I don’t play the what-if game very often. Life is full of choices and regardless of which ones we choose in those moments, that is our life. Sometimes things go back and correct themselves and other times, sorry, you’re out of luck. This is what you did and these are the consequences. Sure, you occasionally go “What if I studied more for that exam instead of hanging out with my friends?” but you don’t dwell on it. You can’t. You’d go insane. So I normally avoid it all together.
Lately though, I’ve been stuck on a loop for one particular instance of what if. Since high school, I wanted to learn how to scuba dive. But it was expensive and finding the time and place to do it wasn’t easy. The summer after my junior year I tried scuba in a 25 foot tank at Space Camp. It was awesome. The coolest thing ever. So of course, when I got home I still had no money and no time to try scuba diving, but my mom convinced me that once I went down to school – I already was pretty set on moving to Florida for college – it would be easier and probably cheaper to get into diving. So I waited.
The second or third week of classes, we finally had an activities fair and I learned we had a dive club on campus. Awesome. So I went to the table to learn about the dive club and getting certified. Well, the club people weren’t exactly the most welcoming group of people I’d ever met. They seemed excited to have someone interested in diving until they learned that I wasn’t certified yet. Then I was kind of shoved aside. I was thrown a business card and told to check out there to get certified and then come back and see them to go diving. Behind the table was the pool and they had people in the water trying scuba. I had made the mistake of telling one of the people that I had tried it before, so I guess that option was off the table because none of them mentioned it to me. Of course, I realize now that even if they had mentioned it, I was only 17 so I wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway.
But recently I can’t help but wonder if I had talked to the guy who was taking people to dive or taken that initiative and called the shop to get certified then, how different some things might have been. I drove by the location of where I thought the shop was that weekend, but I am directionally challenged and failed miserably on that. So I gave up. I didn’t feel welcome with the club since I wasn’t certified and none of them seemed to be interested in giving more details and I didn’t want to just randomly call a shop to find out more information. So I got involved with other things and school and learning to dive got pushed off to the side yet again.
As my faithful readers will already know, I got certified in New Zealand three years ago, when I started this blog. When I finally got back to campus, I decided I was going to give the dive club another chance. After all, everyone from back then should have already graduated and gone since it had been so long since my freshman year and I was now a certified diver. I didn’t think I’d become as involved with the dive club as I am now. I’ve been an officer in the club for two out of the three semesters I’ve been there. I’ve led dive trips with all levels of divers at sites I’ve never even been to. I work at the aforementioned dive shop that I was, many years ago, too shy to even call. I’ve come a long way from my freshman year of college.
And in the last few months I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been had I called the shop and got certified my freshman year. Would I have started working at the shop then? Would I have become an instructor and teach other people how to dive by now? I think it would be really cool to be an instructor. I got into diving because I wanted to go to the Great Barrier Reef, dive in ice, and dive wrecks. I have checked out a few wrecks, but mostly, I’ve failed on the things I’ve wanted to do as a diver. People tell me I still have my whole life ahead of me and plenty of time to do and see the things I want to see and do. But then I see other people who are instructors or diving these things who are younger than me. And I don’t think I’m that old! The time feels wasted. And I can’t help but think “What if I got certified earlier?” I could have accomplished what I’ve wanted to do (diving wise – I don’t think for a second that I haven’t accomplished a lot of what I’ve wanted in other aspects). It’s a scary feeling. A little disturbing. But ultimately, it’s irritating. I can’t change anything and maybe this path happened for whatever else to be possible in other aspects. But I still let it consume my thoughts sometimes. That simple “what if?”