― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
All people have to overcome a fear one day or another. One that I had to conquer when I was nine years old was the fear of drowning.
Just before we moved to Massachusetts, a friend of mine from my old school hosted a farewell pool party for my 3rd Grade class. I knew how to swim well, but my best friend didn’t. The party went on for a long time and I was having a blast. My friend’s mom had even hired lifeguards. They must have gotten bored or distracted, though, as you’ll see from what happened next.
At first everything was nice and calm. Then somebody took out a water gun, and started to squirt everybody with it. I had not known that she was right behind my friend and I until we both felt a giant blast from the water gun on the backs of our heads. My friend and I retreated toward the deep end, but since my friend didn’t know how to swim, he instinctively grabbed onto the first thing that he could reach. That thing just happened to be my neck!
Our momentum carried us further into the deep end. He pushed me under the water and used me to keep his head above the surface. I was able to get a couple breaths in between, but I also inhaled and swallowed a lot of water. Even though it was a matter of seconds, it felt like it was going on forever! My lungs started to burn from the chlorine. Finally, I resorted to my own instincts, and kicked him away from me. After getting back to the surface myself, I dragged my friend over the side of the pool, and fell flat on my back. After a moment, I ran to get my parents and let them know what happened. My mom said, “you look as white as a ghost!”
Because of this experience, I developed the fear of deep water. A couple of years ago my next door neighbor invited me to go over to his house so that we could go for a swim. I agreed, and went over with my sunscreen, towel, and goggles. His pool had a really deep end, and when I first caught sight of it, I was petrified. Naturally, I didn’t want to let on that I was scared. I decided that I would just hang around in the shallow end and keep my feet planted on the ground. Eventually, my friend coaxed me to go into the deep end, and I decided to give it a try.
At first I went over on top of a flotation noodle, which didn’t really keep my weight up. Finally, I decided to defy my fear, and jump straight in. I noticed that it wasn’t too bad after all, and I could swim just fine. Of course, that didn’t matter and my mom signed me up for more swimming lessons anyway.
What I learned from the experience is, no matter what the fear, you aren’t likely to be able to completely avoid it. You must confront it sooner or later. The way to do this is in a reasonably safe environment, taking small steps, not huge leaps that can put you in harm’s way.
In this case, by jumping into a neighbor’s pool with adult supervision, not into the middle of the ocean.