I don’t swim.
I can swim, I just don’t.
Some people like to tell me that’s bullshit. “How do you know you can swim, if you never go swimming?” “Just because you swam before, doesn’t mean you still can.” These people tend to be the kind that Eleven from Stranger Things would call ‘mouth-breathers.’ I just ignore them.
Anyway, back to my ramblings.
When we had swimming lessons in school, I think I just didn’t grasp the technique. Maybe it was that, or I didn’t have the confidence. Or perhaps I just didn’t see the point. Outside of swimming lessons, the only time my body was submerged in liquid was in the bath, and that was too shallow to swim. So why did I need to learn? When would I ever need that skill? (Yes, I really have always been that cynical)
Fast-forward a couple of years to the school trip to France. Almost the entire of my school year went along, and I was the only person who didn’t go in the swimming pool. Sure, everybody was having fun splashing about and doing whatever, but I didn’t have to queue for a shower afterwards. Which meant I was first in line at dinner.
I ended up taking swimming lessons outside of school, during a summer holiday. Not my choice, obviously. I did improve though, benefiting from being in a much smaller group of people. And I was actually pretty good in the end. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do the final exam. The moment I was set loose in the deep end I made a beeline for the side.
I’ve also had a few experiences of nearly drowning. There was the time I was body-boarding (like surf-boarding, but lying down) and I capsized. I ended up lying on my back in shallow water, but waves crashing on top of me so I couldn’t get up. Then there was the time I slipped off of an inflatable ring, sinking beneath the surface before being hauled out of the water.
[THERE IS A POINT TO ALL THIS! I promise. Just please bear with me]
Now, a lot of my memories are muddled in my brain. Date-wise, at least. I can’t be certain of what order most things happened in. Which means I don’t actually know if I don’t swim because I’m afraid of being in water as a result of my previous experiences, or if I’m afraid of being in water because I don’t swim.
And neither of those possibilities make any sense. I love being near water, or even on water. I will happily jump across the smallest, slimiest rocks on deep, fast-flowing rivers. I love whitewater rafting. Hell, I’ll even go canyoning and gorge walking. Why would I do any of those if I have such an aversion to water?
And going back the other way, I know that I can swim. I’ve done it. I was good at it. So knowing I can swim, why would I be so afraid of being in a sink or swim situation?
The answer, I think, lies in what was said to me before whitewater rafting in Ecuador. On the minibus to the starting point, the lead instructor asked if there were any non-swimmers. I raised my hand – the only person who did. The instructor turned to me and said (along the lines of) “Then you’re already better off than everybody else.”
For those of you who have not been whitewater rafting, it’s easy to explain. If you happen to find yourself no longer in your raft and instead being swept away downriver, swimming is impossible – if it isn’t, then you’re not on real whitewater. If you try to swim, you are in deep shit. All you can do is try to get yourself on your back, going feet first and using your paddle (assuming you didn’t lose it) to keep yourself from hitting any rocks.
I was at an advantage, as a non-swimmer, because I wouldn’t even try to swim. And as it happened, I did get thrown from my raft. The moment I realised I was in the water, adrenaline kicked in and I did exactly as we’d been instructed. Fortunately I caught up with another raft and held on to it until mine arrived.
Now, finally, the point of all this. ‘This’ being my ramblings, not life in general. I’ve not figured that one out yet.
Sometimes life is that river. It’s too fast and filled with countless obstacles. And if you try to swim, you just get pulled under. Or plow headfirst into a rock. Life isn’t always ‘sink or swim.’ You can’t always be in control. There are times when you just need to focus on staying afloat and wait for somebody to throw out a hand.
First posted: 14/11/2017 [UK date format – dd/mm/yy]
Shared again (with minor edit): 25/07/2018 for Fandango’s FOWC