Three years ago, I came to DJL for my Open Water Course. As is the norm (or so it seems,) I stayed and completed my Advanced Open Water and some fun dives. I left Koh Tao with the memory of Luke, then a Divemaster, taking me to Chumphon Pinnacle to see sharks and through the swim-throughs at Green Rock. 1,000 days and a few jobs later, I am back to Koh Tao and embarking upon my Divemaster. A trip around the world was hijacked, a boyfriend was (temporarily) abandoned, and a lifestyle was discovered the minute my feet were again in the DJL shop.
A few days ago, I hit my 70th dive. For over two days of my life, I have been underwater and breathing through a series of tubes and metal called a regulator. The first few, I was completely focused on survival. The next dozen, I was perfecting the technique. Then came the phase in which I started to notice the world around me, and searched for the whale sharks, schools of fusiliers, and the flamboyant nudi branchs sharing the water. Finally, I realized I was good at this, felt relaxed, and although I have yet to come across a turtle in Koh Tao, I have been content with what I have seen.
On more than a few occasions, I have tried to decipher why each dive still causes me to become excited. I continue to choose to be in bed by 10 to board the rocking long-tail boat at 7:00. Every time, before my giant stride entry into the water, I am smiling. Diving has become to me the most incredible system of repetition. Every time I get in the water, there is something new. I might be looking out for a particular creature. I might be trying to dive with a different wetsuit that is more positively buoyant. Perhaps one of the other DMT’s, John or Danielle, will need assistance. Assisting the instructors, from Luke to Neil, Sabrina to Giles, each offers it’s own series of challenges and learning opportunities. It is possible that I will get underwater and not be able to see more than a meter in front of me. If nothing else, I can choose to beat my personal time for underwater headstand at any given depth on any “boring” dive.
The idea of being comfortable with the basics of a thing, and therefore embracing the details, is not new to me. Teaching middle school had its moments, but still remained so largely out of my control. While I can’t control the outside environment in the Gulf of Thailand, I can master my own part of it. Singing a song at Karaoke. A yoga pose. Writing. Being a friend. It is only in repetition that the truth of many things comes to light. Sing a song enough times and you know the note that trips you up, the place your boredom with the melody begins. Downward facing dog pose has only improved after I had reached my 20th attempt. As I teach my students, the more I go through the writing process the stronger I become with a pen. And it is only by rehashing the mistakes I repeatedly made being a friend that I scratch the surface of why I did it.
This is what is often missing in traveling – no familiar routines. DJL has started to counteract this. I know I can come in here every morning and see the instructors, ready to dive and as much as they pretend to be reluctant, ready to answer my questions about diving. I have a routine again. This is an improvement from the day to day work back home. I have nothing each day that I am choosing to do, to get better at, to practice to the extent that I can sense the smallest improvement as a major accomplishment. It is a nice reminder that a repetitive activity completed for enjoyment is not selfish – rather, it is necessary to make the pedantic feel exciting, the details seem important, and life as a series of manageable tasks. New goal: remember the value of repetition, wherever I may go. Even if it doesn’t involve an aluminum tank on my back and wrinkled skin on my fingertips.
The author, Lisa, is an American who has been a PADI Divemaster Trainee at DJL for a month and will (tragically) be completing her course in the next few weeks.