August 7, 2020

The Art of Learning How to Swim

posted on: Thursday February 18, 2010

Conor Leary ’11 / Asst. Portfolio Editor

Wait at least thirty minutes before plunging away the hot summer day after a large meal. Mom’s repeated phrase you thought she only said to give her a few minutes to eat in peace after making sure you didn’t choke on the barbeque selections holds some authenticity. Never jump into the swimming pool with a full stomach. It won’t weigh you down like an anchor. It’s all explained by biology. The energy needed to keep your head afloat is disengaged by the systematic digestion of your stomach. As your legs and arms pump and wade, your stomach steals their proper energy. It does this slowly, sapping it away. You might even feel it happening. It could be a sharp pain suddenly in your thigh, which interrupts your exclamation of an Italian explorer’s first name. It might just feel like your legs are slowing down, growing numb with every muscle working to keep your small neck only half-submerged in the chlorinated water. Your legs will grow numb, but before the panic can infect your brain, you believe just for a second you could swim with no arms and no legs. Swimming is almost effortless.Your mother lets you swim in the pool without her supervision (although she secretly sits inside in the air-conditioned house reading her leisure novel in the reflection of the window). You’re young, but this moment is a small step into a world you have only known with someone watching you. First instructor, then parent, and then lifeguard when you visited public swimming areas. Be sure to savor the feeling and swallow the fear making your tiny throat tremble.Go on and give a look over your shoulder to make sure your mother hasn’t broken her promise and followed you outside to read on her lounger, something you might even want to see, but still sneer at her for doing. Ignore the floating apparatus and lifejackets you hated as a child. You hated them for how they held you, how they incapacitated you from completely exploring your aquatic surroundings, and how a parent was always supposed to be swimming next to you as you tried to swim. Stand at the edge of the pool and watch your reflection stare up at you. It might look extremely nervous. It might look completely exhilarated.Don’t call for your mother or your father or a friendly off-duty lifeguard who might just be strolling by and want another high stool to sit on. Stand strong in front of your wavering figure. Stare it down.

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