Facing the Fear MAG

By Alaya A., Concord, NH

      Water has always been my thing, and I have always wanted to be a marine biologist, so imagine my surprise when our teacher told the class that we were all going to become certified scuba divers. I was really excited and thought I’d be like those people on TV, playing with fish and having fun. Was I in for a big surprise!

Entering Diver’s Den, my stomach was doing gymnastics. My brain was saying No! No! but my feet carried me to where my class was waiting. I took a seat next to my best friend and we tried to comfort each other by talking about how much fun it was going to be. Then Rob, the scuba instructor, strutted in. He was big and beefy, tall with long hair pulled into a ponytail. I stopped talking immediately. That man scared me.

The next week I walked into the YMCA with my stomach flipping once again. Rob strode into the room, and at once we fell silent. We went over the chapters we’d been assigned; it turned out we were going to learn a lot of science, including buoyancy, density and air pressure.

In the pool, Rob demanded we do what he did, demonstrating once, and then waiting for us to do it. He hit us with technique after technique, never stopping. He didn’t smile and he pronounced my name wrong.

Then he told us that the next drill was to take our masks off at the bottom of the deep end, replace them, and clear them of water. I wasn’t doing that. You see, as a little kid, I always used a mask because I couldn’t open my eyes underwater or keep water out of my nose. I was terrified and made excuse after excuse about why I couldn’t do it. Every time he mentioned something about our masks, my throat tightened and tears welled in my eyes.

A few weeks later, Rob told my dad that I needed a make-up class; I was really behind, all because I wouldn’t take off my mask. While I was about to throw up, he and my dad agreed that I would do the make-up the following Sunday.

That Sunday I sat in my room staring at the wall, thinking that maybe I wouldn’t go through with this. But before I knew it I was in the parking lot, crying my eyes out. Rob walked over to the van and said, “Alaya, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. Nobody is forcing you.” His uncharacteristic kindness caught me off-guard. Though I said I wasn’t going to do it, my feet carried me toward the pool. Rob laughed, handing me a wetsuit.

There was another woman taking the class and I was relieved to know I wasn’t alone. Rob hopped in the pool and told us to take off our masks and swim underwater to the other side. I wanted to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there,” but my hands took off my mask and pushed me to the bottom of the pool. With my eyes tightly shut, I made my way to the other end.

The water felt unnatural against my face. I thought I was suffocating. My hand brushed the rough wall on the other side. I quickly threw on my mask and started clearing it of water. Soon, Rob was tapping the glass on my mask, which was the signal there was no water in it. Cautiously I opened my eyes and looked around. I was sitting on the bottom of the deep end with a dry mask on. Rob gave me a thumbs up. The intimidating man I had feared for so long was smiling at me.

I was so proud of myself. I did a front roll in the water and swam for joy. I was really happy! I had faced my fear. When we got out of the pool, Rob said something like, “Wow! That was great! Good job!” and gave me a hug.

That was some day. When I look back at what I thought scuba diving was and compare it to what I know now, there are some big differences. It can be a very dangerous sport if you don’t do it carefully, but it is also a lot of fun. Besides, in the end I did get to see fish and ocean life that was really interesting. When I received my scuba diving certification, I realized that I had learned a big lesson: There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

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