Alumni Reflections: Taking the Leap
By Sydney Baker, Broadreach Alumni Student & Current Instructor
As I jumped into the sun-warmed waters off the cliff filled shore of Saba that were now inked black with the night, I felt a sudden wave of fear. I was freefalling in the night air out into the nothing that makes up the ever-evolving world. Covered with fins, my feet gently eased into the water and my head was held under by the weight of it. With two quick scissor kicks, my head broke the surface and I filled my lungs with the sweet air. I was jumping into the unknown abyss of an unknown world. One of the dive instructors, who was going on the night-dive, jokingly stated, “Being at the surface is always the scariest,” as he hurriedly sliced through the darkened water to the mooring line from where we were casting off.
The select few of us that were participating in this particular night dive off of Man O’ War Shoals slowly congregated at the mooring ball. Another girl and I grasped onto a rope as the large waves threatened to sweep us under the hull of the catamaran. The pressure of the moment weighed over our heads. The air was electric with the fear and excitement that pulsed through us. The energy rocked in my brain with the same rhythm as the ocean’s pounding waves. Finally, as all of us reached the mooring ball, the girl and I grabbed into the water searching for each other’s hands; each of us desperate to find another person we could hold onto as we descended into this unknown underwater world. Raising my free hand above my head with my BCD in it and with my dive regulator in my mouth, I began to descend into the abyss.
Our dive lights shown down into the water, casting shadows on the waves; I began to see the reef take shape below me. Suddenly, the dive instructor stopped and signaled the all too familiar “ok?” symbol with her hand, as if she was willing us to be so. Under the impression that we would keep descending until we got to the bottom and just follow the seabed, I instead felt a sinking feeling in my stomach at the realization that we were swimming along the reef with no sign of the ocean floor.
Still holding each other’s hands, the girl and I tried to kick in unison and flow with the ocean current, but the fear reached a climatic point when we both seemed to look at each other and realize that we could still not see below us and now we could not see the surface or to the right of us. The reef became a new source of life. A life force that allowed us to feed off its energy and aura that gave us hope that we must keep kicking through the water.
We pushed through the water in a neat line. As we continued, we began to see the small rays floating along the reeds and the grey lobsters poking out from obscure holes in the reef. A new reef completely different from the one we had seen during the day, was coming to life. My heart beat against my ribs and I tried to focus on calming my breathing. The ocean seemed to close in all sides; it was beginning to suffocate me. I was lost and did not know where I was or who was next to me. My eyes, waiting for the time to pass, continued to wander to my watch.
Finally at the end of the dive, we stopped for our routine safety stop. We all pressed out lights into our arms and used out free arm to wave into the water, igniting a magic moment when the phosphorescence began to light up the ocean. Millions of tiny lights filled the ocean, the dark slowly becoming light. This was a moment of pure ecstasy as the ocean was illuminated by the natural world; a sea of “stars” was unfolding before my eyes. Instead of observing them from a distance, I could feel them as I moved my arms through the water. I was in my own universe, one that I could let unfold before my own eyes; a universe that I could let myself discover.
The world was suddenly a place of endless opportunity; a place where stars could be discovered anywhere. Everything was different, new, exciting! The fear that only a moment ago had me beefing to leave the water had evaporated and was replaced with a hunger for knowledge and discovery. The world was unknown, but that was no longer fear-provoking, it was rather reviving; there was more to discover.
That night, trying to feel the weight of sleep fall over my eyes, I lay awake under the expanse of the illuminated night sky. The stars were suddenly not as far as they seemed. A shooting star dashed along the edges of the world, with no artificial light to disturb it in this eclectic experience. The Milky Way was glowing and dancing before my eyes. The world had no limits anymore; I could learn and follow things that I had never thought I had ever wanted to understand. The wind that howled in the night was no longer an annoyance, but a calling to something new. I was new; the saltwater had scrubbed away who I was and left only a blank slate ready to be filled with whatever swayed me.
Sometimes jumping into the water, even when you are afraid of what could lay underneath it, can prove to bring a world that you have never seen before; a world that could only bring new opportunities and options. Since completing my Broadreach experience on the boat, Daphine, last summer, I have learned so much about who I am as a person and that there are so many possibilities in life. However, I have also learned that knowing what I want to do in regards to the future is not necessary. I can follow things not out of expectation or obligations, rather follow the paths in life that will bring me the most happiness and joy. Choosing to take an initial jump into a new situation, even though it may be surrounded by fear, I learned that one can be transported to a new world and experience filled with unlimited possibilities.