Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Your heart pounding in your chest, cold sweat on your skin, stomach-turning, all you want to do is run away as fast as you can… Anxiety shows up in different ways. The fact is, we are all afraid of something… Heights, spiders, clowns, monsters under the bed, math, water, the dark… While some fears are reasonable, tell you to be careful, others might just hold you back from experiencing something extraordinary. Here is what I can tell you about it…Written by Amelie
Three months ago, I started my PADI Divemaster course with Spanish Dancer Divers. Now almost finished, it’s time to take a moment and reflect on how diving has changed and enriched my life. Transforming fear into a passion and even leading me to a new profession: Becoming a divemaster.
Only three years ago, I took my first breath underwater. An experience that changed my life completely. Before that moment, I used to be afraid of water… It seems almost funny to me now that I’m diving nearly every day and even introducing others to the world underwater.
But let’s start from the beginning. All my life, I had this irrational fear of water, the deep, and some monsters – sharks in particular – that for sure would come and kill me (my racing heart would expose me as the perfect victim) once I’m in the water. I knew my thoughts were illogical, but still, they felt realistic. It went so far, I was even afraid of encountering sharks in a Bavarian pond near my parents’ place. So, as I finally pushed myself to do a try dive in the open ocean in Thailand, I was so nervous, I thought I would probably drop dead because of a heart attack when only seeing a shark or any other big fish.
But then, being underwater for the first time, my experience was different. With every breath from my regulator, my body relaxed more, and my mind calmed down. I was amazed by the beauty lying under the surface- I had no idea what I’ve been missing before! And then it happened – I saw sharks and turtles and other creatures -of whose existence I had no clue before-, and they saw me! They were so graceful, and I felt nothing but freedom and calm diving together with all these wonderful creatures, being accepted in their realm. A new universe had opened up in front of me, and I couldn’t understand any more of what I’ve been afraid of before… just like that, my fears dissolved and got washed away by the current… may they rest in peace in the Gulf of Thailand…
Maybe it’s stories that you got told when you were young or movies you’ve watched that got into your mind, or perhaps it’s just the unknown… Referring to my experience, I can tell you, whatever is holding you back- it’s worth taking the risk and not being afraid to open a door only because you don’t know what’s behind it, step through it and make yourself a picture.
I had faced my fears and got rewarded getting to know the feeling of pure connection with my surroundings, the ocean, and eventually, it even opened a whole new life perspective.
Obviously, after this first dive, I wanted more of it. I was on the hook and soon realized that at some point, I wanted to do my divemaster course. Only I didn’t know when I would have the time to do that. There are always reasons to postpone… My old profession is in theatre -when there is a job, you “can’t” say no. So I waited with my dream of becoming a divemaster. I loved and still love theatre but wasn’t happy with it anymore at the same time, even before the world turned upside down. The Covid crisis then finally pushed me to listen more closely to the inner voice telling me, “you already know what you want.” I wanted the ocean; I wanted to go diving and learn more about it.
I took a chance and came to Zanzibar, and with Spanish Dancer Divers, I found the right place to do my Divemaster course, finally making my dream come true!
So, when dreams come true, what does reality look like? It’s not so easy to answer… Well, let me tell you this, it’s great for sure, and my heart still skips a beat when seeing a shark, not because of fear, but because of pure joy! – and it’s also a lot of work. One that can be exhausting and makes you feel very alive at the same time. Personally, I think doing your divemaster or working in diving, in general, is nothing you can (or should) do half-heartedly. “Whatever you’re going to do, jump right into the middle of it and say “yes” to what you’re doing with your full heart and being, and you will succeed.” When I graduated from university, this sentence from my professor’s speech stuck with me and is valid for acting, just as for diving. I think it’s true for anything you’re doing, but for some professions, maybe more than others.
I made many friends since I started this journey. People that also decided to realize their dreams. Just like my friend Tanya, who took a short vacation from her Wall Street job and ended up being a dive instructor in Zanzibar. In fact, 6 years later, she now owns a hotel right here in Zanzibar and has never gone back. And even Roberto from Spain, who quit his factory job and became a happy dive instructor. So if you dream about a diving career, don’t just dream it, go out and do it. It is not hard to do, it is just fun to do.
So if you’re also thinking about doing your divemaster course, I want to give you some insight, what my days looked like. With Spanish, I had the opportunity to do it as a three-month internship. Meaning you work at the dive center and get the education in exchange.
You will be in a constant learning process.
Even though you were diving before, you’ll probably do some things for the first time in your life.
You’ll learn about dive theory, how to do knots, lift objects underwater, assist dive courses, assemble and disassemble equipment, carry tanks, help at the dive center, train your dive skills, and eventually start guiding. In the beginning, you will have muscle aching, and sometimes your head will turn, but your muscles will grow, and your synapses will reconnect. No day will be like the other, but they will start early and for sure include diving. At some point, you will be the one doing the morning briefing and then, together with your colleagues, bring the divers onboard one of the Dhows. I really enjoy the boat rides to the dive sites. I could spend hours looking at the ocean and feeling the wind in my face. Here you also have time to get to know the people on board better, who you’ll soon take on an underwater journey. It’s a very rewarding experience to dive with people who share the same love for the ocean. Showing them places underwater that are slowly starting to feel like home to you. When being a divemaster in trainee, your attention during the dives shifts. As a customer, I never really paid attention to navigation; I was just following the guides. Now you’re the one to lead. Honestly, in the beginning, I doubted if I would ever find my way around alone. But “pole pole” (slowly slowly), I started remembering things, getting familiar with the dive sites, and recognizing specific natural references. Like back then, as a child in the car’s back seat, when you couldn’t understand how it’s possible to know your way in the city maze. But then, after making your driver’s license, you don’t even think about it anymore, you just drive. I can tell you it’s fantastic when you learn how to drive underwater. When you recognize the corals and bommies, you have to turn towards the sandy area to find the seahorses! Not to talk about the excitement and amazement in the eyes of your divers when you show them one of them!
“Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.” So it is with diving, and also with the Divemaster course. I was lucky to do the course as a team with my trainee buddy and friend Jaana. #DMTdoubletrouble. It’s great when you have someone to share this experience with and to help each other out.
So the course has taught me a lot about diving, about myself, brought me new friends and even a new home for the moment. I don’t know when I will go back doing arts, or if ever. I heard some say diving is a lifestyle. But I would say it’s more of a life choice, an art of living.