I’m on a roller coaster with too many ups and downs. I’ve had moments where I wanted to laugh (and laughed) and moments where I wanted to cry (and cried silently). And things came to a head today, when I thought I was prepared to take on the world and broke. There were a variety of reasons. Negative emotions threatened to overtake me. They were unhappiness, anger, guilt, helplessness, pity.
And I decided.
I could either sit with tense shoulders and give myself a headache, I could go out with friends and run away from my sadness for a few hours, or I could find my method for making myself feel better.
Well, I did sit with tense shoulders for a bit. I’d be hanging out with friends soon, but I’d be a killjoy if I went out unhappy.
So I fell to my method of feeling better.
I went straight to the pool.
I broke personal records today. I swam 2200 yards in total in about 50 minutes. I swam 600 yards nonstop freestyle. I swam 500 yards nonstop breaststroke. I swam a 2×100 butterfly.
Butterfly is the worst stroke in the world, let me tell you.
By the end of the 2200 yards, I was relaxed. I felt less tense. But I wasn’t done. I went and did water pull-ups because I can’t do regular ones. Did those until my arms screamed at me. Worth it.
While swimming, I wondered how I got to that point. And I wrote a tiny little thing. Here it is:
I think I was born to be a water girl.
I adored the water since I was a little kid. I was born on a peninsula, One of my favorite things was going to the beach with my friends. I liked going into the ocean to swim and splash everyone. I haven’t forgotten the time I spent hours out on the beach and neglected to reapply sunscreen. It hurt for anything to touch my skin, but I hurt myself doing something I loved. That’s an odd thing to be proud of.
I moved to an island. Sure, I was isolated. I was a little lonely. But I found a key part of myself there. No, not the love of video games, being a tomboy, or preferring male friends to female friends.
I found the water all around me. I literally could not escape it. I joined the swim team and swam competitively. One of my swim team friend’s dad owned the water park close by. My dad worked at a beachfront resort and I got to go to the lagoons all the time. My swim team coach was a little off. But, as one of my coworkers put it, “what swim coach isn’t a little crazy?” I enjoyed the laps and pushing myself. I was a chubby kid, and I thought I couldn’t swim as fast as my skinner friend. I was so proud when I get first in several events, beating some of the smaller kids on occasion. I was good at something.
The swim coach had us swim laps in the lagoons. Terrifying. We could’ve been sucked out to sea. It never happened, though. Laps were a lot of fun. Laps in the wave pool at the water park were even better. More so when the waves were turned on and we had to fight the waves. (This practice ruined my love of the wave pool as just a wave pool.) I complained a lot about swim practice, I’m sure. But I enjoyed it. When I hit the water, my world made sense.
Then I moved to a landlocked state and lost everything. I lost my beaches, I lost my water park, I lost my swim team. I didn’t want to do anything in that state. I didn’t realize the rec center was close by. There goes middle school. I did discovered I liked to sing in middle school, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
I didn’t go to a normal high school with sports; otherwise, I would’ve tried to get on the swim team. No one was going to wait for a magnet student for two hours (the amount of time it took me to get to that school by bus). So I let high school fly by. The only water contact came from the backyard pool. That wasn’t a lap pool, though. I wanted to feel the joy of cutting through the water. I remained an average teen.
Cue college. Imagine my extreme delight when I found the pool was three minutes from my dorms. Forget the field house.
(What would I do at the field house? I hate running. I hate exercise machines unless they’re the spin bikes. I can’t lift weights.)
The pool is where it’s at.
I went as often as I could. Usually, that was about three times a week. Combine that with eating healthy and I dropped 15 pounds by the end of the fall semester. Another 5 came off in the spring semester. I felt great. I was so glad that I was close to the water again.
And then the job search. That was stressful. I needed a job for summer, and I applied to job after job. Some, I wouldn’t have minded getting. Others… I applied just because I needed the money. Then a friend said something about a lifeguard certification class and the pool hiring. I jumped on it immediately. I was a little worried about swimming the 300 yards. I hadn’t swum that much in nearly 10 years. What if I couldn’t do it?
I did it. Got certified. Got hired. Picked up my swimming game. Went from 40 minutes of swimming a random amount to swimming a mile every time. That was my goal. There are 1760 yards in a mile. I rounded it up to 1800.
This summer, my swimming seemed to have a purpose. I was back to me again. Being in the water, cutting through it, letting the repetition lull me into a sense of comfort. I was back in my world.
My legs went from okay to getting some definition. It might’ve come from a combination of a lot of kicking and walking up and down a mountain all damn day. My arms went from no muscle to some muscle, and that is likely all swimming. I don’t really do anything else that engaged those muscles. I looked better than I did when I started the school year and way better than I did in high school.
So I’m a little vain about certain parts of my body. Like my legs. They look nice. My arms look nice, and I’m not afraid of showing them off now. My hands and fingers? I’m taking care of them, so they don’t look nasty. I will keep my piano hands pretty. Guess how many people I’ve surprised by how long my fingers are? A lot. And my feet? Okay, I’m not vain about those. They’re functional. And huge. I couldn’t help but smile when one of my friends said, “Your feet are big. They must act like flippers in the water!”
Not quite, but they do help.
When people are upset, they go to what makes them feel better. One friend runs. One friend immerses herself in music. I immerse myself in the water and push myself until my arms and legs are weak. And then I keep pushing myself. I lose myself in the strokes. Push myself until I can’t swim anymore. Until my body relaxes.
If I can’t write? Hey, I can swim. Can’t settle down and find something mindless to do? The pool’s three minutes away. Learning how to dance? Practice, but when I get frustrated, the pool is waiting. It’s the one thing I know without a doubt I can do. I swim for me. It’s my thing. The one thing I know I can do well.
I likely missed out on my chance to do something great with swimming. I wanted to be an Olympian when I was a kid. In swimming. Like Katie Ledecky or Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte. But I’ll keep pushing myself, doing the great things for me. When all else fails, I can go back to swimming. I’ll hold onto it for as long as I possibly can.