Ever since I was a little child I have always been attracted to the ocean and what underwater life ventures there. I remember being on vacation with my family and spending most of the day in the water with my little brother, to the point where our mother had to come to the shore with a big towel and a tapping foot.
“You will grow gills if you stay in the water any longer!”, she used to say to us while she was shaking her head and giving us her best smile, a smile that would warm you up from the inside, a motherly smile. My brother and I were convinced that our wrinkly, ‘pruney' fingers were proof that we were about to turn into marine creatures.
My biggest dream, when I was a child, was to become a mermaid; to be able to swim gracefully across the oceans, and have dolphins as my best friends. Watching “The Little Mermaid”, I could not understand why Ariel would have wanted to come to land when she was living my dream life. Growing up, though, I had to face the harsh reality: no matter how much time I spent in the water or how many minutes I could hold my breath. Alas, I was stuck on land. No gills or tail ever grew.
Once I accepted my human status, I proceeded to make the ocean my second home.
After graduating from university, I decided I could not live far away from the ocean and just see it during vacation periods anymore. Being a wanderer at heart, I began working seasonal jobs so that the ocean was always just a few steps away from home. It slowly turned into more than a childhood fantasy, the ocean became my happy place, my go-to when I was simply done with the world. I would just lay on my back, feel the water hug me and become one with me, listen to my breath, and relax right away. Only years later I would find out that I was practising meditation without even knowing what meditation was.
My whole life I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, but as soon as my feet are in the water, everything gains perspective. I feel understood and cherished; when I am having an unbelievably bad day and I just cannot find peace, I know that the ocean is 'calling me' and that I must answer.
I knew I had to explore this bond more deeply and that is how I found a passion for diving. Well, to be precise, that is how diving found me! I believe everything happens for a reason and the Universe is always there to have your back. Years later I can tell you, always look out for the signs the Universe just leaves scattered around - one day you will be surprised at what it shows you!
I remember when I was on vacation with my family in Sardinia, I was just lying on my sunbed somehow bored and sleepy when my father came back saying he found a dive centre. He thought it would have been fun, so without hesitation, he signed me up for the Open Water course. I had mixed feelings...shock, confusion, and excitement. I had always been curious and drawn to diving, and now out of nowhere, I had a chance to make it a reality!
Fast forward some years later, I am currently based in the Maldives and officially an Advanced Open Water diver. Here I had the opportunity to dig into my passion and let me tell you, it has become an addiction. I was stuck on land for a few weeks due to health reasons and that was the moment I realized that diving became part of who I am. My dive logbook was impatiently waiting to be filled again and my buddy was done feeling lonely.
I do not know if it is the excitement when you wake up super early in the morning and head towards the jetty and get on board of the Dhoni, the traditional Maldivian boat; if it is the chatting with the other divers while waiting to get to the dive site, or being lulled by the rolling of the waves...
But, for me, it is the smell of the neoprene from the wetsuits, the indicator that I am where I should be and doing what I love the most. I have had so many wonderful experiences while diving here in the Maldives: From the time I found myself in the middle of schooling Napoleon fish, to when I turned around to check on my friends and a turtle was cruising next to me, these are just some of the surreal experiences I have had while diving!
The most incredible dive so far though was when I was finally able to see manta rays. Never in my life have I felt so little and ungraceful in front of such majestic creatures, swimming or rather dancing their way through the ocean. That day was the day when I took courage and I confessed to myself that I wanted this to be my future, I wanted scuba diving to be my only occupation. That day I immediately called my buddy, who luckily enough happens to also be my boyfriend, and I told him I wanted to turn my life around.
We are now looking into becoming Divemasters as our next step and then we will see what the future holds for us. We share the same love and respect for the ocean, so we will just let it decide where it wants to lead us.
Thank you ocean, you never cease to amaze me, my boundless and wondrous life companion!
I hope my story inspires many others to take the plunge because if you work hard towards your dreams, they really do come true!
Written by Roberta Verga