Somewhere in the midst of floating under water, thoughts turn into feelings, troubles turn into challenges, and training turns into emotional healing.
For me, swimming is more than a skill, much more than a sport-- it is a part of my soul. Lately, as I circle around the narrowed lane, I take my mind back to where it all began, searching for those childhood feelings of the swim.
Of course there are memories of smiles and laughter, of triumph and acheivement-- for those, I have plenty. However, there are equal memories of sorrow, disappointment, of defeat and failure--of myself as well as that very thing that I love.
I recall, quite incidentally, one of my first big moments of competition. I had been swimming for a fairly rigorous year-round team for only a few months--and even more notable--swimming competitively for a summer club team for just a couple months before that. Once I had finally learned to keep my head underwater there was no stopping me. I went from that summer club team almost immediately to the next level of training--year-round swimming and "real" competition.
This was my first meet as a "real" competitor, or so my little nine-year old self had understood it. There was only one tiny problem-- I was dreadfully sick. I had come down with some sort of flu bug the night before but had, in my typical fashion, determined that there was nothing that was going to keep me from swimming the meet.
Once I arrived on the pool deck and checked in with my coaches, they shocked me with my own earthquake-sized challenge-- I was going to swim in a relay, and not just any relay, the "A" relay. Clearly I was overjoyed and terrified in the same chlorine soaked body to receive such news. Those little flu bugs would just have to wait one stinkin' minute... for I was about to have a new, great moment.
Having been fairly new to the swim team, I was introduced to the other three girls on my relay team by one of the coaches. As we walked towards the trio with a smile in my heart and a skip in my step, things started to slow to a sudden, car-wreck-sort-of-stop. I could hear them, so obviously the coach would too, right?
"SHE can't possibly swim on our relay."
"SHE has no idea what she is doing."
"Where's Kate? She's a MUCH better swimmer."
The last words I heard were the most troubling of all. "You are going to swim the breaststroke leg..."
Breaststroke?! Sure, I could do it... but not in any world I would have ever put on that pseudo-frog-styled hat and flaunted it around like so.
The next few moments were a blur of unhappy nine-year old teammates, gurgling tummy, heart racing, and "Take your marks!"
In my nine-year old head, I had no idea how lasting those feelings of inadequecy would be. I had no idea how I would hold on to those feelings of not belonging, not being good enough, and not deserving my "spot" in the pool.
Sadly, those feelings translated into an even deeper sense of undeservedness as I entered high school...