The unexpected gift of trying something new

My husband had talked for a while about trying scuba diving, but a year came and went, as it often does, and he hadn’t signed up to become certified. In that time, I thought about how if he went, I’d be left behind. I thought about how couples can, over the years, start moving in separate directions, each one finding his or her own hobby, and how suddenly two people can find themselves living separate lives.

I wasn’t exactly scared of that happening, but I thought maybe I should trying scuba, too. I didn’t think I’d like it—deep, dark waters are what I imagined. And sharks. Lots of sharks. But I could at least try it once for my husband and just see—if nothing else then to make me feel better that I had given it a shot. Immersed Scuba, a dive shop in Johnson City, offers a Discover Scuba Dive course: you go for a few hours, put on some gear, and get in the Freedom Hall Pool. Safe. Easy. Just $25. Lets you try scuba diving without having to pay for the full certification.

Finally, back in the winter, we had paid for two spots in a Discover Scuba Dive course, but our schedules didn’t match up with the dive shop’s schedule, and we half-forgot about it, and suddenly half a year had quickly passed, as if often does. One or both of us thought about it again recently and called up the owner, Zachary Machuga, who was nice enough to schedule a class when we could make it. 

It happened to fall on our seven-year anniversary, which we didn’t even realize until the day before. The truth is we often forget when exactly our anniversary is: we know around when it is, and we’re not ones to celebrate big, or actually celebrate it at all. Sometimes we get each other cards; sometimes not even that. The other truth is I am grateful for our marriage every single day, and I don’t need one day out of the year to remind me how lucky we are to have found each other.

So trying scuba diving on our special day? Why not. We got up early on a weekend morning and met Zach, who taught us hand signals, went over the basics, gave us a quiz, then fit us with our equipment. After that, we headed to the pool.

Zach showed us, among other things, how to work with the regulator (the equipment that allows you to breathe from the scuba tank). With everything he taught us, he would test us one at a time, giving us his complete attention. Then, down under the water we went. My husband had an easier time than I did with equalizing the pressure in his ears, and Zach stuck right by my side while I went up to the surface to ask him questions, then back down with him to try it again. He had the kind of patience that made me feel like I didn’t have to rush, and I could do it. Which I did. 

It’s hard to describe what being completely submerged feels like. Peaceful. Quiet. Even in the pool, it feels a bit like you have entered another world. I’d experienced some of it snorkeling, and I was reminded again how uplifting and freeing the experience is—swimming as if I were a fish myself. I liked it, much more than I thought I would. And with Zach there, I felt completely safe. He even assured me that when you dive in open waters, there is plenty of light if you don’t go down too far. He assured me about shark attacks, how extremely rare they are for divers.

I surprised myself, which doesn’t happen often: I decided if my husband got certified, I would too. 

It’s nice when you do something for someone else, but it ends up being an unexpected gift for you, too. It was the best kind of anniversary celebration we could have planned, even if we didn’t.

This piece was first published in the Johnson City Press on October 11, 2015.

To learn more about Immersed Scuba, go to or call 423-268-2633.