“If you don’t get in over you’re head, you’ll never know if you can swim.” I read it from the whiteboard, shook my head and sighed saying, “Isn’t it better to just never get in THAT deep.” To my side I heard, “well, it’s a metaphor about life.” I wanted to slap that girl over the head; of course, I knew it was a metaphor. I just didn’t think I was a ‘getting-in-way-over-my-head’ kinda person. I especially appreciated this advice coming from a girl who digs her own wells to make sure she’s always in over her head, even when-without her digging- she could be standing on dry land.
When I was a kid, I always wanted to swim out as far as I could. I gravitated to the deepest ends of the water where you’re feet had no hope of touching. You just had to swim- swim until you couldn’t swim anymore, and then you had to tread water until you got the strength back up to swim again. Must of worried my folks sick, but I just loved the deep, the unknown, the feeling that welled up inside by knowing that you must keep moving.
My water risks were a little ridiculous. Once I swam a lake in Switzerland because I wanted to hike the waterfall on the other side. The water was cold enough to send your body into spasms. I had to pull from the last bit of strength left in my Sampson’s hair. In the middle of the lake, when I was too far from either shore to reach, I truly thought this was it, I had finally swam out too far. I was so confused about my direction, I swam sideways for a hundred meters. But amidst the chaos, I looked down into the water. Crystal clear. A perfection of ecology that only the Swiss could dream of; water you could see through for a hundred feet easily. And in the turmoil of muscle cramps, blue lips, blackness coming into my eyes and a total loss of direction, I found the strength to focus and swim towards shore. I have never been so happy to make it to shore. I laughed as I pulled myself into the grass and laid there listening to life around me, feeling the sun’s warmth wicking the water from my body. I felt alive. I was alive.
I had something to learn from that women by the whiteboard. Though unaware during our exchange, I was in suffocatingly deep at the time of our conversation. But, I was still swimming leisurely. I had yet to feel the burn of treading water for too long.
We’re all going to get in too deep one day. Some of us get in too deep by digging. Some of us get thrown out to sea. Some of us drift and don’t even know how we got there. And well, sometimes, you just got so many tears to get out of your system that your tears pool up until your in over your head. We’re all going to be in that deep at some point in our lives. When that day comes, are you prepared to swim- until it burns- until after it burns so much you’re afraid you can’t go on?
Every once and a while, when you’re out to sea, someone will toe you a line, but in the busyness of our daily lives, we often don’t even notice that our friends are drowning. That’s when you have to dig deep and feel the burn from treading water too long. Gather your strength and swim to shore. Once you’ve swam the distance, no one can take it away from you. You’ll always know that you have the grit to find your clarity and kick through the burn of being completely adrift.
I’m glad I swam out too far when I was young. It was good practice.
I guess I’ve known it since I was little- Deep down, I’ve always known how to swim.
And again or at last… I feel alive. I am alive.