I swam competitively for five years as a child. I wasn’t the absolute BEST swimmer but I developed a killer backstroke and one year, I won the most outstanding swimmer award for my age group (I still have the trophy). But when I turned thirteen, I stopped swimming.
Between my mom going to work, feeling like my coach was being unfair by swimming me up (meaning instead of swimming against girls my age, I was swimming against girls 16 and older), and suddenly feeling uncomfortable in my own swim suit, I decided to stop.
And when I mean stop, I mean STOP. I didn’t touch water again for years and years and years (obviously I showered, I’m not that ridiculous). To the point where my mother forgot I knew HOW to swim.
In a way, I guess I did. Or at least I forgot how to love it. With everything but a few spandex covered areas on display, swimming is one of the few activities that require you to be basically naked. Personal body positivity is important but I think almost everyone feels vulnerable when they first start walking around in a bathing suit. And after so many years of hating the idea of going back putting on a swim suit again, is not something I have been looking forward to.
But this week, I have made a deal with my younger brothers. Phill wants to go out for the swim team and Jake wants to build up his breathing endurance (he has asthma). I’ll be teaching and helping them achieve their goals, while being held accountable to the gym plans with my promise to them.
I get to wake up at 5 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, so I can pick up the boys and get to the South West YMCA by the time the pool opens.
We made the agreement on Sunday but I didn’t actually buy anything for it until the night before our first morning. I already had a swim suit from when I went down to visit my friend in Florida almost two years ago, but I bought a bottom for it, a towel, three sets of goggles (the boys didn’t go shopping before either), and breakfast for when I’ll be driving all of us to school.
I packed everything into my duffle and set out my suit before bed so I could slip everything on and run out the door. And after snoozing my alarm three times, I really appreciated my forethought.
When I went into gym locker room, it felt like nothing had changed. I used my favorite locker, padded across the tile flooring in my flip flops, and made it a whole two minutes before I seeing my first naked person of the season. I was going to be fine.
The strong smell of chlorine hit me first. Then the overly warm humidity I have come to associate with fungus and indoor pools. I waved back to the lifeguard in his office and adjusted the sides of my goggles until the boys came out, trying not to remind myself that I didn’t care if anyone saw me in my suit.
When the boys joined me, I jumped into the farthest lane from the lifeguard and let the water swallow me for breathless moments of solace. When I surfaced, we worked on correcting technique and slowly swam laps across the pool.
I was surprised by how nice it felt to be in the water again. As I languorously watched my arms reach above my head doing backstroke down the pool, felt a strange kind of sorrow come over me. I wish I hadn’t ever stopped swimming. I wish I could have remembered how much I love being in water sooner. But now I can make up for lost time.
Despite how the swim aggravates the pain in my chest, I am really looking forward to my next swim.