Well, hell. Just went to my dive shop to pay for the Bonaire trip that’s coming up and ended up writing a second check for a dive trip to Cozumel. I’ve been snorkeling with whale sharks off Cancun before but this will be a whole new ball game.
I have been told to expect some fairly strong currents while diving there. And, I’ll admit, diving for the first time in heavy current makes me nervous. Up until now, all of my dives (a grand total of 15) have been in very calm water. Well, I suppose I gotta test those waters some time. So, here we go!
I gotta confess, I am full-blown addicted now to diving. With each dive, my passion for it grows exponentially. As does the investment of my hard-earned cash. But I’d rather spend my money on dive trips and gear than anything else. I did not expect to fall for this thing so hard. I’m in love, I guess. And it feels good. Mighty good.
Oh, and I am finishing up the PADI Enriched Air course. I’m going to clock several more dives before I begin the Rescue Diver course. But I AM going to go for that certification fairly soon. The universe commands it and I gotta go where the spirit leads me.
Category Archives: Scuba Diving
Well, hell. Just went to my dive shop to pay for the Bonaire trip that’s coming up and ended up writing a second check for a dive trip to Cozumel. I’ve been snorkeling with whale sharks off Cancun before but this will be a whole new ball game.
Well, gang, finishing up AOW last week in the Keys led me to a crossroads. I know now for certain that I want to be a professional diver and instructor. My next step to this is getting Rescue Diver. Before I begin that process, I need to do a LOT more diving and further develop my situational awareness. At this point I have about 15 dives total under my belt. I am only just now becoming comfortable with myself in the water – I have a long ways to go before I am able to focus on others and keep a constant eye out for problem areas, what could go wrong, and what is going wrong – and then solving the issues.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been worried that I am too old to start down this path. Here in my 40s, maybe this is all just too crazy and I should go back into an office building and just keep cranking out spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Put on some pants and go to some board meetings. I have devoted my life to a career in communications, writing and editing. My background is in the energy, defense, and cybersecurity industries. But I’ve been talking to a lot of dive instructors who are quite a bit older than me who went pro at my age. And they are happy, happy people. So, negative thinking must be banished.
My dive shop here in Raleigh doesn’t offer the Rescue Diving course until next April (our quarry here is just too cold and gnarly in the winter). And that timing is perfect for me. That gives me 5 months to just keep diving. So that’s what I plan to do.
I am going to read everything I can about diving, start on the content part of the coursework, and, like I said, dive. Also, I plan to take a Zen, wellness approach to diving so I am going to take some coaching, meditation and wellness courses to round myself out as a supportive, inspiring, safe instructor who leads by example and helps people find their path to happiness in the water.
Ah, but where to do all of this diving during the winter? I think the cheapest, easiest way to clock the dives and see wonderful sea life in reasonably warm water is to do my diving in Florida. So, now the hunt for where I’m going to dive for the next three months begins…I need to find a dive shop that isn’t focused on the cattle call of packing a ton of transient divers and cranking them through. The hunt begins…Yee haw!
If anyone has a dive shop they love and recommend down in south Florida, let me know – hit me up on this blog’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/scubadivingdivaadventures/ – or email me at email@example.com.
I can’t sleep – it’s 4:20 a.m. and I have been up all night online planning out my next dive trip. Here I am, after only having completed 15 dives in my life, completely and utterly addicted to swimming and breathing underwater. And this brand new temporary Advanced Open Water (AOW) cert card is burning a hole in my wallet. Even though it has only been a week since my last dive, I am hell bent to get back into the water to continue improving my diving skills. Alas, I live in chilly North Carolina in the center of the state where we only have a freezing cold, nearly-no visibility dank quarry to dive in. True, we’ve got a lot of world-class wreck diving on our coast, but in November, nah, not going to happen for this heat-seeking Southern gal. For now, I’m all about the warm water diving in clear, calm seas.
I will confess something to you – I am deeply regretting not having discovered diving sooner in life. I’m in my 40s and I feel like I don’t have enough time left in life to catch up to folks who have been diving since they were little kids. I would love to build a life around diving, but I worry that I have aged out of developing a career around my new passion. That I can never catch up to match the professionalism and experience of folks who have been diving their entire lives so I will not be able to compete at a professional level because there just ain’t enough time. The thing is, though, that worry has me more determined than ever to develop my skills and confidence in and under the water. I am inspired and I aim to roll with that – into oceans the world over.
So, what went down in the Keys for my final adventure dive – Deep Diving – to finally finish up AOW? I went down with my instructor and two other experienced divers who were along to take pictures of the reef and sea life. One of the dudes in my group was sporting a $20,000 camera. That’s right TWENTY THOUSAND dollars. So, as you can imagine, he was hell bent to get the money shots while down in the deep water to get his money’s worth out of that set up. On the boat, his gear was laid out at my feet and I kept thinking, “Holy shit, I could buy a brand new car with this bag of gear.” But then I thought, “Nah, I’d rather buy plane tickets to go to Indonesia to dive. But still…”
This guy with the expensive camera is a lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale. He told me that he once took a year off from lawyering to live on his boat and dive. But, alas, he lamented, his diving habit forced him back to his highly paid job. Plus, he said he’s got a beach house in Key Largo he’s gotta pay for. Life can be so difficult, can’t it? I will say, he was really encouraging and never made me feel bad about the new diver in the group.
So, for the Deep Dive, we went down to about 85 or 90 feet. At this point in time, I’d only had about 12 dives total in my life. And I had only started boat diving a couple of days before. So, yeah, I confess, I was nervous as fuck. I kept telling myself – hell, girl, you’ve already been to 60 feet for Open Water, what’s 20 or 30 more? My nervousness had me breathing hard. And I realized that I didn’t really have a dive buddy down there – the other 2 divers were focused on taking pictures of all of the nurse sharks and sea turtles swarming around. And my dive instructor was focused on picking up some lobsters and spearfishing lionfish. I realized on this dive that there comes a time when you have to be comfortable with people darting around you and accept that you are no longer the center of your dive instructor’s universe – you will not be getting your hand held anymore. People get distracted and you have to be able to rely on yourself and no one else. I realized that I need to always make sure that I have ALL of the equipment I might need (safety sausage, knife, etc.) to handle things on my own – and not count on my divemaster or buddy to have packed it all. Of course, PADI teaches you this in the training courses – but no amount of reading compares to learning “in the field” and realizing out of sheer practicality what you need and what you need to do to make sure you live to dive another day. You gotta always stay focused should you find yourself on your own.
On this Deep Dive, I also realized how vocational AND psychological this hobby is (is diving a hobby or a sport? I’m not sure). There is something very deep and existential and intellectual about this exercise. That combined with the practicality and vocationality of it really appeals to me. God, I love diving.
So, anyway, I was breathing hard on this Deep Dive and, as you experienced divers know, I was using up air a lot more quickly being down so deep. I checked my air and noticed I need to go ahead and head up to my safety stop. But the other two divers and my instructor had about 15 more minutes of solid air time left and they were staying down. My instructor signaled for me to go up by myself. This was my first time on my own under water and my first time relying ONLY on my dive computer (and not an instructor pointing out to me) to make the safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes. I thought I would be panicked as hell, but, to my surprise, my knowledge training and past experience (limited as it was) kicked in and I thought, just follow the process you’ve learned and trust your computer. I was really calm and hyper focused on doing everything correctly. I will say, hanging there alone in that water with nothing to look at did make me start feeling like I was in a sensory deprivation tank. Not fun.
So, after 3 minutes, I ascended to the surface on the line. One of the boat crew informed me to wait a minute – don’t come to the ladder just yet BECAUSE THERE WAS A MASSIVE MAN OF WAR hanging out next to me. Sweet Lord have mercy. And, yet, I was calm and it didn’t bother me – I surprised myself. I simply trusted the crew to tell me when it was safe to come on board and floated calmly at the surface. Bottom line, throughout the entire dive, after many unexpected things happening, I waited for panic and stress to grip me – but that never ever happened.
If you had been with me back in April when I couldn’t even descend 2 feet without completely panicking and freaking out, you would not believe this was the same woman in the water now finishing up her AOW. The flip switched for me when I finally conquered mask removal. I know, I know, crazier things will eventually happen in the water and real stress and panic can happen at any time – but I no longer let the worry of that deter me. I’ll deal with it – and I WANT to deal with it so that I can become a safe and skilled diver capable of teaching others.
So, what’s next for me? I’ve got to get around to finishing up my Enriched Air course. And, I am ready to start looking at the Rescue Diver course. I’m going to go ahead and get re-certified in CPR in the next couple of weeks (my certification lapsed last year) and start the online coursework for Rescue. I definitely plan to go professional. I cannot help myself – I can think of nothing else but diving. I am humble about my (lack of) ability and experience and grateful for being able to dive – and I want to maintain both that humbleness and gratefulness throughout my diving life. Diving has, in fact, changed my life – caused me to push myself in ways I usually don’t do in the daily grind. And I’m gonna chase that thrilling and magical feeling to…ah, well, dear reader…I shall go where the current takes me.
P.S. I did decide that I don’t want to live in the Keys. It is more expensive than living on a Caribbean island, there is no job market for my career experience, and the water visibility is good but nowhere close to the clarity I have experience in the Virgin Islands and Curacao. That said, I am still considering a move to south Florida – I can easily get a great job, would be close to decent diving all year round and could easily get to the Caribbean from Miami. I could definitely work up to all of my professional certs in Florida. Decisions, decisions.
Okay, gang, scuba diving reconnaissance mission in southern Florida complete. Drove 12 hours to get home yesterday. No turkey for me n’ Tater. Writing up my thoughts on the diving down there, reflecting on getting Advanced Open Water certified, the service & business of diving. I will say, I have crossed off the Keys for moving there. I’ll tell you why in the blog. And why Curaçao is still top of my list. And why I now know I gotta move somewhere with great shore diving. Next up for diving? Bonaire trip booked and I am heading out to dive in St. Croix and in Indonesia. If you want to catch up on my new diver adventures, go to the blog. So far the “Sex With Your Dive Instructor” post has been the most popular. I love you perverts and salt water freaks ❤️❤️❤️
Today is the day down here in the paradise that is the Florida Keys. I am finally going to go for Deep Diving to finish out my Advanced Open Water (AOW) certification. There is no wreck dive scheduled today, so I won’t be adding that to the list, but I have finished the other four out of five required – Peak Buoyancy, Navigation, Search and Recovery, and Fish ID. Oh, and by the way, diving here this week – the visibility has been about 75 feet and the water about 75 degrees. Everyone is wearing wetsuits but me. I have good natural padding and have not been cold at all. My 5mm boots and rash guard are all I need.
For some reason I am nervous about today. Although I have already been diving at 60 ft a couple of times, I still am uneasy and I cannot explain why. I guess there is this fear that added depth means more things that can wrong and as a new diver, I am am still building confidence and figuring out my comfort zone. Thank goodness I at least clocked in my first very first boat dives (ever) in shallow water before going for Deep Dive from a boat. The combo of worrying about boat diving, diving with other people (until this week I have only been diving with instructors one-on-one), AND Deep Dive…well, that would have been too much multitasking for me. One thing I have learned about the diving process for me – slow and baby steps.
Yesterday, for our shallow dive, there were 27 divers on the boat plus the crew. At first I thought, “Oh, hell no. This is going to be a cluster fuck.” But it wasn’t – the whole dive crew did an amazing job managing us by groups. Down on the reef, I barely even saw the other divers. Now that’s a damn fine crew. I was sure I had a 90% chance of getting fins to the face – but it never happened.
So, diving with that many people was a good exercise in boat and dive etiquette for me – especially with that many people on the line getting back in the boat. I did learn that all divers look the same in the water in their black wetsuits – so if you are swimming in close proximity to other groups, be careful and pay attention to your buddy (always) and your group – before you know it, you can easily lead yourself and your buddy into another group. Luckily my divemaster was wearing a bright orange wetsuit and I could always see him. And, we were shallow, so I could still see all of the colors of fins that distinguished my group – all my crew had yellow fins (it was a lucky accident). Since you start to lose color the deeper you go, that tactic, at some point, becomes less effective. So, I found, your best bet is to pay close attention to your group and don’t dart off or get too far ahead without constantly checking where your crew is. I found out the hard way that you can lose sight of people fast.
So, dear reader, I will let you know how the deep dive goes today. And, hopefully, by the time you read this, I will be AOW certified. Or, at least signed off for it.
My very first boat dive, thoughts on newbie diving in the Florida Keys, and asshole divers on social media
Yesterday I finished up my very first boat dives as a new Open Water certified scuba diver. I’m down here checking out the Florida Keys to decide if I would prefer to move here instead of Curacao. It would be a helluva lot easier as an American to just pack up my stuff, put my dog in the car, and drive down to the Keys, where I could immediately start working without worrying about permits and residency. So, this diving trip down to the Keys is also a reconnaissance mission.
So, back to my first boat dive. Until yesterday, I’d only been shore diving in Curacao and in our murky nearly-no visibility quarry in Raleigh, NC. And I only had seven dives under my weight-laden dive belt. I’ll admit, I barely slept the night before the boat dive. I was so worried – not about being in the water. But about holding up the rest of the folks on the boat. I have trouble descending – it takes my ears forever to equalize. What if I panicked and had to ascend before everyone? Would it hold up the show and piss everyone off?
I will say, I was truly worried about being a new diver with a group of people I don’t know and who are focused solely on their own dive buddy or group. I was the only solo diver scheduled for the trip without a buddy. Another thing that increased my anxiety was reading some of the threads in these Facebook scuba diving group pages. Some of these guys – and they are always male divers – can get really nasty and judgemental in these social media groups – constantly bitching about how much it sucks to have to dive with new divers on boat trips and how much they hate dealing with newbies, etc., etc., etc. So many of these guys bitch and judge constantly in these groups – about being new, about the kinds of equipment people use (they are always bitching about and making fun of people who use split fins), about questions people have as they try to learn this new hobby. These nasty folks made me feel already more uncomfortable about diving – and I am in the phase of trying to build confidence in the water. I wonder if some of these people forgot that they were new once too. And that one of the attractions of diving is the community and comraderie of diving. If you are going to dive, don’t be a fucking dick.
Anyway. On to the boat dive. The boat crew and captain calmed me down immediately. My divemaster said he would be with me and we’re just going to focus on having fun and building confidence in the water. His calm, open demeanor calmed me down right away. He made sure I felt no shame in being a newbie and that I must not worry at all about anybody else on the dive – that everyone is certified and they are free to go do their own thing. So I am not holding anyone up. Also, all of the crew had tattoos so we spent a while comparing ink. Again, all of this made me comfortable and connected to the crew – which is important for me.
I have no problem or fear about jumping into the water, that’s fun. Except for the moon jellyfish floating all around – pretty common here in the Keys. And the day was perfect for my 1st boat dive – the water was so damn calm and placid that it was like a swimming pool. Unreal. The captain told me this is unusual for November in the Keys – that usually it gets quite windy. So, I wasn’t worried about my first time ever getting BACK INTO a boat with my dive gear on and trying not to be killed by a flailing metal ladder.
So, once I got in and went down (with my divemaster going down the line with me as I slowly equalized – dammit, I cannot easily or quickly get those ears equalized). I gotta tell you – I was FREAKED out by all of the people darting around me, above me and below me. I was so focused on not running into people and keeping people out of my space, I couldn’t focus on anything else – including the zillion beautiful nurse sharks swimming around me and the massive moray eel that was swimming up to and around the divers (evidently he gets fed a lot from other boats and isn’t afraid of people – he seems curious about them) and all of the lobsters hiding under the reef. As always, I overthink EVERYTHING and was crazy concerned about staying out of the way of people. I didn’t expect that to bother me as much as it did. And since I didn’t know any of these people, I really didn’t want them to think I was an inconsiderate asshole all up in their grill. I did notice that some folks don’t give a damn about other peoples’ space and just dart around like hummingbirds, bumping into everyone. I never want to be THAT guy.
One more thing – in November, the water is about 75 degrees and everyone had on wetsuits. I cannot stand to wear a wetsuit – I feel confined and like I am suffocating. So I decided to dive without one – I was never cold for one moment. Though, I do have some good natural padding to keep me warm. Again, I didn’t want to add one more thing to my list of things that I was uncomfortable about. Now, I only did shallow dives from the boat – not sure what a deep dive would be like. I am planning to finish deep and wreck diving here in the Keys to finish out my Advance Open Water cert. I’ll let you know how that goes. And if I freeze my ass off.
The problem with being so concerned about moving out of the way and being focused on where people are is that I also was trying to get a solid grip on my buoyancy. So, let’s say, you are trying to move out of the way of some dude lumbering about with a camera who is about to kick you in the head, well, you want to jet left but there is a giant coral formation a couple of feet in your path – you gotta be quick in the way you breathe to ascend a bit so you don’t kick or hit the coral. Again, as a new diver, multi-tasking is stressful – but it is so important to just jump into the fray and develop your skills. It’s like driving a car – you learn to do a lot of shit at once, operating on instinct to manage the obstacles around you. My entire first dive was focused on task managing so, like I said, I didn’t really fully get to appreciate the beautiful sea life teeming about me.
If I ever end up teaching diving, I will talk with my new divers about the “swarm” factor for their first boat dives – about group etiquette and what it’s like when a gang of people are around you checking out the reef and give them some idea of what to expect – but assure them they can only really worry about what they can see in front of and below them. And that over time, you’ll be able to immediately take in, assess, and appreciate everything going on around you – that includes people, sea life, and geography. Whew, there’s a lot to process in diving, but, even after only 10 dives, I can tell you from first hand experience, it gets exponentially easier with every dive.
For the 2nd dive, I went down on the line a lot easier – I was much more comfortable and took on the attitude “I cannot control what the divers around me are going to do – I can only be conscientious about what I am doing.” Once I accepted that mantra and accepted that yes, people will bump into one another and yes, you might get your mask kicked off, well, I was able to calm down and have fun. And I realized that I don’t have to follow my divemaster around like a scared puppy – as long as we can see one another and check back with “OK” now and again, I’m good to go. I will say, at some point in the dive, my nose got completely congested and I could not blow to clear my mask. The thing is, I didn’t panic. I get now why the mask clearing exercise for OW certification is so important. The pressure in my head got too intense down on the reef so I just slowly ascended until it was relieved. Not sure how to go about clearing out a full blown snot stoppage while diving – I was worried to blow too hard lest I hurt something (why does everything you say in diving sound dirty and sexual – I love it).
The captain and crew had also put out shark bait as part of some kind shark awareness program they are newly involved in. But, alas, only the nurse sharks came to check it out. By the way, the shark bait was iguanas – apparently they are overrunning the island and wreaking all kinds of havoc. So, I gotta say, it was surreal seeing iguanas floating all over the reef while I was down there. And, of course, you’re always a bit nervous waiting for a reef shark or a hammerhead to show up. But I was thinking, hell yes, bring on the sharks baby!
Afterwards, on the way back to the marina, I chatted with one of the crew members about how much calmer I felt on this 2nd dive. She told me she was watching me down there and that I look so comfortable and calm in the water. “I can see that you know exactly what you are doing, Angela, you’re just thinking too much about it. You’re overthinking everything.” And she was totally right. I cannot tell new divers to not overthink – I know that if that is how your brain is hardwired, then you’ll do it. But I can tell you, just keep plugging along – every single dive is about building up that confidence and comfort zone. About encountering some new element to diving, about dealing with the problems that pop up (and they will). What has been key for me is to take this slowly – do not get too ahead of yourself. You don’t have to get all of the certifications in 6 months (unless you, of course, somehow take to diving like a fish and have no issues – I am not one of those people). For me, diving is helping me face so many fears and move out of my comfort zone – and the reward is this magical experience of free floating up close with beautiful sea creatures who deserve our respect and care. I’ve developed a new love and appreciation for the ocean. And my interest in the business and psychology of diving is developing.
Oh, and, and one more thing. I LOVE boat diving more than shore diving – if you are doing multi-day diving, the crew takes care of everything. And, with this particular dive center – I do mean EVERYTHING. You can even leave your boots, mask, and fins and they rinse all of that off for you and set up for the next day. All you have to do is walk off the boat and grab a beer. Now that kind of service, well, that’s damn fine. So, onward and downward into the glorious seas shall I roam…thank you universe for turning me on to the world of diving. I only wish I has started as a kid and not here in middle-age – so much I have missed. But, I plan to make up for those lost years.
Move to an Island Lesson #79: Damn. Remind me NOT to hook up with anyone on these islands while I am down here checking out the Florida Keys. As you know from recent posts, I am checking this place out to decide if I would prefer to move here instead of Curacao – it would be SO much easier and the diving is fantastic. The visibility is nowhere near Curacao’s but still solid diving.
But, I digress. Just from being here a few days, I already ran into two people I know at the grocery store. These islands are small towns – everybody is only one or two people removed from banging everyone else. Select your flings VERY carefully lest you be haunted on your island by the unseemly Ghosts of Island HookUps Past.
Well, I found out that the meetin’ place in a small town on Florida’s east coast is at ye’ ole’ Walmart. (See previous posts – I am traveling Florida’s coasts and the Keys to see if I might want to live in Florida – I gotta see how the diving is in all of these places.). I ran in to get a phone charger at about 9 a.m, thinking it would be slow and quiet. Wrong. The store was abuzz with lively retirees donning culottes and Tevas and all chit-chatting in the aisles with one another. And they were eagerly throwing Christmas decorations into their carts, marveling over the high prices of nearly every item. I nearly didn’t get out of there – an 80-some year old woman from Virginia quizzed me on where I was from and then proceeded to tell me the life story of all of her wayward grandchildren. I will say, I enjoyed the stories because she doesn’t seem to find much good in any of them and it sounds like she’s happy they all live in the D.C. area and away from her. I did finally manage to buy a phone charger and rushed out of there before any more retirees got ahold of me. I gotta say, strolling out into the balmy heat and listening to swaying palm trees, well, Florida is looking pretty good to me. Oh, and I stopped to smell the lovely fragrant roses in a nearby coastal botanical park. Glorious! Roses in November. Yes.
In three days, I shall turn in my work laptop and work phone and walk out of the office, hopefully never to create another spreadsheet or PowerPoint slide ever again. Hopefully never to sit through another interminable meeting about spreadsheets or PowerPoint slides. Here in the middle of my life, at age 48, I have resigned from my corporate job and am about to embark on a journey I have been dreaming of and planning for many years. I am breaking away from corporate life and am going to take a road trip with my dog, travel the world, do volunteer work, and work in jobs that allow me to be active, help folks on a daily basis and live a life of service and giving back. Of helping people find their own happiness.
I knew well over a decade ago that I hated office life. But I enjoyed the work – communications and government relations. Or rather, I knew that I was really good at it. I enjoyed excelling at something, even if I didn’t truly love the office environment. I knew that I genuinely detested being cooped up in a dreary office all day. But, in order to do work that I was naturally good at and to make the nice big salary I so desired (yes, I confess, I was chasing money at the expense of happiness), I had to compromise – I had to trudge into a dreary, grey office building. Over the years, I moved up and up, always making more money but always moving into yet another office or cubicle that seemed to suck the very life out of my soul.
I knew that I preferred to be outside or active or at least moving about all day long. Some of my favorite jobs throughout my life have been low-paying or volunteering jobs – catering, bar tending, a tour guide for a historic site, food writer, restaurant reviewer, writing for a small town newspaper, tutoring English language, working as a tech in a sea turtle hospital, and even waiting tables in a small town Southern joint. But I couldn’t reconcile the low pay or no pay of that work with the joy I had back then because I have spent most of my adult life since then chasing money. And each time I got a pay raise, I found myself less and less engaged in the work I was doing. Or rather, enjoyed the writing and editing parts, the dealing directly with people part, or helping co-workers – but NOT the corporate setting, not the spreadsheets and the slide decks. The soul-sucking windowless offices and endless rows of cubicles. Not the ass kissing. Not the having to wear pants and shoes (wait, what?). I can now admit in all honesty, I genuinely dislike corporate office life. But, dammit, I spent nearly $100,000 on a Master’s degree – I was committed to spending my life making that expenditure pay for itself. Ah, I have been so misguided in my thinking. I will tell you though – I had to finish paying off my student loans and work very, very hard to be debt free in order to pursue this dream. Getting all of that accomplished is worth its own blog and I know that debt is exactly what keeps most of us from pursuing our passion and dream.
But, the question for many of us is, “If I am good at a job and it pays well, even if I don’t enjoy it, then I should just go ahead and do it, right?” I used to think the answer was YES. But, now, I am quite certain, we should all find work that we are passionate about.
I know – and I have known for years – that I prefer vocational work and work that makes a tangible contribution on a daily basis. And so, not sure what I will do next, next week I will begin the work of figuring out what I am passionate about. I tried to figure this out while working the daily grind. But I decided to stop the grind that was making me so depressed and unfulfilled and put my myself in a position that forces my hand to take dramatic action – quit my job without having lined up another one. I don’t care about the pay level in my next pursuit – my happiest days were when my salaries weren’t very much. I know that I want to engage in work that actively makes a positive difference in the lives of others and each day I want to engage meaningfully with others. I am tired of living in a Dilbert cartoon that isn’t funny.
Since I have announced my resignation and upcoming sabbatical – my plan to travel, to do volunteer work, to engage in jobs that don’t pay well but will allow me to be active and help others find their happiness, well, so many of my co-workers and friends have told me they dream of doing what I am doing and that they wish they could pursue what makes them happy.
I always ask them, “If you could quit your job today, and money was no object, family was not object, and you could live anywhere you wanted – all you had to do was pick your dream job, what would it be and where would it be?” One of my co-workers said he would be perfectly happy if he could quit his suit-and-tie job and go and be a groundskeeper at a golf course. Another told me she would go and be a receptionist at an art gallery. Another told me she would go and be a park ranger (instead of being a cybersecurity expert). Naturally, we’ve all had to make compromises in our work at one time or another in order to take care of our families, get the mortgage paid, pay for the kids’ college, etc. etc. And some of my coworkers told me this week that I am just being a flake and going through a mid-life crisis and that I would regret leaving a stable, good job and that I am crazy and silly and that I would be right back in an office. And, you know what, I may well end up back in an office. But I have to at least TRY to pursue my passion and my dream to live a different kind of life – of using my talents and skills for caring, service, and giving.
I am not married. I do not have children. I have never ever wanted either of those things – instead, I chose my own personal freedom. And now it is finally time to test out exactly what that choice will allow me to do – in all of its forms. I have played it safe for far too long. In my life, I only take calculated risks – and those risks have always paid off and I have never failed in them. Granted, sometimes those risks had WILDLY different outcomes than what I anticipated, but they were always life changing and granted me adventures and new friends and brilliant experience. As I have gotten older, I’ve stopped taking those risks. And the grind of routine in work I care nothing for has nearly crushed my soul.
Working through my fear of scuba diving and terror of breathing under water this year is what helped remind me of who I am – that I am adventurous and passionate and brave, that I want to engage with nature and other adventurous people and to face fear and challenges regularly. I never want to fall into a safe, secure routine – ever.
And so, me and my dog, well, we’re on to our next chapter in life and so much is unknown, unforeseeable and, I’ll admit, at my age, I am nervous and a bit scared. But I also am happier and more excited than I have been in years and years. In my heart and my gut, I know I am doing the right thing. I know, I know, all of those years I have given to the corporate world have afforded me to take the journey I am about to take. And I gratefully acknowledge that and all of those who have hired me and allowed me to be part of their team. But, now, on to the next phase.
Whither shall I venture? Ah, we shall see, dear reader, we shall see.
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.
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.
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
Let’s not quibble about the dude’s gear setup in the picture. You get what I’m doing here, right?
While out drinking in Curaçao one night, a friend of mine told me that part of the fun in being a dive instructor on the island is that he gets to hook up a lot thanks to the gig. That women who come to the shop always want to bang the hot dive instructor who taught them how to overcome their fear and do something fun and little bit dangerous.
When I got back to the States, while sitting around one afternoon drinking beer with a couple of American dive buddies (who happen to be instructors), I’ll call them Jerry and Dave (though they both said they don’t care if I name them – but I won’t do that). I relayed the island instructor’s epiphany that the job title “Divemaster” is kind of a turn on. Dave laughed and snorted out beer through his nose, “Hell no, nope. I don’t get laid from teaching diving. Never happened. Damn, I’m teaching in the wrong place. What the fuck?”
Jerry agreed, “No way, Angela, no woman ever tried to hook up with me for tips on how remove your mask without drowning. That dude is full of shit. Or he was probably trying to hook up with you.”
I said, “Wait, though. Maybe he’s telling the truth. It’s not just the divemaster, student relationship that leads to sex, it’s the location. Dude, it’s because these women are on vacation. It’s vacation sex. It’s part of a whole island fling fantasy. Bored single women or even married women go to a tropical island and get their groove back courtesy of their salty, oceanic, teacher.”
I thought about the nature of this fantasy while Dave went to go urinate (or maybe he went to jerk off thinking about the dive fantasy I just described) and Jerry went to get us more beer. The island fling scenario is so cliché, so played, so…wait, though, that’s part of the appeal, right?
When Jerry and Dave got back to the table, they both pressed me for more explanation on the island fantasy.
Jerry said, “Okay, okay. I want to know more about how a woman thinks about this divemaster thing. Maybe I’ve been playing this all wrong.”
I laughed. I said, “No, you’ve played it as well as you can in a dirty quarry on the outskirts of a boring assed city like Raleigh. That dank cold quarry will never prime a chick for the fantasy. Woman comes out of the quarry cold and ready to just get that 5 mm wetsuit off. Not sexual AT ALL. A Caribbean island for single women is NOT reality and the dive penises that are offered to you are attached to men who are living some sort of tropical-themed Groundhog Day – every day they encounter new half-naked women who come in with the same heightened expectations, the same dream, the same desire to let go, to feel everything and care about nothing, and then the sun goes down, some drinking and fucking occurs, chick flies back to her home, and the dive instructor goes back to work, repeats the same scenario over and over again, day in and day out, until his dick falls off or he goes to a different island and starts the same day all over again.”
Jerry put his beer down and said, “I want to live this Groundhog Day, just for a few weeks. I swear to God. Take me with you when you move to Curacao and I’ll live with you and work at a dive shop.”
I laughed, “Okay, but you can’t bring these women to my house. I’m not down with that. No Fantasy Island at my new place. But it would be nice to have a roommate who can take me diving whenever I feel like it. You see, I want to use you for your diving ability, not your penis.”
Jerry said, “But you can have both. That’s how I’ll pay my rent.”
I said, “I’m liking this plan more and more.”
We all laughed and decided on tequila shots next. Dave said, “So, what about your island fantasy, Angela? What is it?”
Jerry said, “Details, please. ALL the details. Right now.”
I said…well…if you want to know what I told the fellas, stay tuned for my next blog – coming out this week…Also, some tips on whether or not to rent or buy on your sexy Caribbean island of choice.
Back at it. I LOVE LOVE my dive shop in Raleigh – but it’s dangerous. Came in a couple of hours ago to get an adjustment on my regulator – and left with new equipment, put down a deposit on a boat dive trip to Bonaire coming up, signed up for the Advanced Open Water cert, signed up for the Night Dive campout at the quarry in a couple of weeks, and a boat dive in South Carolina. I am officially hooked, line and sinker.
I’d better leave the dive shop before I sign up for the Honduras dive. I have developed an addiction and I got it bad. But I want to get AOW before I move to Curacao. I want to be full-on ready to take advantage of all of the diving possibilities this island has to offer.
I am in a state of limbo since I left Curacao. The last clear memory I have of anything is of a slow-motion stingray that could not be touched through the turquoise sea where, all afternoon, zippy parrot fish eyeballed me in a very desultory fashion. Ah!
I mean, this means I’ve lost my soul to the sea, correct?
Ah, what ARE women like me (who are obsessed with scuba diving) looking for in a man other than him possessing a working penis, all of his teeth, a job, and a strong stroke?
Well, I’ll tell you.
This conversation happened between me and a co-worker at some half-assed Mexican restaurant (you know the kind, where they feature $5.99 specials called Speedy Gonzalez 1, 2, 3 and so on. And each dish tastes exactly the same but satisfies a craving so you go and eat half a pound of two day-old chips and shell out 8 bucks total plus tip for the waiter who is wearing too much Drakkar Noir and wonder why you put yourself through this mediocrity every 3 or 4 weeks.)
My co-worker, who is in her mid-30s and has been married for 10 years and has 2 children, asked me this, “So Angela, do you think you’ll find the one any time soon?”
“Find the one what?” I asked, reaching for one of the stale chips.
“You know,” she said, “the man you’ll marry.”
“You know that I believe marriage is for the weak,” I said. “You and your husband excluded.” (I just said that to pacify her. I actually count her in that bunch.)
“Oh, Angela, there’s a wonderful man out there who will make you want to run down the aisle.”
“Maybe,” I replied. I tried the guacamole. “Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “I think they put shredded jicama in this. It’s incredible!” I dipped my spoon in for another try. They had indeed put jicama in guacamole. A revelation.
“You’re avoiding the topic,” she said. “So, how about this. Tell me who your ideal man is.”
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. The waiter came back to ask us how everything was even though we hadn’t gotten our food yet. The acrid smell of his cologne was actually clinging to the back of my throat, ruining the joy of jicama. Suddenly I recalled that the first time I ever had sex was with a boy wearing Drakkar and we were listening to a Metallica cassette on his boom box.
“Okay,” she said, not giving up, “let’s do this. Tell me what you absolutely don’t want in a man.”
“Hmmm…okay, that I can come up with,” I said, dipping a chip in the salsa.
“Yayyy!” she squealed, daintily clapping her hands. “Finally. So name five things quick – without even thinking about it. Aaaaand…GO!”
“So. One. I could never date a man who suggested that for a first date we eat at Olive Garden. Or any chain restaurant. I could never date a man who regularly wears golf shirts and khaki pants with pleats in them. Men should never wear pants with pleats in them. Flat front only. Wait – do those two items of clothing count as two reasons? He’s got to love to get in the ocean – swim, snorkel, dive, I don’t care. But he has to want the water as much as I do. Hmmm…also, I could never date a man who wears Y-front white underwear. Gotta wear boxer shorts or even just let your balls and dick swing in the wind. Oh, and I like nice, solid forearms. My favorite part of a man’s body. Oh and one more, I could never date a man who thinks getting a group together to get on one of those Trolley Pubs in downtown Raleigh would be a fun thing to do.”
[Trolley Pubs are found in larger cities across the U.S. They are these rolling pubs (like a giant bicycle) where up to 14 people get on and sit around a bar-in-the-round and each person pedals as they troll through the streets of downtown, drinking beer and going from pub to pub. Their revelry combined with the flashing light decorations make it the most annoying sight and sound imaginable.]
“Oh my God,” she said, frowning. She let out a sigh. “I was thinking more along the lines of you naming certain qualities like if he was a Republican or is obsessed with sports. Which I know neither of those is okay with you.”
“Those are two good ones to add to the list actually,” I said. Wow, I didn’t know she knew me that well.
She shook her head. “You are going to die alone. You can’t be so specific. One guy isn’t going to have everything.”
“I know that,” I said. “Okay, I can maybe let go of most of those except for the ocean part. It’s fundamental to what I think about, how I look at the world. I cannot get around someone not wanting to be in or near the ocean.”
“What if he doesn’t like the ocean but had a lot of money and treated you like a queen?”
“I’d rather die than concede,” I said. “Power never concedes without a demand.
“What does that even mean?” she asked.
“I don’t actually know.” I looked around, weary of the conversation and of, particularly, myself. “Where the hell is my Speedy Gonzalez number 12?”
“Do you really even truly know what you want?”
“Yes,” I answered carefully, “I want a man muscled in flame and who sweats kindness and intellect and who is funny and who will burn me to the ground causing me the exact opposite of harm.”
She rolled her eyes at me and nodded towards the approaching waiter. “Okay. Whatever. Our food is here.”
“Good,” I said. “Great.” And I threw down on that Speedy Gonzales like the good little single Mexican gal I am.