“Are you sure you want to do this on your first open water dive?” my best friend asked prior to our trip.
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”
I should have known something wasn’t right when I missed my own home airport exit twice before finally parking. I wasn’t fine.
I felt stressed out and wanted to get away from it all. I was looking forward to spending time with my best friend. I had just finished my diver training in a local quarry and the thought of catching lobsters in the open ocean sounded like an adventure. I touched down at the Orlando International Airport and he picked me up.
“OK,” he said. “I have a friend who owns a dive shop. I got us state of the art equipment. Let’s go to the pool and get you properly weighted.”
“That’s not necessary,” I said, “I’ll be fine”.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Of course, I’ll be fine”.
Instead of getting weighted properly like he recommended, we went out for dinner and drinks. We got home at midnight.
The next morning, we arrived at the boat dock late. It was a grey and stormy day. The waves were choppy and the boat rocked, as we got onboard. We drove out beyond were you could see the shoreline to do our underwater drift dive.
I was the last person off the boat. And I struggled to get under water. The dive master came back up, pointed at me and pointed down. I swam into the water and kicked hard with my body angled slightly to stay down. I found myself pulling up the rear in an underwater current, a stream inside the ocean, looking for lobsters. I lost the group. I lost my buddy. I started to surface and thought, “No big deal, I’ll be fine.” My depth gauge read 50 feet and I went down another 5 feet to ride the ocean floor looking for lobsters.
I went to take a breath and the recognizable SCUBA breathing sound started and stopped. In disbelief, I looked at my pressure gauge, which showed no air. Because of my size and improper weight, I had burned a full tank of oxygen halfway through the dive. I looked up and saw a wall of water. My first thought was “I may get the bends.” My second thought was “Go!”
I began to ascend and noticed my left fin was loose. “If this comes off, I’m done,” I thought. I exhaled as I ascended to protect my lungs and also trick my body into believing I was breathing normally. I felt dizzy. The water started to look brown instead of blue. I broke surface.
And then things got worse.
I saw the boat off in the distance. “Great,” I thought, “they’ll never expect someone to surface this soon”. Then the oxygen tank hit me in the back of the head as I bobbed in the stormy waves. And it hit me again, hard.
I blew to fully inflate my vest, which oddly made the situation worse. “Forget this.” I thought and put in my snorkel. Water from the stormy seas began crashing into the snorkel. I began to swallow water. I tried to right myself and the gear forced my face back into the water. I grabbed the weights on the front of my vest and dropped them. I felt bad for a moment that I lost part of my friends’ gear, and then got hit from the tank again.
What I did not realize was that my equipment back home and this equipment were different. My weight belt went around my entire body, which kept you floating like a bobber. The forward weight integration system on this vest was designed to keep me flat. My vest back home inflated equally around my chest, which helped me stay upright. This high-end vest had square on the back that was designed to keep you very flat in the ocean. I had over inflated it. I might have realized this if I had practiced in the pool, was rested or hadn’t left my buddy.
Panic set in. I was tired. I kept coughing and swallowing water trying to breath.
I was drowning.
A voice inside me said, “Stop fighting. Let go. Your life is not that great anyway.” I began to feel like you feel right before you fall asleep. For a moment, I was at peace. Then I saw an image of my godson, who is named after me.
It jolted me into action. “I can not go out like this.” I thought. I didn’t have my whistle. I had a deflated orange float that I began waving with what energy I had left. The boat saw me and pulled me onboard. I began vomiting salt water. My throat burned.
My friend surfaced. They picked him up. He sat down beside me. I was staring at the shoreline, trying not to be seasick. Tears were welling up in my eyes. “Are you OK?” he asked. I could only shake my head no. I knew I was not fine. I knew this was a metaphor for my life. I was drowning.
I was 40 pounds overweight and a workaholic. I could only see the worst in my work and relationships. I had the lowest worldview possible. I felt like a victim.
They didn’t let me go on the next dive for fear of the bends. My friend did catch a lobster, which brought some joy to the day.
The near death experience forced me to face issues in my life that I was avoiding. It changed my worldview.
I think the story is a metaphor for many of our lives. Someone can give us the best tools and advice that are available. If our mindset isn’t right then:
We don’t listen to others’ advice
We don’t listen to ourselves
We withdraw from others
We put others and ourselves in harms way (sorry buddy)
We may even misuse the tools we have
When I came home, I studied a variety of subjects related to transformation from a variety of people. I applied a combination of what I learned to change my worldview. As that changed, everything changed.
I lost 45 pounds. I changed the way I worked. I changed my relationships.
I transformed. I became much more than fine.
What is your worldview? Are you “fine”?
What would your life look like if you were more than just fine?