Suit up, assemble and put on all the equipment - BCD, tank, regs, weights. Do a buddy check and then it's time to get in the water.
Once I'm on a dive, any worries or stresses I may have had that day or that week simply drop away. Once I'm on a dive, it's all about paying attention to the underwater surroundings, paying attention to my buddy, putting any newly-learned skills to practical use, and having fun.
I've noticed that quite often, when I'm in shallower water - say, within ten to fifteen feet of the surface, the light often sparkles and shimmers on the lake bottom. I'd love to capture - or try to capture - that on film sometime.
I've seen fish hovering above a shipwreck; crayfish scuttling along the bottom of the lake; a sliver of a moon shimmering overhead as I looked up from my position under the water; bass swimming amongst the weeds; hundreds of minnows darting in and around the beam of a flashlight, the tiny fish lighting up like silver whenever the light hit them directly.
And I'm just getting started.
I'm working towards my Advanced Open Water certification, but in some ways I still feel like a beginner. There is still so much more for me to learn, and so many skills for me to get good at.
I know I need to work on my skills - especially getting a better handle on my buoyancy - and I'll put in the time and the work needed to get these skills up to the level they need to be at.
I consider myself so very privileged to be able to explore the underwater world, and even more privileged to belong to a dive club with such wonderful people.
I always feel great after a dive. And even when a dive doesn't go according to plan, it's still a good dive in my books, since it serves as a valuable learning experience.
I look forward to many more dives, learning much more, and spending lots more time with my dive buddies.