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Challenge = Personal Growth

Updated: May 26

I've always loved the water, but then I became disconnected. After a series of unfortunate events, I find myself... back in the water where I belong.

photo: Tania Douthwaite, 2016

Every day can be a grind. Throw in social pressures and complicated relationships; I’m no longer surprised with why a lot of people are imbalanced, especially in Toronto. After spending too many years in an abusive relationship and working in a toxic fashion industry my brain broke; my heart was broken. I was so sure about everything in my life and now I had to pick up the broken pieces of myself and start over. The older you get the harder it is to let go and reinvent. I found that it wasn’t about fixing something that’s broken, it’s about growing into something new. I thought I knew who I was but I had to let that go. So now what? I realized that I was stifled from growth because of my ex. When I left that relationship the amount of growth I went through was dramatic. I decide with little to no planning to go on stress leave; I booked a flight to Bali and left Toronto.


Top left: It felt good to have 1 million dollars (IDR) in my wallet! (which is about $86 can). Top right: Brief stopover at Vancouver Airport. Middle Row: My flight from Hong Kong to Bali was originally cancelled by the airline. The agency I booked my flight with tried to make me rebook but it would have been almost double the cost to me. I told them to find me another flight from Hong Kong to Bali and made them cover my room. I was also given a voucher for dinner that night. Bottom Row: The airline upgraded my flight to 1st class for free from Hong Kong to Bali for having to deal with the changes to my itinerary.

My dad was a mechanical engineer and we got to travel because of his job. Indonesia was one of those places we got to live in. It was also one of my favourite places. I was always in the water and swam in the deep end, I was 3 years old. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been in love with swimming. My mom always felt that it was important to learn how to swim, especially at an early age. I was at the lowest point in my life. I found that I missed the beautiful, rich culture and friendly people; it felt like home and I had to go back. Toronto hasn’t felt like home in a long time, leaving was the easiest part.

I had a nice apartment, motorbike and something to do every day. I even took time for myself to be alone on a beach. I was adventurous with food and took less travelled roads. Things were going well, with so many adventures to tell but I got to a point where I needed to switch things up. I was running out of ideas so I typed in, “What to do in Bali”… try Freediving. I was snorkelling a lot so I was hoping that this could take me further. I was living very comfortably in my little corner of the island and needed to explore more especially in the water. I needed a bigger challenge, I had no clue what I had signed up for. Little did I know that this would change my life forever.

Top Left: My apartment that I got through friends. Top Right: A local beach near my apartment in Seminyak. Bottom Row: Snorkelling in Gili Meno and Amed.

I was picked up in Seminyak and taken to a rural village in Amed. My first day taking the course wasn’t great. I had no idea what I had signed myself up for and if it wasn’t for the fact that I paid a lot for the course, I would have given up. I hate quitting so I pushed through. It was hard and uncomfortable. But this is what’s involved with change, it’s hard. The first day was a struggle and it was hard to cram in all the information. I spoke to my instructor at the end of the day about my concerns. He told me that once I was in the water it’ll be better. It absolutely was. Freediving is both mental and physical. It’s difficult to dive if you don’t have both. It took me a few tries to get the two to work together. Even then I knew I needed more work, I was given a solid foundation. Joining a growing community in Toronto helped build up my skills.

Top: Mount Agung, pre-eruption 2016 Bottom: Stray Local dogs in Amed

Mentally letting things go to allow yourself to be present when you’re underwater may seem counterintuitive but, it was absolutely liberating for me. I knew I had to go back to Toronto, to the same old grind and problems. In one moment at 16 meters below the surface, I was free, I found my confidence and independence all at once. Freediving is for me. I left everything that consumed me in a watery grave that day. I now set my challenges and goals, I don’t need to compete with anyone but myself in all aspects of my life. A few months later I found myself in Honduras advancing my certification. That’s when I decided to make plans and train to become an instructor.

Taking up this sport has changed my mind and body in ways I never thought were possible. Almost all my anxiety and depression have been erased. This is one of many reasons why I’m so passionate about this sport because it helped me save myself. I feel more focused which helped me be more organized with my life. I stress much less over things and give myself a chance to process things that bother me. The breathing techniques that I’ve learned ease my anxiety attacks which I find that I’m getting less now. I can enter the water with a lot more confidence and know that I can dive with minimal equipment. I plan trips to include diving and expand my diving network. I can do dry static training when I’m not able to be in the water when I get sick with a pesky cold. When I completed my course in Bali, I quickly found a freediving community in Toronto and joined.

All Above: Freediving with Freedive Toronto in Tobermory.

I host Trial Sessions in Toronto and Kitchener to help promote this sport. The hard part about getting started is the startup cost. The initial investment is upfront but if you care for your equipment, it will last you years. My trial session allows you an opportunity to try this sport, it also allows you to practice your weak spots before taking the course itself. I wish I had a chance to practice before I took my first course, it would have elevated a lot of pressure. As I look for more balance in my life, I look for less stress as well. Diving helps wipe my slate clean.

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