Marla Goodman takes a deep dive beneath surface.
Becoming a proficient SCUBA diver is an iterative process. Once you learn the foundational rules of diving, you can then begin learning new skills like proper buoyancy, air control and gaining a general awareness of your surroundings. Diving evolves from being frantic to meditative—you learn to breathe slowly, conserve energy and let the current push you along. The light above guides you. If you get lost, you can always safely ascend to the surface.
Cave diving rips you away from this idyllic serenity. There is no natural light; the water is silent and still. The buildup of silt, the labyrinthine twists and turns, the ever-present darkness—all of these factors make cave diving more difficult. When you cave dive, exploring your limits isn’t an option. You must dive in a uniform line and follow the metal cable that delineates the different paths through the winding caverns. In the darkness, every breath and every movement are magnified.
I have always been passionate about the environment and international relations, which is why I decided to study International Environmental Policy at UC San Diego, plus it had the added benefit of being near the ocean. I have always enjoyed being a student and learning new things, but in graduate school, the workload paired with the difficulty of the courses was overwhelming. Even though I was familiar with history and political science, these new classes explored the subjects at a much more advanced level. I was also plunged headlong into subjects that I had no experience with—statistical programming, finance, economics, and game theory.
Though the challenge at times seemed fathomless, I succeeded by using the foundational skills I learned in college like inquiry, hard work, rational thinking and teamwork. By using these skills as a base and developing them further, I was able to not only get through the coursework, but also enjoy it.
A lot of things in life are like cave diving. They’re totally new and unexpected, and you may find yourself plunged into the dark. But if you take a moment to breathe deeply and remember the skills you’ve picked up, there’s no limit to what you can do.