Literally and figuratively, but mostly literally.
|Me in high school on the swim team.|
I still wear that same swim cap. It's my fave.
Swimming is a sport, but its mostly a solo sport. Unless you're swimming on a relay team, you're a one (wo)man show. Yes, there might be people there yelling and cheering for you (if you're at a meet), but in the water it all sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. The only noises you hear are the water in your ears and yourself. Swimming is about you. It's as hard as you've trained, it's as hard as you push, it's as far as you go. No one can help you, you can't kick the ball to anyone else, you get to the end and you come back.. as many times as it takes.
Which is extremely peaceful for me. Yes, I love having people in my life to cheer me on, but I'm the strongest when I'm pushing myself. When I know I can do it, I will achieve my goal. Just 5 more laps, just 3 more laps, 2 more, 1 more, just to the end. And that satisfied exhaustion when I finally come up for air at the end of my set, knowing that I could have stopped 5 laps ago, but pushed it out to the end. I could have quit at the 30 minute mark, but I pushed another 15 minutes. I am my biggest supporter.
I was thinking about all these things this morning as the warm-ish (80°F actually) water surrounded me. 5 strokes, breathe. 5 strokes, breathe on the other side. 5 strokes, breathe. Sometimes more strokes, sometimes less, but usually 5. Sometimes, I forget to switch sides to breathe on, and just stick with the side that is the most comfortable. Except that my not-as-comfortable side I can get more air. Isn't that weirdly funny? I think so.
I was thinking how I quit the swim team my senior year of high school because.. I was too busy with marching band and work and homework and I wasn't that good. I also pulled a muscle at the very beginning of the season in my stomach (which meant that the doctor Teh Mom brought me to thought I was pregnant, which started a long line of suspicion from Teh Mom, despite me explaining that wasn't the case), so it was easy to just walk away completely since I was already on a break. It was too easy.
But when I boil it down to a singular reason, I quit because I didn't think I was good enough. I wasn't the best. I was never the best. Ever. Very rarely am I the best at something I do. And it has been within the last few years that I've learned that I don't have to be the best at everything I do. My job that I've given myself since graduating college is making life a little better for others. Not like I have to buy them everything, but "improve morale." Which, I've learned sometimes can cause the biggest changes.
By making someone laugh, you ease their tension, you help show them that the issues aren't as serious as they might think. By making them smile you help someone realize that someone else does care, that not everyone else in the world is a jerk. By doing little things, that barely even take an ounce of effort, you can change big things that you never knew were possible.
I quit because I didn't know better. I didn't have anyone there telling me that I was strong enough to carry a job, the swim team, marching band. I didn't have a cheerleader encouraging me. I've come a long way to realize that I have to be that cheerleader. I have to be that voice when all the voices turn into Charlie Brown's teacher because I'm in the water.
When you can keep doing what it takes to get to the end and back, over and over and over again, then you realize that you're able to make a difference along the way... even if its just to make someone smile.
PS. It's really too bad "morale improver" isn't a good Navy eval bullet, becuase I've mastered that category now. TFLN emails in GTMO, an unofficial gambling ring at the weekly meetings, little games and food in Bahrain, being awesome in VX-1.. Master.