About 10 days ago, I returned from a three week trip to Thailand. My first vacation in ages. No work obligations and mostly unplugged, it was an incredible experience. Life-changing, even. The weather was glorious, the people incredibly kind, and the adventure was eye-opening. We did plenty of awesome activities like ride elephants and take a Thai cooking class, but the one thing that stood out the most for me was accomplishing my life-long goal of learning to scuba dive. I love the water. Growing up on the East Coast I have a fondness for salt water in particular. But I also love warmth. And I figured if I ever wanted to scuba dive, learning in the warm waters of Thailand would be the best, not the mention the cheapest, option.
I don't know what I thought would happen when I learned to scuba dive, but I don't think I was quite prepared for how far out of my comfort zone it would take me. Multiple times I had to fight the little voice inside my head going "ARE YOU CRAZY??!? Why are you still underwater? You can't BREATHE down here!"
I panicked. Multiple times. In fact, this panic lead to one of many self-realizations: Whenever I try something new, if I don't "get it" right away, I stop breathing and brace myself for some sort of impact that is sure to come and kill me, which leads to an unreasonable amount of panic. And then usually I give up, because this fear of dying due to trying new things must be a legit one that is just trying to keep me safe.
Oy. I do this in my acting work too.
But see here's the thing with scuba diving, the most important rule actually: NEVER, EVER, HOLD YOUR BREATH.
Wait a minute, so now I can't fall back on my old panicky habits and I have to sit/hover there under gallons of water and just... breathe? Because there is nothing wrong? My equipment is secure and my scuba buddy (always swim with a buddy) is right there.
Fortunately, I had a very generous and patient instructor who was with me the whole time. And eventually, it hit me. There is nothing wrong. I can breathe through this, I will survive and I will be stronger for it.
Not only that, it opened the door to a whole new world of wonder & fun. Beautiful fish swam around us, gorgeous corals were all over the place, secret crevices were hidden inside underwater rock formations... And then we had a blast striking superhero poses underwater because if you're going to hover in water, hover like you're a goddamn superman.
It was the most fun I'd had in a long time. And to think I almost missed out on it all by closing my eyes and holding my breath.