Just Keep Swimming

When I was about eight, I joined the local swimming club. I loved swimming. I loved the solitude that swimming provided. You could just be inside your own head, up and down, up and down, eight more laps to go. One, two, three, breathe.

When I was fast enough, I made it into my first relay team. It was a very big deal in my eight year old world. I was going to be in a swimming carnival. I’d made “the squad”. The relay was my one race for the entire event and I was placed at number three (commonly known as the slowest).

It was an evening summer carnival, the lights were on and it felt like there were hundreds of people lined along the side of the pool. Everything seems bigger when you’re a child doesn’t it? There’s no way there were hundreds of people there. It was a country swimming carnival and a race for under 10’s. I can’t imagine it drew a big crowd. Or maybe it did, maybe people came from all over Australia to watch that under 10’s freestyle relay?

Okay, they didn’t.

As I stood in my lane at the end of the pool watching my team mate swim towards me, I was immediately engulfed in fear. My head was pounding inside my swimming cap, my eyes felt all squished inside my goggles and the water suddenly appeared as choppy as the English Channel on a bad day.

The feeling of dread rose with each stroke my team mate made towards me. The crowd seemed to get louder, the lights brighter, my little world was closing in on me. As she touched the wall someone yelled “GO” and I made a feeble attempt at diving in to the water.

And then I did it.

I turned left and climbed straight out of the pool.

I didn’t swim the race.

I left them all standing there. Mid race. For a moment in time the world stopped while everyone tried to work out what just happened. Including me.

“What happened? Why didn’t you swim?” my mother was wrapping me in my towel, looking completely bewildered.

I didn’t speak.

“What’d you do that for?” said one of my fellow swimmers.

I didn’t speak.

I was called in to the office of the matriarch of the swimming club.

“Why did you do it?”

I still didn’t speak.

“You know if you can’t race – you can’t swim. What were you worried about. Why couldn’t you swim?”

“I don’t know” and I really didn’t. I was just scared.

We sat together in silence.

I eventually did swim. I can’t remember how or when or even where but the time frame can’t have been that long. I went on to swim for years.

Isn’t that ridiculous. I remember failing, I remember letting everyone down, but I can’t remember the good bit, the bit where I got back in the water and finished my first race. The bit where I moved on and got past my fears.

Why are we always so good at remembering the bit we got wrong? Where we failed? Our flaws.

I walked into the girls room tonight and asked “What are your biggest achievements?”


“Okay, what are your biggest failures”

“You’re weird Mum”.

“Yes I am – but I really want you to remember what you did well. Forget about the bits you got wrong”

“Mum, you always say we have to have the bad bits to recognize the good bits”

“Yes, but then we have to move on, let the bad bits go. Just let them go”.

Why did I get out of the water? I got scared.

That wasn’t the end of the story.

I moved on, got over it.

That’s the end of the story.

Anything you need to let go of?

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