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  • jeniferfoster2

The path to diving

Updated: May 31, 2023

So – going from being a lawyer/social worker in DC to being a scuba diving instructor in the Caribbean might seem like I’m in the midst of a midlife crisis (my friends have called it that); however, it’s not quite as much of a stretch as other people might think. Or, at least, it doesn’t seem like it to me.

I was thrown in to water when I was about 8 months old and quickly learned to swim (I really do think it’s fairly instinctual) and I LOVED the water. My mom told me stories of me being a toddler (we lived in Florida at the time), standing by the side of the pool counting down and jumping in. I didn’t even know my numbers yet but I could swim! When I got a bit older, we moved to Virginia. I was incredibly fortunate to have a pool – and was in the pool almost every day from about mid-April to mid-October. My mom used to call me her little fish.

When I got certified as an open water diver, it seemed like a pretty natural fit. I got certified in a cold, murky green lake in Virginia. It was fun, but, I didn’t feel terribly overwhelmed with it. Not until I went to Cancun with a friend after graduating college, and decided I should go diving while there. Holy smokes – it was like swimming in an aquarium! The reef was beautiful and healthy (much damage since then – but, that might be for another post). The fish were abundant. I was enchanted. But, after college I moved to Arizona, and I was broke. Not exactly the best circumstances for an aspiring diver. Diving got put aside.

Almost 20 years later, I went to Belize on vacation and figured I should go diving. It was so much fun! So many fish; the water was so blue. It was the first times I ever saw sharks (nurse sharks for clarity, certainly not great whites) in the wild. I remembered why I loved diving before. I vowed to try to go more often. And, I did. About once a year. That was all wonderful until I had a fairly scary experience in Cozumel.

But, that scary experience led me to talking about diving in therapy. I talked about why I loved it so much. I talked about how meditative it was. I talked about how relaxing and beautiful it was and I talked about my dreams of becoming a scuba instructor when I retired. I also talked about how scary that experience had been, how sometimes I was too trusting and how it really was important to recognize when I was uncomfortable and to speak up. All this led to me booking my first live-aboard... but, I’ve talked about where that led in another post.

The interesting thing, though, is that I met models along the way. My instructor in Thailand was a woman from England who was a nurse prior to becoming an instructor. She had a similar story to mine now – she had gotten burnt out in the world of nursing, and wanted a change. She slowly started diving more, and then eventually took the plunge, became an instructor and moved to Thailand. I was wowed. I told her she was living my dream. She told me I needed to dive more!

I also met another dive instructor in Mexico (he led me on a whale shark snorkel). He had been a lawyer in Chile, and told me that being in an office all day wasn’t for him, and he left. He is now a tour operator in Mexico.

Similarly, when I started down this path, I reached out to a woman on a Facebook scuba group about her thoughts on what I was aiming for. She told me she is a psychologist and practices when she isn’t diving.

So many people have taken this plunge before me! I figured if they could do it, I, too, was smart enough to make this work.

But – I was definitely scared. I talked to my financial advisor about it. He has heard many of my ideas of opening businesses and moving to other countries over the years since we started working together. He laughed at me! He said I’m the only person he knew whose “fall back” was law. He said he thought I’d be okay.

I also had an awful lot of support (and cheerleading) from friends and family. I was absolutely unsure that I should do this given my dad’s stroke, and the uncertainty of the life of travel coming out of a pandemic. But, I got so much encouragement, that I felt that I could do it, even though I questioned myself frequently. You see, even though I am adventurous; I am also very calculated when it comes to taking risks. I haven’t quit a job without something lined up since I was about 20. I’m also not fully dependent on diving. I’m still doing counseling part-time, which is helping to support this wild idea.

But, I must say – after I made the decision to do this – things REALLY just fell into place for me – things like work and a place to live. I really don’t know where it all leads, but I really do think a path forward will come together.

Also – I have taught all sorts of things over the years, and to all groups of people – from kindergarteners through law students and pretty much everyone in between. My first teaching gig was when I was still in high school, and I’ve taught everything from religious education (don’t hold it against me) to how to litigate a case. I love teaching – almost as much as I love diving.

There are SO many benefits to being an instructor! I get to be outside most days; I get to exercise (albeit, not terribly strenuous, but I have lost weight since being in Honduras). I get to swim every day, and practice my version of meditation. I get to interact with people and see amazingly beautiful sites almost daily. And, I get to teach. It sure beats sitting in an office chair all day (or being in court).

Is this my final stop? Probably not. I have a long-term plan. If it works, it will incorporate diving, and therapy, and possibly teaching. We shall see. Right now, I’m pretty much living on a prayer. I have definitely taken some leaps of faith. But, they might not be QUITE as drastic as they seem. I have been talking about this stuff for a LONG time. Many of my close friends have heard about versions of these plans for years! I just don’t think many people thought I’d do it. Hell, I wasn’t sure I would. There are a LOT of reasons to play it safe, and not take the leap. A LOT of reasons! But, when you really think that we only have one life to live – and that nothing is guaranteed – why not take some calculated risks? Live in a beautiful place, do something you love and learn a whole lot about yourself and the world you live in? Honestly? I’m so glad I’m doing this. I am grateful every day for the experience I’m having. There is definitely something to be said about that!

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