Ben Popik, Age 5

For several years I have been afraid of water and therefore seldom mustered the courage to snorkel, even while wearing a life vest.  When our kids were little, I would sit on the sand of some vacation spot and wave at them as they flippered around, enjoying the beautiful coral reefs.  I saved the drawing above, produced by my son Ben when he was five years old, because I loved the idea that he was afraid and understood that it took courage to dive into a pool for the first time.  He overcame his fear and now is a regular scuba diver in Belize, where he lives.

We visited Ben and his wife, Jo, on their island last week and he suggested that if I could overcome my fear of deep water, scuba diving is much more pleasant than snorkeling. He swore he knew someone who could teach me in four feet of water and keep me calm on a deeper dive.  I took the long, boring on-line course required by PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors), managed to get through the four-feet-of-water part (thank you, Raul Cruz of White Sands Dive Shop) and went on to the open water tests.

Let’s just say that the beginning was a little rough.  I was terrified and could hardly breathe, even though I was still on the boat. I will spare you most of the details, except you should know that in order to become a PADI-Certified Open Water Diver, you need to demonstrate—down there 40-50 feet below the surface—that you can fill your mask with water and then clear it out, take your air-supplying tube out of your mouth, fling it away from your body, then locate it with your right arm and get it back into your mouth.  There were other terrifying maneuvers and with Raul’s calming instruction, I did them.


It’s official!

I’m writing this, not because I expect praise but because it is has been decades since I have felt so proud and confident.  As a little girl, I believed I could do anything I set my mind to (thank you, Mom).  As an adult, it has been much easier to refuse uncomfortable challenges. It took one of my children to push me to act like a grownup.



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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