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  • jeniferfoster2

Where it all began...

Updated: May 31, 2023

I’m in Roatan, Honduras for my second, going on third month, contemplating going for a dive, but procrastinating because I’m feeling a little run down from my long travel back yesterday (I went home for a week), and know that “work” is going to be a bit busy tomorrow. I work at a scuba diving shop on a dive resort. Six months ago I was working full time as a lawyer/social worker in DC. How did I get here? Where do I even begin?

If I’m honest, after I took scuba diving in college (it was one of my two required “gym” classes), I started saying, “when I retire, I’m going to be a dive instructor in the Caribbean. Actually, six months ago, had you read my profile at work, it actually said, “Jen hopes to be a dive instructor in the Caribbean when she retires.” No one thought I was serious. And, I’m not retirement age.

I think maybe the pandemic was the catalyst. Partially. It was partially my dad having a stroke. It was partially a micro-managing, over-righteous boss. Although, my therapist prior to the pandemic, said to me, “you keep saying you want to eventually be a dive instructor. Perhaps you should dive more than once a year?” Ironic, now that I think about it. Because of that comment, the weekend before the pandemic started, I went to a scuba diving show. That led me to booking my first live-aboard (dive boat that you live on for a period of time, and do multiple dives daily). It was on that boat that I learned about the resort where I decided to do a month-long divemaster course, which led to me signing up for my instructor course in Roatan, which led to me working at the resort where I did my divemaster course. But, I digress.

The start of the pandemic though... I was already tired. At my job I supervised four law students, and five social work students. I also did counseling part-time with vets. The week before the pandemic, I had been in court three days that week, helping to prevent people from being evicted. Then, the pandemic started and everything grinded to a halt. Evictions were put on hold. Court, incredibly slowly, started happening virtually. Students, were bombarding me with questions about what they should be doing. What were any of us supposed to be doing?

Then the tedium of the pandemic started. Listening to my significant other participating in work meetings upstairs, while I did one zoom meeting after another. Six or seven zoom meetings in a day, followed by counseling sessions on the phone. I was exhausted. My senses were fatigued. The walk around the neighborhood was the most exciting thing that happened. I sent out all-staff emails about self care. Tedium. Boredom. Exhaustion.

My boyfriend’s work situation changed. It was a good thing. It freed him up to do other things. Like travel. I worked remotely. I could be anywhere. I told one friend at work what I was doing, but otherwise kept our plans to myself. But, we decided to spend four months in Medellin, Colombia – one of the few countries that was open.

And, that decision – that is really the reason that I’m here right now. Because that decision, to be in another country, learn another language (or try), take dance classes, go out to restaurants, to meet people, and learn about another culture, and take in beautiful sites – it woke me up from the frenetic sleep-walk that I was in. It broke the monotony. It challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting. And, it was like my body was breathing and awake for the first time in years. And, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all great. I remember one night that I drank wine by myself on our balcony, repetitively playing one song, trying to dance my new bachata moves feeling incredibly sorry for myself that my introverted boyfriend had no desire to go out and I was terrified of going out by myself in a country I hardly knew and where I spoke very little of the language. I felt alone. Vastly alone. And yet – I worked myself out of my funk that night – having an epiphany that I relied on my boyfriend for all of my social needs, and that was causing stress in our relationship and was unhealthy for me personally. I started to understand that if I really wanted to be happy, I needed to be okay functioning on my own. (I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I was not someone who did every little thing with her boyfriend before that moment. But, I did rely on him to go out for dinner and out at night.)

So – that was the start. Or maybe the beginning of the end. The beginning of the end to that chapter in my life.

It hasn’t come without fear. I was fricking terrified to move to Medellin. I was excited too. But, I was scared. My boss now has a quote framed in the dive shop, “everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear. ” (George Addair). Seems true to me.

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