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For 17 years, I was afraid of the water. Other people saw the sea as a big, beautiful, and peaceful blue blanket. They remembered all the happy summer memories they had whenever they spent time on the beach or the lake. I, on the other hand, could only see the terror of being sucked down by the blue monstrous waves. I used to be as excited as other people are about the ocean, but after almost drowning twice as a child, I began to stay away and fear the water. I reached 17 years old without ever learning how to swim. I could not do any of the fun water sports most of my friends and families were into.

They would also tell me the freedom they felt when they were in the water. I was starting to realize what I was missing by fearing the water and not being able to swim. I wanted to glide and frolic in the water, fearlessly conquer white water rafting, tame the waves with my surfboard, and have more fun at the beach too. In the summer of last year, I was 17 years old and in my last year of high school. It was decision time, and I finally took the plunge, literally. I signed up for beginners classes in swimming. I bought all the necessary gear and psyched myself up for the classes.

In just a few short days, I knew I would be doing back strokes and breast strokes and all kind of cool swims. I was still entertaining fantasies of becoming an Olympic swimmer when I arrived at my class. Imagine my shock when I saw my tiny classmates. I would be learning alongside three year old kids. All of them still had their mommies with them because they still need help taking showers and putting on their suits. Kids who were half my size were training for state meets. It seemed so crazy and embarrassing that I almost backed out. Fortunately, my desire to conquer my fear won.

This swimming party with children one-sixth of my age would have to be one of the challenges I have to face to conquer my fear of the water and desire for water sports. My pride still smarting, I jumped into the pool with my plastic floater. My swimming instructor, who was also younger than I am, understood my situation. She immediately explained to me that the problem most adult have when they learn to swim for the first time is a developed fear of the water. They were sure that they would sink to the bottom and drown that their bodies tense and they actually do end up sinking.

She tells me I have to believe and accept that water actually lifts and not suck people down (Stein, 2002). To help me through my fear, my instructor showed me how to do “bubbles. ” One intentionally sinks oneself and blow air out his or her nose. This is what people should do whenever they sink. It was scary at first sinking yourself. I was also very conscious that I was not as good as making bubbles as much as the younger kids. The younger kids could not believe I was still taking swim lessons when I was already huge and old, but mostly, they just saw me as a big playmate.

My progress seemed to be very slow. I have never been an athlete and swimming was a very physically demanding sport. I get tired after a couple of rounds. Fortunately, my instructor never allowed me to give up. She made me do kicks, arm exercises, breathing practices, floats and torpedoes. Finally, on the fourth day, she told me to freestyle without any floater on. Perfect arm formation and leg against the wall, I pushed off excited before panicking and sinking. The second time, I made grasping motions in the water and sunk. I kept trying and trying but I just could not get it right.

I cannot push my body right with my arms and my legs do not kick hard enough. There were all these kind of mistakes until I finally did it right for a couple of meters. Those two meters would be very short for Michael Phelps but those two meters were the longest I have swum. They were my major swimming accomplishments, my swimming pride and joy. After the momentous two meters, everything just became easier to do. The two meters were my confidence boost and after another week of training, I was already doing freestyle and backstrokes.

When lessons ended that summer, I left happily a bona fide, swim school certified beginner swimmer. It felt so much better to be a beginner swimmer than a 17 year old who cannot swim at all. I will continue my lessons again this summer. Maybe after that, I could try surfing or start training for that Olympic gold. Phelps better watch his gold medals. References Stein, S. (2002). Overcoming fear of water and swimming. Essortment. Retrieved February 13, 2009 from http://www. essortment. com/all/fearofwater_rceg. htm

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