North Carolina native Clay Aiken may have said it best:
“On my way here, where I am now, I’ve learned to fly I have to want to leave the ground; I’ve fallen hard but I’ve been loved, and in the end it all works out. Faith has conquered fear. On my way here […] I’d rather try and fail, 1000 times denied at least whenever you feel pain, it lets you know that you’re alive.”
The beautiful shores of Hawaii. Is there any site better on this planet?
Today, I do something I never thought I would. I conquer my swim fear. I’ve already posted the story of how the fear came to be. And how it’s stayed with me. What I haven’t done is talk about what it means to get rid of it. It’s official for me. I signed up for lessons. And my first one is today. I have my swim trunks. I’ll probably buy goggles later. I even have my sandals.
You see I’m a runner. I run. Running is calming. Running is safe. Running is an old habit that I am prepared to do at any minute. I haven’t run in months, yet earlier this evening I told myself that I was going to run due to the stress from school and the fact that I do miss working out daily. I’ve given myself visions of racing in and winning a 10K. A half-marathon. Who knows how far I could take it if I really submitted myself to daily training, and a strict diet. I could take running far, because I’ve done it for years. Well over a decade. But as I ran this morning, a thought occurred to me. Running is a lot of things to me.
But running is also a crutch. It doesn’t require work. It requires almost nothing from me save the investment in a new pair of nikes, which I absolutely need at this point (Orange preferably, size 11-12… in case anyone is keeping score… ). I run a distance of 5K pretty much whenever I want to and to be completely honest, in 3 weeks prep, I could run a 10K. Easy. When I lived at the beach, I would come home from school and run that distance nightly. In life both figuratively and literally, running is always the easiest option for me. Always. Just put foot to ground and keep it moving. I can use running to hide. You see, I will tell myself that I am doing it to get fit. That I am doing it to train for a future race. I’ll deceive myself that I am doing it to start my day off on the right foot. Or end my stressful day that I just endured. I might even post a picture to Instagram because well, fitness selfies are in vogue right now.
But the truth is, I’ll be running is the best way for me to control the anxiety that goes with thinking about swimming. this morning I got up early and ran because it’s the last chance I’ll have to run away from what I have to face. It’s not everyone’s challenge. But it’s mine. To put on swim trunks and walk into the recreation center, and meet a trainer. That is exciting yet difficult all in the same breath. I have to face the one thing I’ve been running from forever. The water.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken pictures like this at the beach or at fancy hotels:
Me nervously smiling while my legs dangle in the water. In a pool that’s 3 feet. What the picture doesn’t reveal is that by the time I’ve sat down on the edge, I’ve already calculated how deep the pool is, and how far out I can walk in it and still have my arm on the guardrails, as well as the location of all 4 lifeguards in attendance. Just in case stuff goes south.
A funny memory: Senior Beach Week in Myrtle Beach, SC. My friends and I had rented out a hotel for a weekend. It was awesome! But I remember we also had a large pool in the back. Not very deep at all. I had walked out and somehow in the actual pool had tripped or lost my footing. I remember I began to panic and I said, “I’m drowning!” My guy friends all looked at me and laughed, deservingly so… one of my friends simply said, “Why don’t you try standing, Calvin.” Sure enough, the pool was about 4 feet deep…while I was 5’10 tall. “Oops…right,” I remember squeaking out. It was all in good humor but I remember being incredibly embarrassed.
So there I sit always on the edge, but never quite in the deep end of the pool. Always with my head above water, never holding my breath and going under. How does one maintain two identities that simply don’t go together: I absolutely love the beach. I LOVE the Beach. The beach is my element, it is my home. And yet I don’t go in the ocean. A deep desire of mine I’ve never really shared is that I want to learn how to surf one day. You can have the skateboards (especially since every day on campus at least 5 of them crash into me or into each other). But to put on a wet suit and ride the waves across Hawaii, Bermuda, the Carribean. Wilmington. Miami. That is my dream. Now I understand that I might not look as hot as my baby here
crashing surfing on her boogie board…
But I think I can come pretty damn close!
I refuse to live with regret. I refuse. It’s why that line, “I’d rather try and fail— 1000 times denied” is so powerful to me. I have to try to swim because the only alternative is never to learn to swim and miss the joy of swimming in a pool with my family. I can’t imagine never kissing my baby in the open ocean, especially given the choice of places we want to go for honeymoon. Never enjoying a cruise for fear of what I would do if we had to abandon ship. Never really enjoying the reality of purchasing a house on the beach. Not really having an alternative as I know one day my knee is going out on me and running won’t be something I can do as often.
Never crossing the finish line of a triathlon with my baby’s hand in mine. Or never finally going scuba diving or snorkling, both of which I have admired and dreamt of doing since I was a kid.
Who wouldn’t want to get in the water with that pretty lady in green?
The easy thing is to run. I can run past the recreation center as I have done since I was 13. As I have done everyday since being on campus. I can run. I can run forever. But running won’t cause me to grow. The water will. So to steal a phrase from my very best friend, my support system and the woman that pushes me harder than any PhD program ever could…
It’s not time to jump. It’s time to swim.