The lanes at the pool were separated into FAST, MEDIUM, SLOW and RECREATIONAL, with the latter section reserved for beginners. This of course, was my lane. I had done my fair share of swimming in lakes and oceans but never confident enough to be on my own completely. There was always a lifesaver nearby, a friend, a floatie, a wall or a rock to grab onto. Now, at 26, I felt I needed to really hone in and become a good swimmer.
I was struggling to work on a new stroke and I tried imagining Bruce Lee's, "You must be like water" speech. I envisioned myself cutting through the water like a martial arts master, with slow rising music in the background and smoke coming off the water in a feat of my extraordinary prowess. I'd float out of the water, completely dry and impeccably dressed in a white martial arts suit with a black belt. Bruce Lee would mystically appear behind the smoke and say, "You done good kid, you done good. " It was a really meta seeming experience in my head until I opened my eyes and realized I actually hadn't moved at all. I was just an idiot paddling in the exact same place with my eyes closed. I was trying my hardest, and getting absolutely nowhere.
I looked at the other swimmers. They were like dolphins seamlessly gliding through the water. I was heating up inside from anger and disappointment. Why didn't my parents sign me up for swimming lessons? Why do I suck at hand eye coordination? Why do swimming caps look so stupid?
I had more to prove to myself than the short kid in a basketball game. The disappointment followed me the whole night - and after a few whiney conversations with friends, a few clips from Freaks and Geeks and finally, at a friends suggestion listening to the Grateful Dead's "American Beauty" album I came to a realization.
Those other swimmers just weren't struggling now. I couldn't compare my few months of practice to their years and years and years of swimming. It wouldn't get me anywhere to compare. The same goes for life. You can look around and think everyone has got their shit together, but they might just be at a different place then you are. Maybe they've gone through their learning phase already, or are better at hiding it. What we see on the surface is just a small percentage of what really goes on under the water. You just have to keep swallowing the water, blinking back tears, pushing past your limit and know that one day you'll make it in the other lane. Not now, but soon enough.
Now, who wants to take me swimming?