People always ask the tell-all question “if you only had one day to live, what would you do?” I hate answering this question. I think it is kind of silly. However, what isn’t so silly is asking people “if you had one day off of work a month, what would you do with it?”
When I was living in Fresno, CA back in 2010 and early 2011, this was a real scenario for me. I technically, on paper, had two days off each week. Paper is a dirty liar. Here’s what I kept thinking:
“I live so close to so many amazing places. People literally fly from China to visit these places that are day trips for me, and what do I do on my rare days off? I open up my laptop, check emails on my Blackberry, answer calls from my employees at the store and stress over the constantly growing pile I am drowning under. I try to sleep, go to grocery store, and watch tv to try to let my brain shut off. I literally waste my own time.”
After realizing that was a really stupid thing to keep doing, I started being a bit more selfish. It’s really not such a bad thing! Everyone links such a negative connotation with being selfish, possibly because they have never done it themselves. It is not about doing things to harm others, just doing things not to harm yourself.
I took a few day trips up to Yosemite to hike up the falls and stand on the edge of the world, managed to cover myself in melty dark chocolate right before a dawn hike through the Sequoia National Forest (bear bait!), and occasionally made time for a trip to San Fran for some donuts in Chinatown and a Giants game. Digging through my closet before going to bed one evening, I came across a dusty black duffel bag. My scuba gear- not touched for 6 years- was going to get some use in Monterey!
An important thing to remember if you have taken a lot of time off of diving or not ever had experience outside of your Open Water training: you really do not know what you are doing. Don’t walk in overly confident or go with someone who does not understand the extent of your greenness.
First off, my wetsuit is apparently not cut out for Monterey waters in the early Spring. After putting on an extra wetsuit over mine and turning into a charred-looking Michelin Man, I stood like a doll on a tarp near the shore and had all the other equipment placed on my body. The hood made me feel trapped instantly. By this time, the instructor was heading into the water and I was freaking out inside of my head.
“How do I breathe? What happens if I can’t equalize? I’ve never swam in a current before! Why can I not control my buoyancy at all? Why is this guy not as freaked out about me as I am?!?”
I quickly realized that I could not remember how to control all of my gear as naturally as I needed to. I was sinking too fast, bubbling up to the surface like I had a rocket pack on, and feeling more and more out of control every second. We swam about 5m under the surface looking at some aquatic life and heading along with the slope of the bottom towards shore. Our dive was probably the shortest dive ever. The only thing I wanted to do was get out of the gear because it all felt so alien to me.
It was one of the most frightening experiences. All I could think about was the thousands of ways to die while diving. My inexperience and time off since training was a huge factor, but I also went in way too confident. I didn’t review my PADI materials, I didn’t swim with my mask and snorkel in the pool first.
Not having gone diving since then, you may think it is a little crazy to head for scuba diving training in Thailand. The thing is, I know I love it. I knew from the first breath I took underwater in the training pool that it was a sensation and world I want to explore. Just like anything you love, it will not always be perfect. My PADI OW materials even say, “You will have dive experiences you don’t enjoy.” Luckily, I’ve been there already and can accept it.
I was so proud of myself when I got home. I put myself out there and did something that was adventurous. That day could have been like any other, and would have been unless I did something about it.
Don’t be scared to look outside of what seems obvious and easy for your days off. See the things around where you live that draw in tourists, as they are probably worth something. Do something you haven’t done in five or ten years just to see if you still can. Get outside of your city and errands and chores just for a day. Check out the internet for ideas, the local tourism or cultural center, or ask friends.
Whether you have two days off a week or one day off each month, don’t let that day pass in vain. Fight to make that day memorable…it may be the only chance you get for a while!