Shannon Wilkinson

I don’t really believe in the stereotypical resolutions, at least not in the “quick, it’s December 31 and I need to make a promise to myself to do something unachievable/uninspiring that I’m probably going to lose interest in by February” sense.

But last year, I decided to make one. I knew it had legs because it had been a slow burn in coming and it kept creeping into my stream of consciousness. My resolution was simple—to start saying yes.

I got to this place I like to call “small child hibernation,” wherein the world slowed down for the Small Ones, and I was doling out “nos” left and right to anyone outside my small sphere. Can I go out Saturday? No. Can I take on more at work? No. Can I volunteer? No. Can I take up golf again? Are you kidding? And mind you, I was cool with that for a while.

Until I decided to change my answer to yes. You’d think that would be easy, but I can get pretty content and settled in many respects. So I started making a real effort in saying yes to lots of things and opening up my world to new experiences. Making time for old friends. Putting my talents to work in new ways. Getting outside my comfort zone.

Earlier this year, one of the things I said yes to was scuba. It had never really been on my radar. But my husband, always the adventurer at heart, started encouraging me to think about getting scuba certified on our upcoming trip to Jamaica. I will admit my first response was definitely not in the affirmative. “Too scary.” “Happy with a snorkel.” “What if I panic/run out of air/have to pee/die?” He calmly answered all of them (you CAN pee in the wetsuit if you need to) and I ended up saying…you guessed it…maybe.

Where the magic happens.

This was a big one. I couldn’t make the commitment. I wanted to wait and see how I felt when I got there. It was a solid maybe. We were fortunate enough to stay at a resort that included a dive shop on-site. I took a day to watch and see what was happening over there. Lots of equipment. Lots of things that could go wrong, in my view. Definitely a lot of dudes, which under normal circumstances is not intimidating, but it added to the internal debate.

The pool was definitely lacking in aquatic flora and fauna.

On the second day, the yes came. I started out in the pool to learn the basics. I felt safe because I could stand up at any time and my head was above water. I could do this! I was deemed “one of the best beginners” the scuba instructors had “ever seen.” Oooh. In retrospect, I think they were trying to make me feel better and continue with my certification, but moving on, it DID make me feel better and I WAS ready for the Real Live Ocean.

Scared? Me? No way, mon.

On the boat ride out to the dive site, my instructor called out to me, “You know the nervous ones because they got their knees together, mon!” I looked down at my knees, which couldn’t be more tightly clamped together. I told him I was just being a lady. I was putting on a good face and joking around but crap, I was pretty scared. Then it was time. Thirty-three feet down time. That part went just ok. I slowly descended holding a rope, concentrating on pulling myself into the deep, one hand over hand at a time. My mask filled up a little and salt water stung my eyes. My ponytail and my cute little rubber headband for my bangs got in the way of my mask strap. And why can’t I get horizontal? Should I let some air out of my BCD? I didn't really see any ocean life because I was too distracted. But I lived. I didn’t “wet” my wetsuit OR run out of air. I also didn’t love it.

Fast-forward 24 hours. That next day something flipped. Let’s quickly skip over how I cried into my scrambled eggs at breakfast that morning and sent Jason over to the dive shack to cancel any further training. (My dive master was having none of that and came to fetch me from my tear-drenched breakfast.)  

Shout out to my scuba buddy.

Back to the part where something flipped. Once I got back into it, I calmed down. Lost all the junk on my head so my mask fit snugly and my hair flowed free and out of my way like a troll doll. I got things under control. Controlled my air like a boss. And actually got to SEE the beauty that is down (waaaay down) under us. I experienced my smallness in comparison to the ocean. It made me instantly respect it and the life in it. And speaking of the life in it, I got to pet a shark! I really did! I pet the big old fin of a resting nurse shark. I saw an octopus close up. Best of all, I saw myself doing something I never imagined.

I said yes, and I didn’t die. That’s the moral of the story.

So today I’m open water certified…laminated card and everything. But saying yes doesn’t have to result in something as adventuresome as scuba. I’ve applied it in lots of little ways and I think I’m better for it. Sometimes it really only takes those three letters for the world to open up. (Even if you have to maybe your way there.)