Breathe Easy

Common App Essay: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

I took a breath and assured myself that everything would be all right. Looking up, I could see the sunlight breaking through the ripples, reaching me from the surface, breaking the sixty feet of water above my head. There was no sound, everything silent except for the occasional stream of bubbles sent through my respirator. Periodically I would catch a flash of color as a fish swam lazily on one side of me or the other. My relative comfort was a huge change from what I had felt in the past. I felt in control in an environment that was totally unknown. In a place where few humans actually choose to explore, I felt at peace, and for the first time in a long while, I knew that everything would be ok.

During my sophomore year, I learned of a week long SCUBA trip in the Cayman Islands. I couldn’t have been more excited when I signed up, however, as the months went on and I began to prepare for the looming trip the following summer, I had a sense of growing unease. Despite the fact that I should’ve been comfortable, I was left with an impending feeling of doom when I thought of diving. I knew this was something to be excited about, but there was a part of me that wanted to scream in panic and frustration at the idea of diving, yell at the top of my lungs that I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t handle my anxiety. Everything leading up to that moment felt like slowly chipping away at a cement stone. Every day was a new battle of balancing my unease and determining how I should express it, if I should express it at all. In this case, I quickly realized that the cause of my stress was the lack of control involved in putting myself in an environment that was foreign to me. Underwater, with only a breathing device and my SCUBA gear, I was immediately panic-stricken. All the while, I was surrounded by love and support but that encouragement didn’t ease the pressure, it added to it. Now I couldn’t back out of the trip without disappointing, not only myself, but also those who had pushed for me to succeed. The thought of letting them down terrified me and I felt trapped.Being able to quantify my fear presented a new set of accelerants for my worry while having the ability to voice my problems meant that I had to try to overcome them. I needed to focus simply on my own anxiety. I had to stop thinking about the people around me because they weren’t going to suffer if I didn’t go on the trip. The only one who was going to suffer was me.

As I started my first dive I took one last big breath, my heart pounding in my chest, and let all of the air out of my buoyancy system. I slowly sank to the bottom, keeping my breathing even. Sitting up, hovering slightly off the sandy bed of the ocean, I looked upwards. The sun, shining through the water illuminated everything around me, and I realized that I could breathe. I wasn’t panicking, nor was I in any immediate danger. Everything was going to be ok.That realization, the knowledge that I was the only one who could push myself to succeed, was what shaped me for the future. It was a moment of self discovery that put my entire past, a past filled with fear and regret for the things that had held me back, behind me. This realization gave me confidence and the drive to push forward, to conquer every obstacle that might come my way. This was a discovery that I could only thank myself for, a moment that moved my progress past an achievement of personal success and turned it into something of value.

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