“Not at all!” I told my mom when she asked if learning to Scuba dive had been scary. I was still basking in the glow of my new certification when she called to congratulate me. I dismissed her question with a little laugh and a lot of confidence.
This conversation has been gnawing at me for a few weeks now and I’ve realized that yes, getting certified as a Scuba diver was actually scarier than I’d admitted. The course included lots of e-learning, two weekends of diving in a YMCA pool, and a weekend diving in a local quarry. I had great dive masters, full air tanks, and no sharks – nothing to be afraid of. And yet, when I stop and see things a little more clearly – I was not exactly fearless.
Before I even put on a wetsuit, I spent two weeks watching videos and powerpoints for the elearning portion of the course. I took pages and pages of notes and stressed over every question on the quiz. I held my breath as I submitted the answers to quizzes and triple checked my work on the final test. My stomach was tied up in knots as I drove to my first lesson in the pool and again when we did our final dives in the quarry. As soon as I got comfortable with a skill or body of water – it was time to move on again. Scuba diving was scary – not because it was unsafe, but because learning something new can be terrifying.
As adults we have learned what we are good at and we’ve stuck to these things. If we learned we weren’t good at basketball in the 7th grade? No on makes us play anymore. If we want to stay in on Friday nights and read because we enjoy it – we can do that instead. Learning and performing something new – and with our success measured by a class and a certificate (or a finish line) – can be scary because it makes us vulnerable. We don’t have the kind of fearlessness we had as kids and it changes how we respond to learning new things.
I can’t say that it wasn’t scary and not feel like I’m perpetuating the myth of having it all and making it look easy. It would be inauthentic to say it was easy and a missed opportunity to share what I’ve learned from the experience. It was messy and imperfect, but it was worth it. Especially the end result, when it really did stopped being scary. As we swam to the surface after our last dive, I remember looking up at the sun rays streaming in through the water in complete disbelief that it was over already.