When I was younger, my parents enrolled me and my siblings in a famous swimming school. I was an awkward 12 year old, the oldest kid in class going through treading, swimming strokes and basic ledge jumping.
The question here is: why am I taking swimming lessons at that age? Most kids spend their toddler or preschool years learning how to swim and there I was, on the brink of teenhood, still flailing in an Olympic-sized pool.
The truth? I was scared shitless. My parents spent years trying to convince me to take up swimming lessons and I said no every single time. They saw it as something practical and finally, that summer, they had to force me to sign up and attend, rounding up my siblings to rally behind me.
Unfortunately I didn’t pick up anything useful. I spent the ride to the school all anxious and then I had to spend an hour or two suffering in class. Sometimes I clung on for dear life at the ledge while the younger kids jumped and splashed around. I envied how carefree and joyful they were, how they trusted their bodies to float and move the way they wanted it to.
I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t like losing control, so my body locked up and refused to cooperate. I liked having the reassurance of the tiles, of my feet touching it. I couldn’t breathe underwater, despite the techniques taught in class. I was convinced that I was never going to float, no matter what the instructor told me. I didn’t know which side I should face and breathe from when I raise which arm or how to coordinate my arms and my legs to propel me to the other end of the pool. Nothing in that class made sense to me, except for the grim reality that I, at the very least, had to learn how to float.
And I still couldn’t.
There was this session where all the kids had to jump from the ledge. The instructor was utterly frustrated with me because I stood there and didn’t jump like the rest of them. When I finally did do the jump, I sank to the bottom of the pool, the water swallowing me and choking my lungs.
Fear. It’s a short four letter word so powerful it can cripple you in a heartbeat.
— — —
Here I am, a 25 year old woman who still has no idea how to swim. I’ve thought about giving it another shot, of enrolling myself in a swimming school. I even tried to loop in the thoughts of jumping into some foreign lake or a beautiful beach and finally having the power to swim in it. I thought about the beauty of scuba diving and the excitement of surfing. In most cases the argument it’s going to come in handy when you travel should be enough to push me in that direction.
But… No. Still no.
I’m still scared of letting go of the ledge. I still want my feet touching the floor tiles. I still don’t know how to let the waves move me. I have no explanation for this, other than maybe, it’s been this all along: I was never made to swim.
I don’t know how to survive in water because I wasn’t meant for it. Because somewhere, deep inside of me, I knew I was destined for something else. Something grander, and bigger, more encompassing than swimming and learning how to breathe underwater.
I was destined for take offs and landings, for leaving and arriving, for hellos and goodbyes. I was meant to sit by the plane window and see how the ocean meets the sandbar, then sit on that sandbar and watch the sun paint a reflection of itself on the rippling waves. I was meant to move from one place to another, of dreams and possibilities growing wings and becoming truths.
So yes. I still don’t know how to swim and maybe I will never learn how to.
But I sure know how to fly.