June 28, 2011 in Trust 30
This prompt instantly made me think of a very emotional and empowering moment in my life. Brace yourself for a potentially long story, friends.
At the end of last summer I had the privilege of being accepted into the PADI X Intern Program as a Regional Marketing Intern. As part of the PADI X program, all interns not previously open water SCUBA certified were offered the chance to fly out to the PADI headquarters in Los Angeles and enter the certification program ALL FREE OF CHARGE. (Side note: Many thanks to PADI for that amazing opportunity, the fantastic internship program, all the wonderful friends I made along the way and everything the internship taught me.) Anyways, getting back to the story – naturally I quickly snaggled the opportunity to become SCUBA certified for free.
My best bear Hillary had done the certification process about 7 months before me and warned me that it was going to be brutal, but I really had no idea what I was in for. Our group of interns packed job training, company meet and greets, 5 pool dives and 4 open water dives into 4 days. Now, that may not sound like a lot to those of you who aren’t certified, but we would wake up at dawn everyday and get back to the hotel after 11pm after a day of lugging around heavy gear and jumping in and out of the water and going to the ocean floor and then coming back up again and then taking off gear and doing it again and struggling through waves and OH MY GOD IT WAS REALLY HARD.
One of the tasks we had to perform in the pool dives was called the CESA – Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. Essentially what you do is you swim from the bottom of the deep end of the SCUBA pool to the shallow end at a medium pace while controlling your exhale out of your regulator without inhaling (I hope that makes sense – if not, google it, I’m sure there’s a better explanation out there). It sounds really easy – I know, because it sounded really easy to me. Until I tried it. Granted, it was 10pm and I was tired and it was my last test before completing all my pool dives and I just wanted to go to bed. But this task landed up being the most difficult thing ever for me.
I would get to about 10 feet away from the shallow end of the pool and panic that I was running out of breath and inhale through my regulator. Not allowed. Go back and do it again. After going back and forth and doing it about fifteen times, I finally broke down in hysterical tears. One of the instructors, Adam, came over to the edge of the pool and helped me calm down. He said something to me that I will never EVER forget. “Nikki. You can do this. I know you can do this and you know you can do this. This isn’t hard. You are defeating yourself. You are essentially quitting when you are just centimeters away from the finish line. This is as simple as mind over matter. You are so close and you know it. We ALL believe in you and as soon as you start believing in yourself and stop telling yourself that you can’t do it, it’s going to come naturally to you. Calm down. Take a deep breath and YOU tell YOURSELF that THIS TIME IT’S GOING DOWN. And then just watch.”
I took a deep breath (or seven). Stuck my regulator in my mouth. Swam back down to the bottom of the deep end. Closed my eyes and thought to myself “THIS. IS. HAPPENING. RIGHT. NOW.” And I did it.
The victory dance that followed in my wet suit around the pool was a sight that I don’t think any of my PADI X buddies will ever forget. And the standing ovation I got in the dinner room from all my buddies and instructors afterwards (while I cried of course) was something I will never forget. Not to mention the sweatshirt that I had been looking forward to receiving for seven months (ever since I tried on Hillary’s PADI sweatshirt) was handed to me immediately after my CESA.
Anyways. The point being – I completely surprised myself. Before Adam’s pep talk I was convinced that I would never finish my CESA and I would never be SCUBA certified and that was the end of that and I had failed miserably. I let my mind get in the way of things – I let my mind convince me I couldn’t do something that I obviously could. Needless to say, I completed my open water dives over the next two days and became a certified open water diver. It wasn’t easy, but that first surprise I gave myself allowed me to find my own courage and determination.
That moment in the pool was the proudest moment of my life. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true. Before that moment I was a notorious quitter. I’ve never before admitted that, but there it is. In black and white – I was a quitter. Now? Well, now I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser and a lotta bit stronger.
Watch out world. Here comes bear.