tuned.
#nevergiveup #ilovecuracao #girlsthatscuba
Gurl, WHAT? FITNESS GOALS UPDATE: sorry, gang, for not updating while in Curaçao on fitness. As most of you know, since I did my first dive in Curacao back in June, I realized I wanted to get into much better shape to improve my efficiency in the water. That led me on a fitness journey over the past two months of working out 6 days a week, doing both weight lifting and cardio. And eating lots of raw fruits of veggies and cutting out carbs and down to nearly no alcohol.
So, back to the update since my recent return from Curacao a week ago. I lost weight and gained muscle. Somehow, despite a few nights of overindulging in gin and stroopwafles, I still lost 2 pounds while I was there. How? a lot of diving, I worked out at the hotel gym a few times, a lot of swimming, and maybe a couple other activities I won’t detail here. All that is to say, I am still right on track for my fitness goals. AND – the main thing was that after 2 months of working out, I got OW with 4-6 pounds less weight in my BCD (thank you to my wonderful dive instructor there for ALL that pain-in-the-ass adjustment) and I felt so much stronger in the water than before. And after all, better diving is what kicked all of this off. My head and heart are still in Curaçao (from the 1st day I ever visited). BUT MY ASS IS IN RALEIGH – and I gotta get back in the gym hard. #nevergiveup #divinggoals #ilovecuracao Because I have a lot more diving to do and I aim to use nearly no air