Earlier this week, a friend I haven’t seen in years sent me a video clip on Facebook he had recently put together from old footage of a group of us scuba diving off the beach of Hollywood, FL in the late 70s.
Back then, we all worked in the advertising department of a discount retail chain creating print ads for irregular merchandise, and battling boredom every day. But we found our release by diving every chance we got after work and on weekends. Our objective was always to catch tiny tropical fish for our saltwater aquariums (and maybe a Florida lobster for dinner), but mostly we just wanted to be together on the reef.
The film was a little blurry and shaky, and typically goofy like we always were. My friend had converted it from 8mm to digital and added a soundtrack with a scratchy newscast about President Carter and some songs we all enjoyed back then. It flipped the switch on a flood of memories for me.
Understand, I have lived in the Midwest for most of my adult life and haven’t been diving for years. But watching this shaky, silly video, I flashed back 35 years and there I was again.
What came back was more than just the basics of who, what, when, and where. I smelled the air, felt the heat of the sand, shivered at the first plunge in the water. I felt the pressure in my ears and the pounding of my heart, heard my breathing through the regulator and thrilled once again to the beauty of the underwater world.
What’s more, I remembered how I felt then. What I was conflicted about. What I found pleasure in. Who mattered.
We were all young and unconcerned about what life would hand us over the long haul – and in retrospect, it was a load. On the reef that day, it didn’t matter. We weren’t concerned that years later all we would have is a shaky film montage – and the feelings it triggered – to remind us of that simpler time.
I smiled and smiled, watching that video, but I cried a little, too. For the one of our group of friends who won’t see it because he died of cancer 8 years ago. And for another who won’t see it because our relationship was irretrievably broken decades ago.
But for 4 minutes and 19 seconds, I remembered who I used to be. And who I still am.
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