Over the course of the weekend I had to put my dive and teaching skills on display, to be evaluated and critiqued by two well respected dive professionals. They would assign everyone a list of skills with unknown problems that needed to be remediated. We had to perform demonstration quality skills to showcase our knowledge and experience. Our first day, Friday night was an Introduction to the Instructor Exams (IE.) Saturday and Sunday were a demonstration of our teaching and dive skills.
The first night we drove up, everyone was pumped. It was electric, the tension was palpable. The hair on our forearms could be felt standing up erect as if struck by an electric charge. I was ready, the past two weeks had blown by, speeding past me blurring the images of my memory into an out of focus photo. Light trails danced, and people seemed to blur with the speed of the days gone by. Driving, I caught myself wishing time would stand still for just a few more moments. I knew this would all be over in a blink of an eye. I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
We were prepared and confident. We all knew and hoped it would go well. Nothing could stop this train. We were unstoppable. Everyone arrived and scoped out the venue. We took a tour and any apprehensions immediately relieved once we saw where we were doing our exams. During our orientation, the room sat quiet as our examiners outlined the next two days. Their jokes fell on deaf ears since everyone wanted to get in and out. All of us wanted to finish our last minute preparations.
On the drive back, we discussed what our performance skills would be. Ideas poured out of everyone like a dam giving way. When we arrived back at the classroom, each of us started working on our presentations. I sat down plugged in to my inspiration and let my fingers fly across the keyboard. Ten minutes later I had it written. I selected my dive slates and prepped the last of my gear. After finishing any last minute things for the group I was up, excited, on it, ready to get this done. I wanted to go out; I NEEDED to go out.
Grabbing some friends I left my crew behind to prep in their own ways. Some were late night crammers, others were rehersers, and the rest were double checkers. I am not. I needed more energy, more excitement, more people and loud music. Driving down the beach we parked, grabbed some drinks and had a small party under the stars. The only sounds were the bass we felt in our chest and the occasional passing car. The night sky so dark and brilliant was a giant glittering light show just for us. I soaked up the night’s energy to use for the next day.
I woke up just a few hours later refreshed and excited. The drive up in the early morning was quiet. Each person in their own pre fight ritual. I played music and drove through the darkness. The stillness around us served as a calm moment for us, before any possible storm that could arise later. We were to be first in the water to do our skills. I had drawn some of my less confident ones and focused, rehearsing the motions in mind, in time with the music. We knew the day would go well.
Getting in the water we all felt confident, Nick and I chose to be only two to remain for everyone. We knew this would ease any of their apprehensions and let them be at ease. Our skills went by in moments. All fives across the board, we had nailed it. Our confined water presentations only boosted our confidence. Our disappointment only arose when and if we hadn’t done something perfectly. Each of us had our confidence boosted as we danced through the water skills. I knew I would ace the exams and we’d all do well.
With a huge chunk of free time after getting the pool skills done we set out to Starbucks to get some coffee. I had never really been at one before and ordered something akin to 6 shots of espresso. Taking our drinks back we started working on whatever we felt lacking; I wrote. I left the creative juices flow and continued the long lost habit. Honing my craft, The wolf on the top of the hill is never as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill. I had to keep that hunger this time.
After 3 hours of free time we started our exams. I was intent on being not only the first one done but setting the bar for everyone else. When I received my exam I dove in, head first, plunging through the questions. My pen raced across the answer sheet like it was on autopilot. After blasting through four sections I booted up my calculator. The unmistakable electric chirp let everyone know I was on a specific section. The only thing they didn’t know was that it was my last section.
I had saved this specific one for the end as a gauge of how the remainder of the IE candidates were doing. A few minutes would go by before the next person booted thiers up, signifying he was halfway through. I promptly finished after rechecking all of my answers. Turning in my first exam the IE Examiners asked me if I needed a break before starting the second half. I without hesitating said “No, I like to set the bar for rest to intimidate Rainbow Reef.” They laughed and handed me my next exam. There has always been a silent rivalry between us and this year it was going to be a quick victory. The interesting part was my crew was used to it and would be unphased. But the four other crews weren’t and it was on.
I finished the second one in less than fifteen minutes. It took me fifteen minutes to do sixty questions with no reference and twelve calculations and another 15 to look up all the protocols. One hundred and ten questions in thirty minutes, I had received a perfect score and ninety percent between the two. I had set the bar. It would be sometime before the next person finished their first section. I was on fire, blazing through the IE.
I went back to writing and waited for Chris and Nick to finish. An hour went by before Chris finished, he was the second person in the exam to complete the whole thing. We were now maintain the momentum. He wanted to get his presentation out of the way. I went second. By now some of the other crew candidates had finished and were filtering into the presentation room. I knew what was coming next. They were in for a world of hurt.
You see, we had to follow a scripted outline and hit key points. Most people follow the script hitting the points and that’s all fine and well. It’s also very dry and bland. I wanted to wow and amaze them. I started speaking and the words just fell into place. Keeping an eye on the examiner I watched him check off point after point. He was smiling as I delivered a well rounded, fluid presentation. I knew I was passing, I didn’t want a perfect score nor did I care. I just wanted to engage with everyone and get them engaged. Finishing my presentation I didn’t need my score. I knew I did well.
Just like that day one was over. The next day blew by with open water skills at Jules Undersea Lodge. We had gotten a bit cocky, rightfully so and felt a bit underprepared as we nitpicked over our own briefings and skills. Little did we know it did not matter. Everyone commented on how fluid and professional we looked. They didn’t know we missed things and only we beat ourselves up about it. By the end of the day we had our certs in our hands and were all Dive Instructors. The two week Journey had come to an end. With that our last drive home went quick even though we strained to relish in the last fleeting moments.
That night most of us went out one last time and enjoyed each other’s company. Knowing full well we may never see each other again in the near future. It’s hard, I spent the last fourteen days trying to make it last and no matter how hard I tried the time flew by. Time, time is the ultimate mark of our lives. How we spend it, how we utilize it, and cherish it. In the end we always want more and when things are bad, time can never move quickly enough. I wanted more time with them; I needed more time with them.
By the next day everyone had left and I found myself alone. I awoke with nothing to do and a bit of no direction. I knew that I had to get my master captains license by the next weekend. I needed a little bit to change gears. To refocus and commit to the next goal. In three weeks I’ll have gotten my Dive Instructor and 50 ton Captains License. For what? That hole, void, the place of need that drives us was missing something again. Having these two accomplishments meant nothing and filled no void. I still felt like something was missing. It seems as if the next great journey of my life could be around the corner. I wonder where that drive will take me next. Will you still follow along? Will I do this alone or will we figure this out together?