Learning to Swim

Notes from Janey . . .

I’m seven and it’s the summer between 1st and 2nd grade. I’m standing in line for my chance to try out for the swim team. The only trouble is, I don’t know how to swim. Minor detail. The only prerequisite at that moment was my desire to be on the swim team.

A giant man stands beside the pool with a whistle around his neck, telling us what to do. When our turn comes, we’re to dive into the shallow end and then swim to the far end of the long pool. He warns us not to touch the bottom at any time or grab onto the side. We have to go the distance without stopping if we want to make the team.

My turn. I step up to the ledge. “Dive” he had said. I don’t know how to dive, so I basically fling myself at the water, arms wide, belly first. When I hit, water gorges my nose and mouth. Coughing, my feet hit bottom. Dismayed, I look up at the giant man. He gives me a second chance and motions for me to keep going.

Like I said, I don’t know how to swim, so I basically flail my way to the far end while he walks along side, holding a pole in front of me should I need it. I don’t need it.

He helps me out of the pool. “Did I make the swim team?” I ask, breathlessly. He smiles, “Yes,” he said. “But first we need to teach you how to swim.” I’m thrilled. I made the team! All I need to do is learn how to swim. How hard could it be?

I never missed a practice that summer because I lived right across the street from the pool. I not only learned to swim, but was on a competitive swim team until I graduated from high school. The tenacity born on that first day served me well.

Now I’m older, but this trait of flinging myself into the unknown, with little knowledge of how to get myself out of it, hasn’t left me. I wasn’t afraid then, why should I be afraid now?

I believe it serves us well to jump into the deep end before we know how to swim. Arms held wide, heart open, flinging ourselves into situations before the outcome is known gives us the thrill of unpredictability, opens us up to surprises, and brings us life experiences we are desperately needing. It places us on the edge where we learn who we really are.


Predictability is boring. I, for one, didn’t come here to live a boring life. How about you? When the time comes, I urge you to step to the edge. Be courageous. Keep your sense of humor. And then jump. Flail yourself to the other end if you must. Perhaps spitting and coughing on the other side, you will be amazed at the person who rises out of the water triumphant. Only at that moment will you realize it was all worth it.

But first you have to jump.

This is the end of the article entitled Learning to Swim published by Tupelo Kenyon on March 27, 2009 at 5:00 am | In Belief Systems, Courage, Passion, Self-Image - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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