by Tommey Burke
(Phoenix, Arizona, USA)
I first tried to get certified when I was 20 years old, and absolutely hated the first skills (mask flooding!) but felt lucky to find out that I was pregnant and couldn't continue the course.
Fast forward 30 years, and I finally decided that I was going to conquer a lifelong fear and get certified (my husband had been joyfully scuba diving the whole time).
We went to Roatan and I signed up for a course. At the first set of water skills, which included mask flooding, I kept popping to the surface sputtering and claustrophobic. The instructor took me back to the shop and told me very sternly that I wasn't cut out for scuba diving, that I should go back to "wherever I came from" and do an 8 week course, and basically fired me as a student.
Another instructor at West End Divers, Roatan, Honduras, came up and shyly tapped me on the shoulder and said "I'll work with you if you still want to try." I had no idea that I was her first student, but she stuck with me through everything, and basically would not let me fail.
When she indicated that I had to flood my mask, I'd shake my head and she'd calmly indicate that we would swim and look at fish for a while. Eventually I knocked off all of the skills, did all the dives, took all the tests over the course of 2 weeks (yes, I am aware that most people can do it in 4 days!).
I got a standing ovation from the dive shop. One of the proudest moments of my life.
It is still hard to get me under the water, but once I'm there I love it. I'll never be a natural, but the beauty, joy, and self-satisfaction that I get from scuba diving is immeasurable.
That dive instructor is a life-long friend, and we return often and she always goes on my first dive with me, even though she no longer works at a dive shop.
That is a wonderful story. Way to stick it out and fight through those fears. And kudos to the instructor for working with you - and still continuing to do so. Congratulations on your certification and may you have many wonderful dives ahead of you.
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