After he took a scuba diving class at the college, he started being pulled in another direction. His underwater time was in a swimming pool and a large, silty river, plus one big field trip to the ocean two states away. For Paul, who had never learned to swim, a major challenge was the course requirement to swim one mile. He had to take a swimming class on the side and run daily (not his favorite activity) to develop the necessary physical endurance to pass the test.
He recalled that some of his happiest moments as a child had been watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV program about the undersea world. He started thinking more and more about this fascinating realm. He read everything on it he could find and sent for more literature to feed his growing interest. He daydreamed about exploring coral reefs and identifying exotic fish. He talked of the sea with wonder, awe, and increasing knowledge. Eager to experience tropical waters, he took his savings and flew to the Cayman Islands to dive during a spring break, an adventure that opened up a beautiful new world.
Paul’s family thought it was just a passing interest like others he’d had over the years. When he began investigating dive schools around the country, however, they were concerned. This had no relation to the world they knew and they doubted its practicality. They loved Paul very much, but saw this move of his as a flight of fancy and a waste of money. Paul had deep love, respect and loyalty for his family and, like most young people, he cared about their approval. He suffered from the conflict between his own desires and theirs for him. Plus, all the schools were far from home and he knew he would miss his family.
Ultimately, he decided to do it, chose the school he thought best, and applied. It was expensive; he had to work long and hard at unpleasant jobs and live very simply to save up enough money to go. Because few people understood or supported his goal, he knew he was regarded as “different.” Time passed, full of delays and setbacks. At times his dream seemed so far away, and he wondered if circumstances were telling him to give it up and settle for something more realistic. But his will held steady. He knew what he wanted and persevered in his efforts.
It took three years before Paul finally entered school. He applied himself and graduated at the top of his class, earning the school’s first recommendation for a job at a dive resort in The Bahamas. After valuable experience there, he was invited back to join the school’s teaching staff. He took more schooling and became qualified to instruct instructors. From the additional education, he discovered his love of the scientific aspects of his work, which opened up further avenues of potential.
His success has fed on itself and created more success. At 27, Paul is respected as one of the top people in his field. Not only is he in demand as a teacher but he also writes articles for publication, co-owns a dive shop, travels around to trade shows, has his diving equipment provided for him, and has become an accomplished underwater photographer. He meets people from all over the world. He knows he can go anywhere he likes and have work and friends. Paul’s family has become very proud of his accomplishments and he enjoys his trips home to see them. He may be different, but he’s the most interesting person they know—and one of the happiest!