Scuba Diving

Hyunji Yang
An entirely new vista opened up before me, as I slowly descended into the rich, blue abyss. It was as if I had entered an alien world, filled with flashy, unfamiliar creatures. Fish of all shapes and sizes swam around me: some flitting by, metallic and small, others waddling lazily boasting large green and yellow fins. I remember that at first, I felt dizzy–overwhelmed by the vast, colorful scene stretching endlessly around me. But, as I glided, weightless, through the water, exhilaration began to tingle in my chest. As my courage grew, I welcomed the current, letting it pull me deeper into this strange new world.
As I drifted, a sudden realization struck me. This vast ocean had existed before me and would continue to exist after I was gone. Earth is not defined by its land; it is in fact the immense size of Earth’s oceans that sets us apart from our celestial neighbors. Now, I was immersed in this world;I was part of it. I felt my perspective shift, and I continued to swim. Exploring the sea was like leaving a small, dark cave and venturing into a bright new world. It required courage and willingness to dive into a place that seemed so different from what I was used to. Most importantly, though, it challenged me to change my perspective on how the world truly is and how utterly small and inconsequential I am.
It was this memory of scuba diving that came bubbling up to the forefront of my mind when I began to realize that living in America had changed me. Before I left Korea, I’d promised my classmates that we’d stay the best of friends and always keep in contact with each other. However, over time, our relationship slowly began to disintegrate. Our conversations became stilted and awkward and eventually discouraging. Minor chats became more like a chore than anything meaningful or deep; I noticed that we struggled to understand each other’s emotions and feelings.Instinctively, I clung to our shared past, pouring over our memories together archived as pictures on my phone. However, we were separated by thousands of miles and living in opposite time zones, and our tight friendship was no longer the same. I knew that when they laughed at my jokes, it was fake. I could only pretend to care about how high rise jeans didn’t suit one friend’s figure, when fashion trends weren’t nearly as important in the world I lived in. Our environments, and consequently our minds, were too different to understand each other anymore. I felt ashamed and fraudulent as I tried to keep up the appearance of sincerity and connection. I had changed. My world had changed, and in this process, things that had fit well before no longer seemed to comfort me. Sitting in my room, I often dwelled on this change. When I remembered my diving experience, though, things made more sense. The person I was before I descended into the ocean differed from the person who emerged from the water. This new world I had visited changed meby shifting my perspective and showing me many wondrous things. This was exactly what my time in America had done for me. I am not the same girl I was before when my friends knew me. I am not better or worse, just different. This change in perspective has altered me.
So, I welcomed my new world and my new self that came with it. I swam with schools of fish. I played among anemones. I felt my perspective shift, andI continued to float, drifting so far from the point where I’d dived in, that any thought of resurfacing had vanished. I wouldn’t remember the life I’d abandoned back on the surface until I was suddenly gasping for air.
When you face death for the first time, you grasp the finality and inevitability of your own life ending. For me, this moment came when my grandfather passed away. I was yanked out of the water, overwhelmed with emotions, and I struggled for weeks to truly accept this loss. At first, I felt various emotions, from shock and disbelief to sadness and anger. I could not accept the reality that my grandfather, one of my dearest relatives, was gone.The phrase “surely he will return” was always on my mind. However, as time passed, I found that my feelings began to change. I started to accept my grandfather’s death and began to focus on positive memories of him. Finally, I realized that although he was no longer physically with me, my memory of him and his legacy would breathe forever. I came to understand that overcoming grief is a journey and that there is no set timeline for healing. Once I accepted this–once I understood that death is just another part of life, my perspective had changed yet again. Again, I became a new person. Again, I dove into a new world I’d never seen before. This was a harsher perspective than anything I had faced before, and there was a part of me that wished I could reject it. But as I keep swimming on, I know I cannot imagine a world without this understanding and perspective on the transience of life.
I welcome hardships. I welcome excitement. I welcome surprises, challenges, disasters, and miracles. My life is an ocean with endless depths to discover, and I am thrilled at the opportunities that lie waiting for me to discover them. I marvel at the mysterious me who waits in my future, changed in ways I can’t begin to imagine by a life I’ll some day call my own.

Hyunji Yang is a 17-year-old from Seoul, South Korea who currently attends Westminster School, a private boarding school in Simsbury, Connecticut. With great passion and creativity in writing, Hyunji Yang has continuously challenged herself with various writing genres such as fiction, descriptive, and expository. “Scuba Diving” is based on Hyunji's insightful realization of the vast world that encompasses us while exploring the deep, immense ocean. Hyunji hopes to pursue a writing career and is always developing her skills, further demonstrating her strength and engagement in writing.

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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!