When I was a kid, swimming was like a superpower. We could move through the water at seemingly breakneck speeds, hold our breath for unbelievably long periods of time and be transported to another world underwater. In the pool, I felt like I could do anything.
But slowly, the taller I grew and the heavier I got, and the less in shape I allowed myself to be, that superpower disappeared. Swimming devolved into standing in the shallow end or reading on the side. In the pool, I became a boring adult figure who only served as an obstacle for the energetic young folks to swim around.
This semester, I thought I could reclaim that superpower. I might have thought wrong.
I picked Swimming for Fitness as my final exercise class, ignoring everyone who warned me how hard it would be. They must not have had the superpower as a kid. They didn’t understand.
But as I gasped for breath and simultaneously inhaled chlorinated water during the mandatory 12-minute swim, I thought, “There is no superpower.”
Because it turns out, I don’t really know how to swim – not properly at least. All of my memories of summers spent endlessly swimming, and I never learned how to correctly freestyle swim, or any other stroke for that matter.
Instead of the graceful figure effortlessly cutting through the water I imagined myself as, I’m plugging through the water as inefficiently and noisily as an unhappy cat trying desperately to reach the nearest edge.
As I’m getting closer to graduation, I can’t help but think that my experience with swimming provides plenty of unwanted metaphors for my future – “swimming with the fishes” being the darkest. But the cliche of “sink or swim,” as painfully real as it is right now, probably best describes what will happen to the seniors in May and what happens during most transitions, really.
This feeling of sink or swim during class is fairly disheartening – normal breathing seems impossible, proper strokes seem unlearnable and the superpower of swimming seems unattainable.
But I’m hoping that, for the sake of my lungs and arms, this sink or swim feeling is a painful but forming phase that is necessary to go through to regain that superpower.