I had been unable to swim all my life – I couldn’t even dog paddle. In my mid-20s, my hubby and I went to Mexico. I was “wading” around, stepped into a little dip in the sand, and freaked out. Curtis had to come out and rescue me because I was convinced I couldn’t touch bottom (even though I could!). His father had drowned (in front of the whole family of 6 children and a pregnant wife) when my husband was in second grade. As a result, he was very nervous about MY fear of water, so he respectfully asked me to take a very, very basic swim class, in order to keep me safe.
I joined a class called “Absolutely Terrified” (that’s the real name of the course!!), in which we spent 8 weeks learning to “bob” under the water. (That was the whole goal of the class – to become comfortable with putting your head, your ENTIRE head, under the water.) Women cried, folks refused to get into the shallow pool, etc. It was quite dramatic. In fact, they moved our class to the “kiddie” pool (about knee deep!!) for a couple of weeks. I was convinced that water was “dark and scary”, and I really struggled with getting my head under. But I bought a pair of goggles, and decided to try. The first time I went under with goggles and reluctantly opened my eyes once I was submerged, I was AMAZED! Seriously!! It was light, turquoise, and beautiful down there! It was an amazing revelation for me. I learned to quit fearing water. My husband would take me to Confederation Pool (which has no deep end!!) and throw rings all over the pool for me to “fetch”. It was a lot of fun. I would swim under the 3-foot-deep water to recover those rings like a Labrador retriever.
I met an amazing young woman in that “Absolutely Terrified” class. We decided together that we should take our first Red Cross swimming level – convinced of course that we couldn’t do it. But we had an “I will if YOU will” attitude. We took our first level together (Green) and miraculously passed!! We then decided there was no harm in taking another level together – which we also passed. We eventually worked our way right through the curriculum up to the final level. At that point, we decided we should join a Master’s Swim Class at Kinsmen and start swimming with a team. We actually began competing in a number of swim races. We decided we should try for our “Mile Badges”, a program in which you swim a timed mile (64 lengths) for awards. THEN, we got the bright idea to try for our Bronze Medallion, part of the Lifesaving program and a minimum requirement for lifeguards. We took the very intense program together, including first aid, pool management, timed swims, and live rescues with an adjudicator watching. Both of us passed and attained our Bronze Medallion. Just crazy!!!!!
I went on to join a synchronized swimming team at a provincial level. I’m now a total water “bunny”. My very favorite activity in the world is snorkeling! I have had the privilege of snorkeling in exotic destinations all over the world, often with my husband, our waterproof fish identification charts in hand. It is one of my absolute joys in life. We’re tropical fish nerds!! Our family swims all the time. My daughter even swam competitively with a top-notch synchro team as well!
The lesson for me in all this was incredibly powerful: face your fears and overcome!! So often you find your passion only by stepping out and taking a risk. It’s only then that you can get past your fears to find beauty in the midst of something that seemed dark and scary before. I also learned that it’s more fun to take the challenge with a friend. I was 25 when I took “Absolutely Terrified” – so today I joke that “when I was 25, I learned to dive!”