Henry Haskins said that panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.
Six months ago if you asked me the one thing that would make me panic more than anything, it would be jumping off the back of the boat 20 miles offshore in pitch black darkness with only a flashlight and a scuba tank strapped to my back.
Yet somehow there I was, standing on the back of the boat wondering how my life had come down to this moment, going over every terrifying possibility that could arise from this situation. The vastness of the open ocean has always terrified and fascinated me, from my first grade goals of becoming a Steve Irwin-type wildlife expert and marine conservationist. That fell by the wayside throughout high school and college and my fascination with the ocean decreased as my fear of it increased.
But shortly after concluding my whirlwind European backpacking adventure, chock full of exhilarating views, sleepless nights and borderline dangerous, yet thrilling circumstances, I returned home and began to become unsatisfied with the comfort of daily life. I needed something to make me feel uncomfortable again. After my friend Haley recounted her Honduran scuba diving vacation, I signed up for the FSU scuba certification course. Two and a half months later I found myself standing on the stern of a dive boat about to jump into absolute nothingness.
I have always considered myself a somewhat nervous person, someone who WebMDs their minor health problems and bites their fingernails down to stubs. Scuba diving teaches you, if nothing else, how to clear your mind for rational decision making and how to talk yourself down from panicking in any situation, scuba related or not. The mantra is to just breathe – breathing deeply suppresses the fight or flight area of the brain, leading to more deliberate actions. I now understand how to be calm in the face of something that makes me very nervous. The skills you learn by doing activities that put you so far outside your comfort zone stick with you and benefit you in unforeseen ways. By forcing myself to take the leap (the literal leap off the boat), I now know I can do things I once thought impossible for myself or just “too scary.” The fear I harbored about the ocean didn’t serve me in any way. Once I dove right in and was able to see what was waiting for me below, I faced that fear.
Recommendations for Key Largo:
(1) Capt’n Slate’s Dive Center: Captain Slate and his crew are warm, funny and take good care of their divers. One of the first mates looks like a short Ernest Hemingway and has a jolly Santa Claus-like disposition. You’ll want him on your boat.
(2) Café Moka: Located right on the main road, Café Moka has amazing iced lattes, almond croissants and sandwiches. Not your typical, touristy, Florida Keys restaurant.