On this day, I Took My First Breath…

…Under water. It was the 28th of January. It began as any other day, which at that time in my life meant a 45-minute commute to a job that was killing me not so slowly. I remember that upon arrival at the office, the morning evolved quickly from the normal annoyances to a series of crisis and non-issue issues that should never have existed. Those sorts of days made me crazy and were all too common. Mid-morning, a promotional email arrives in my inbox. Ordinarily I would delete such a message out of hand, but for whatever reason I opened and read it. The message was promoting an “I tried Scuba” event to be held that night. It was a crappy day, I knew something needed to change, so I decided on a total lark to do something totally out of the norm. Take a left turn as it were, and give this scuba thing a try. I had driven by Tom Leaird’s scuba shop nearly every day, and often thought it was more than a little strange to have a scuba shop in Muncie, Indiana. Diving is not exactly an activity I associated with our flat corn and soybean fields. If nothing else, it would provide something interesting to look forward to at the end of the day.

The day ended and we gathered in a classroom at the pool, where I met Sheli Plummer and Carol Reed. Sheli and Carol are local scuba instructors and would be conducting the event. The event begins with some introductory material and lovely underwater photos. I distinctly remember finding them nice, but still being really distracted by the day. Then we move to the pool. A group of interns and Divemasters in training were assisting with gear while Sheli and Carol provided an individual guided tour of the pool to each attendee. I was towards the end of the line. It came my turn to gear up and I strapped on the standard rental gear. BC, reg set, tank, etc. The Interns strapped some lead on me and then I waited for my turn. The person in front of me was having some trouble descending at the far end of the pool, so I had a bit of a wait. The pool ranges from about 3.5 feet on the shallow end where we were staging down to 13 or so feet on the deep end. During my wait, I deflated the BC enough to sink into the shallow water. And I took my first breath, sitting cross legged on the bottom in a 3.5-foot column of water. It was a sublime experience. Sound travels differently in water and something about the sound and the pressure of the water created a focusing experience. There was no stressing on the day that passed, there was no worrying about what the next day would bring. There were only bubbles, the sound of my own breathing, and the feeling of the warm water. In that breath, I was in the moment. All that mattered was the next breath. The next moment. I realized sitting there, 3.5 feet under water, my deepest dive ever at the time, that anything that can produce this kind of experience was worth pursuing. It was an activity worth learning, practicing and becoming VERY proficient in. It was only a few moments there on the bottom in the shallows, or perhaps a lifetime, depends on your perspective. Then my turn came and Carol led me on a lap around the pool. I finished the night knowing this was something I had to pursue.

It has been an interesting journey since that first breath. I took my class with Sheli and Ryan Plummer, got certified, met many wonderful people, started this dive blog with Cam, changed jobs, and found a lifelong passion to explore the Underwater World. I can still replicate that kind of calming experience I discovered on my first breath underwater. All in all, I’d say this is a pretty good return on investment for an evening and the modest fee to participate in the event. I would encourage everyone to give something a try that is out of your norm. I recommend scuba, but it can be anything. You may find that it will open up whole new avenues and adventures that you not only didn’t expect, but didn’t even know about.

-Ben