It was a dreary, drizzly day indeed that we submerged ourselves in the 55 degree waters and descended to the depths. I’d never been afraid of scuba diving or swimming or anything else rational, but I did feel acutely, for the first time, what it was like to exist in an alien environment.
I thought I was far too smart to freak out, but I did end up experiencing moments of panic, even when I knew I had plenty of air and that I was in the company of experts and that there was nothing to fear. Despite this irrefutable logic, occasionally I would be hit with the intense feeling of “I want to be above water NOW,” with my mind instantly starting to circle the dark what-if places.
But then, the gods of Monterey would whisper softly in my ear, “Breathe. Just breathe. There is air in your tank. There is a regulator in your mouth. Breathe, you fool.” And I would, and it was fine, and I could enjoy the kelp forests swaying beneath the surface in a never ending song, stretching up past where my brown eye could see.
Shortly after my scuba diving adventure, I experienced a moment in which I was stressed out. Somehow, all of the tasks I’d ever lined up for myself became compressed into a single moment, and I bore the entire weight of my 20, 15, 10, and 5 year goals at once, along with my various daily to-do lists. It was paralyzing, and I tasted the familiar flavor of panic and inadequacy.
Then I remembered what the gods whispered to me under the sea, as I rocked back and forth next to the kelp forests, and I remembered that I could breathe, that I had everything I needed at that moment to survive, and that I would survive. Then, all my goals and to-dos slinkied back out to a normal distance, and I was okay, but only as long as I kept breathing.