Swimming Upstream

Shane sent me a picture of his niece, Isabella, on Saturday morning. She was proudly wearing a medal she had won in her school swimming gala and a beaming smile to match. I was also proud, and then reminded of my own gala participation experience in junior school. One that certainly did not deserve a medal…

I struggle to remember my age, but I know I wasn’t even 10 yet so let’s go with a ballpark 7, around the same age as Isabella. I don’t remember any pre-gala selection process so it must have been an obligatory thing – I doubt I would have put myself forward for a sporting event. Drama was my forte and I was more of a spectator in fitness related activities. I didn’t possess great ball skills as such, instead of being ‘on the ball’ I was more ‘over the top’. 

Back to swimming. It was something I really enjoyed growing up. We were lucky enough to have a pool in our back garden at home and I would spend hours pretending to be Ariel. Competitive swimming never appealed to me. At the gala I remember feeling out of my depth (pun intended?) as the starting gun sounded. 

I leapt into the water thinking that despite my nerves this was my chance to shine. This single lap of the pool was going to be my best. I would be the strongest back-stroke swimming tadpole in a regulation costume. I shut my eyes and pin wheeled my squidgy little arms as fast as I could. 

My determination continued as the race seemed the drag on and on and on. We weren’t expected to set records, this was only a width lap of the pool. I anticipated my hands smacking into the opposite edge with each stroke, but it wasn’t there. 

I opened my eyes and looked behind me expecting to see the finish line, but I was looking back at the start. Whilst my confusion cleared another child’s mother who was coordinating something – probably the next race – started gesturing for me to swim to her end and get out the pool. I remember those 80’s mousy brown permed curls bouncing around as she waved her arm. 

Somehow during the race, and I cannot work this out, I managed to turn 180 degrees and was actually making my way back to the start, and whilst all my competitors were finished and climbing out the other side I was still in the middle of the pool. Maybe my extra bendy elbows added an unforeseen steering element to my stroke.  

Being born a Pisces seems almost relevant to this story – symbolised by two fish swimming in opposite directions. Looking back, this event has set the tone for how my life has played itself out so far. I’ve never really been one to fit in with the crowd and have just gone and done things my way. At times this can result with being stranded and alone in the middle of a pool, (literally and metaphorically) but in hindsight, giving it a try and failing is better than hiding in the changing room, so to speak.

Embarrassment has totally erased whatever happened next that day, but I am still proud of little me for doing it. This experience makes me super proud of Bella’s medal and grateful I no longer have to wear regulation swimwear…