D 5. What it takes to be(come) a Dive Master

I don’t remember the last time I had a long term objective this precise, let alone one I actually pursued with this much dedication. And it’s no joke, by the way. I can’t think of anyone who would spend the third day of their dream vacation learning the many ways someone can die, playing through accident scenarios, learning how to break ribs to save a life, and so on. (Yeah that rib thing did traumatise me quite some.) I had to know what I was doing, and be determined to see this through, in order to spend three dives in these phenomenal waters learning how to assist an inexperienced diver, rather than just drifting through the most wonderful real life aquarium I had ever seen.

When I first thought of becoming a Dive Master, it was in the form of a challenge. I met a girl, six years younger than me, not much fitter than I was, most probably not smarter than me. She had done it. So could I, if I really wanted to, uh?

But why would I want to do that? To what end? I’m no longer a student, looking for a smart and cheap way to spend as much time as possible in the most beautiful places of the world. I’m turning thirty this year, surly I need to be thinking of real estate and retirement plans, not travel hacks and a clever escape to some paradisiac island, shouldn’t I?

That’s the first step of going after your dreams, isn’t it? To realise you’re allowed to stray away from the beaten tracks. Once you take that step, and allow yourself to actually turn a crazy thought into a « why the fuck not » impulse, then comes step two: will power. If you really want this, you’ll find a way. No matter how scary it may seem, or difficult it may be.

I never thought myself capable of keeping my cool under water, yet the more I dive, the better I feel. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve started, and I haven’t hit that frustrating ceiling yet, that moment when I don’t make any progress anymore, but I do, in fact, keep getting better and better. And my first instructor knows how far I’ve come down that road, if my very first dive was any indication… (hashtag panic attack on the way to the diving site, let’s not forget).

A year and a half later, here I am, in Indonesia, starting my training. If everything goes according to plans, I could very well be a Dive Master at the end of the summer. I would be a professional diver. An actual hard skill that I can find work with, a job that would require living near the ocean, diving frequently, meeting new people, and practising my foreign languages — even learn some new ones, enough to brief visiting divers and show marine life.

I am looking at the Diving Instructors who have taught me rescue and emergency first response these past three days, thinking: that could be me (Instructor is a step above Dive Master, but one that I intend to take with a little more experience). That could be me, clearing up the dock at the end of the day, preparing the gear and boat rotations for the next morning. Welcoming guests. Training experienced divers, introducing the activity to beginners. That could be me. And I very much like that thought.

I could be living in my bathing suit, and using all the spare time provided by the long afternoons and evenings, the lack of guests, the weather delays, to write. All the novels I have in store, somewhere up in my mind. I could use the relaxing feeling triggered by every submarine immersion to draw endless inspiration. Who needs to get drunk when you can achieve this level of serenity by practicing your actual occupation?

Now I know. Dive Master is a great responsibility. I’d have to stay alert at all times, and assist my divers. Should anything happen, I need to act without fail, for a small mistake underwater can become a great accident. But even this kind of positive stress does not dull my senses, nor my inspiration. And with more experience, I’m confident that I would be able to resolve many more stressful situations, beyond the few (twisted!) scenarios that my Instructor has pulled on me during our three training dives.

« Dive, eat, sleep »: #LifeGoal

So there I am. On the threshold of a new choice, profiling ahead, months, maybe years away… Maybe less. As difficult as that upcoming choice may be, the hardest is yet to come. I may feel confident enough to play Dive Master to an Instructor pretending to be inexperienced, I may be skilled enough to assist an average diver, but I’m a long way away from being able to calm down a stressed beginner, yet alone defuse a panic underwater. I’ve got decent skills, good reflexes, and cool-quick thinking. That’s a start. But not the end of the road, far from it.

It’s an exciting journey, and I intent to enjoy every minute of it. May it be discussing pulmonary oedemas under a parasol, or suffering a sunburn from playing drowned & rescue in a pool for 3 hours, or gazing at my very first giant sea turtle, resting on a reef, with a fish nested on top of her shell.

I had to blink a few time under my mask, the salty water stuck to my lashes wasn’t from the sea.

Ultimately, I don’t know whether or not I’ve got what it takes to become a Dive Master, then an Instructor, to do this job. One thing I’m sure of though: I won’t find out until I’ve tried, with everything I’ve got.

Bring it on: I’m doing this 200%.

Oh, and by the way: I passed. Emergency First Response and Rescue. I’m qualified to coordinate a rescue. And I actually feel confident that I could if — God forbid, I ever needed to.

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