The Fear

I distinctly remember the light-blue, square tiles that are standard for indoor pools (at least back in the late ‘80s). I was lucky enough to go to an elementary school with an underground pool. (Or was it the neighbouring school down the street that allowed us to use their pool?) It’s quite hazy now as the memory exists in my mind from so long ago. I can’t tell you my exact age but I must have been somewhere in the range of third or fourth grade. The physiological effect of cool, blowing air mixed with water droplets dripping off my body from the mandated pre-swim shower gave me major goosebumps all over. My legs were shaking and my bare feet, one after another, slapping the wet tiles in a rhythmic motion as we all walked in formation towards the deep end of the pool. I didn’t know how to swim when I was a kid (sadly, I still don’t know). I remember walking along the pools’ edge looking into the depths of the limitless water and not being able to trace the bottom of it with my eyes. Where does it even end? The only thing I felt in that moment was pure fear. How will this end? It was my gym class and this was the rotating, 4-week swim period of the year.

Swimming was my worst subject (if we can consider it a subject). Every year, as the weeks came and went, I would countdown to the approaching swim period with dread and trepidation. Why wouldn’t I? Who would look forward to swim class if they couldn’t swim and had no one to teach them? This is one of those memories that has stuck with me through the ages. Perhaps it is because of the vivid memory of fear that I recall so clearly.

Most of my friends (as well as my husband) seem to be natural-born swimmers, but I come from a family of non-swimmers. Knowing how to swim, I think, is a privilege that I have never taken lightly. It was never taught in school and the opportunities just never existed because we didn’t grow up by the water or have a summer cottage with lakefront views, nor we did we know anyone who had a pool. In my experience, if you wanted to learn how to swim, you were either taught by a parent who knew how to swim, or you had to take professional swim lessons. My parents couldn’t teach us how because they didn’t know themselves, and between keeping food on the table and paying rent on time, my parents couldn’t afford to put us in swim lessons let alone find the time to shuttle us back and forth on the bus.

So there we were, lined up by the pool. I was freezing and my teeth were chattering as I hugged myself with my arms in an effort to calm my jittery body. deep end sinkingFor some reason it felt like the air conditioning was always bloody blasting at you from all angles. The details of what happened next are very murky to me and I wish I had someone to corroborate my version of the story with but I don’t. From what I can recount though, we were all instructed to jump into the deep end, one by one. In that moment, my heart was thumping out of my chest, my mouth went dry, and my mind was racing a mile a minute. I don’t think we were even surveyed for our skill level because if we were I don’t doubt I would have been honest and forthcoming with the fact that I was a zero-level swimmer. My best friend was struck with fear so badly that she had a panic attack in line and was permitted to sit out. Lucky duck! (Her parents put her in swim lessons after that day.) I weighed my options about giving in too; maybe I could do the same and feign distress so that I could sit out, I thought. However, a part of me was more terrified of being embarrassed and standing out than perhaps drowning in front of my classmates in a chlorinated pool. (I know!)

Panic rose as the pools’ edge inched closer with every student’s fateful jump. I hesitated for a split second and then whispered some version of “Oh my God” before I jumped in hoping for the best. If I close my eyes now, I can almost see myself under water for what felt like impossibly long minutes before I popped back up. With water in my nose and hope on my side, I quickly paddled over to the pool wall and grabbed on while bobbing my head in and out of the water toward the shallow end, praying it would look as though I was “swimming.” I remember thinking (with my back to the entire class), “I wonder if it’s obvious that I don’t know how to swim.” (This part cracks me up!)

I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t resist or speak up. I’m not sure if it was total fear or the engrained idea that “life sucks and sometimes you just have to get through it and hope you survive” mentality that kept me quiet. The opposite of fear is courage. What’s interesting to me is that I thought courage meant jumping without thought but now upon reflection, courage would have probably been to speak up, stand out and protest for what you believe in. I believe I can’t swim!

An American author by the name of Zig Ziglar once said:

Fear has two meanings:
Forget Everything And Run
or
Face Everything And Rise.

Whether it was fear or courage that I exhibited then, I’m glad I rose through the surface of the water that day.

How about you, have you ever felt the fear and did it anyway? What prompted you to do it?

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41 thoughts on “The Fear

  1. Wow! Such a powerful post. Me and fear go wasaayyyy back and I feel like I’m you in this article. And wow, thank u for helping me to appreciate the privilege of knowing how to swim, and I’m so sorry you never had that opportunity. I also totally relate to the fear of embarrassment outweighing the fear of actual death ha! Ugh being young is sooooo hard, especially if we don’t have the full support that we need. God, I could name a million things that I can relate to with this, but won’t expand here bc it’s too much ha! I said it before and I’ll keep saying it, you’re such a goddess. Thanks for sharing! And I love those FEAR acronyms at the end, amazing! 🔥💖❤️‍🔥

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Libby! It’s so lovely to hear that you can relate and connect to what I’m saying and have felt before.. After all fear is probably the most relatable emotion! Thanks always for the encouragement! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely understand that fear. I took swim lessons as a child, but was never a strong swimmer. When I was around 10, I was boogie boarding in the Pacific Ocean with my cousins when I got dragged out really far… a stranger ended up swimming out and carrying me back to shore. I was far too terrified to be humiliated! The FEAR acronym is great!!! My mom used to listen to Zig Ziglar cassette tapes on the way to drop us off and pick us up from school… childhood me didn’t recognize the brilliance lol!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😱😱That’s a terrifying story! I mean I’m so glad you’re okay and everything worked out but wow, so crazy!! Do you have any residual fear from that harrowing experience, like fear of deep waters?

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    • Thank you, Vani! 🙂 thinking back I just think who the heck makes kids who can’t swim jump off the deep end but also, what kid (who doesn’t know how you swim) would just jump without questions lol I guess me 🤣😒🤔🏊‍♀️

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  3. LOL! I hated swimming in school. One day I ended up by the deep end and I panicked so much I started swallowing the water thinking I’ll finish it all and walk out! I got saved by a classmate and I pretended I was doing it all on purpose to save face. We had a school gala and my mom had written a note to be excused, I forgot it in the library and had to run while the whole school was by the pool stands. When I got back, it looked like I ran and wrote the letter myself.

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  4. I chickened out and didn’t jump off of the diving board, so as a result I couldn’t pass swimming lessons. I didn’t get over my fear of jumping into the water until someone literally pushed me off the edge of a pool. I was so angry but after that day, I was able to jump into water. I’m not a strong swimmer but my husband is.

    I chose embarrassment over facing my fear. But I didn’t care what anyone thought of me – I was terrified of jumping because I kept worrying that I would smack my head on the bottom of the pool.

    Liked by 2 people

      • The pusher ended up becoming a bully a few years later which doesn’t surprise me at all. I highly doubt that I would have gotten over that fear on my own.

        I’m still a weak swimmer and can’t dive or anything, but at least I don’t have thoughts of smacking my head on the bottom of the pool anymore (unless I daydream about diving head-first into a pool of water).

        Thank goodness my husband used to be a lifeguard and was captain of his swimming team in high school.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember the fear of water and hoping no one noticed I couldn’t swim. I finally learned at camp. I don’t know why it was less scary. I also know this fear learning to ride a horse as an adult and now when we are in really rough, rocky hills. I know this fear now as I try to figure out what is next, a pseudo early retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so interesting the weight of the world kids take on… The fear that someone would notice you can’t swim is so relatable to me! 🙌

      You sound as fearless as they make it! 👏👏👏

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  6. I can see why that would be such a vivid memory; I can’t imagine schools would get away with such an approach today. I remember it took me a long time to get the hang of swimming, but then I took a liking to it and went on to swim competitively all of the way through college.

    One of my biggest fears is reptiles. like alligators and snakes. And I have little desire to confront those fears!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s an amazing accomplishment! I bet that took a lot of practice, effort and dedication! More than anything, I’d just like to feel comfortable and confident in/near/by the water. 😁

      As I’ve gotten older my fear of bugs have somewhat consumed me at times lol

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, it’s deeply upsetting that your adults were such idiots!! I’m so sorry that happened, and I can’t imagine the terror! Wow!!

    I was fortunate (very fortunate) to grow up with my grandparents two hours to our north who had a below-ground pool. That pool was awesome. We were all taught to swim by gradual exposure–first with water wings in the shallow end and graduating to no water wings in the deep end in increments. We all became master swimmers, but I can’t do any known swim strokes to save myself (unless the frog crawl along the bottom of the pool counts as a stroke).

    Yeah, I’m still amazed that you jumped in! Holy goodness, go you! That’s downright mindblowing.

    In sixth grade we went to camp and were taken up to a cliff to rapel down. I and many of my classmates were taken to the edge, looked down, and rethought it. None of us were teased, but we had to live with the knowledge that our fear had been triggered and not mastered. Ugh. You, though, way to make a splash! That’s just inspirational times a million!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Repelling down the side of a cliff?? Damn.. Did they give you guys a choice of another way down?? Lol that sounds horrifying as a child! Lol I’m glad you followed your gut and others felt the same way!

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  8. As always, lots of thoughts from your posts. I used to take my class (usually 2nd or 3rd grade) and often one other class swimming on one of our field trips. They typically had a great time, but there were enough variables that I didn’t feel relief until we were back on the bus heading back to school. There was a large section (3 feet ) of the pool for the kids who couldn’t swim. I used to ask the parents their child’s swim level, so I had an idea. Some of the parents who accompanied us asked if they could swim, which was fine, although then one runs into the problem of having adults and children in the same dressing room. So sad that you have to think of those things. I never swam because I was too wigged out about everyone being safe. In addition to the shallow area, there were two other sections to monitor. We rented a large slide, which was fun for those who weren’t too fearful. The water in that area was about head levels, and the kids had to swim/dog paddle a few feet to get to the edge of the pool afterward. While they had a lifeguard there, occasionally, a guard would have to jump in to assist a child. Then there was a third area that was much deeper with a low diving board. The kids who wanted to use this had to first pass a swimming test to demonstrate they were ready. For some reason (I suggested this to the pool for years, but it never happened), they didn’t have a microphone to talk to the kids in advance to explain everything. A lifeguard would stand there talking as the kids sat on the bleachers, “listening.” The acoustics were terrible, and more than half didn’t hear a thing.

    Afterward, there were the inevitable missing articles of clothing. The kids had a locker or bag to keep their clothing in, but a few would always misplace something. As you can imagine, this was quite distressing to the kids, not to mention the teacher who was trying to herd the kids back on the bus. I could go on (didn’t mean to write a novel😎), but we teachers were as nervous as some of the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was very thoughtful and appropriate of you to find out the children’s swim levels for sure! I know for a fact my parents weren’t asked bc then they’d ask me what they asked bc I translated for them most the times lol.. So yes, I would have appreciated it very much!

      I feel like you were also very good at listening and watching little social cues kids can sometimes give off if they’re too afraid to speak up about something that makes them uncomfortable or sad… That’s definitely one of the wonderful differences between dedicated teachers vs. someone who might not be as dedicated.

      Always appreciate hearing your thoughts, Pete! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I hated roller coasters but I couldn’t stay on the sideline while my 5 yr old son rode everything. I jumped aboard and while I’m not as afraid now (@75) , I still have that moment of fear as it begins its assent. Great story and one many of us have experienced, ourselves. Although, I do swim and love the water. You can still learn 😄

    Liked by 2 people

    • As I’ve gotten older, my tolerance of roller coasters have decreased… More to do with a bad case of vertigo and now it’s easily triggered but yes I can definitely relate to not wanting to miss out! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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  10. I know that fear! I wasn’t afraid of jumping in or swimming though-I love to swim and had swim lessons with my godfather, who was also a swim coach. However, the whole section on diving is what freaked me out. I just couldn’t do it and still can’t. Head first into a pool? No thanks, I’ll stick with the cannonball method. This post also brought back memories of how cold I felt after that mandatory shower, with that ugly swimming cap on. I actually wrote a post about this a few years ago. I’d link to it but don’t want to be obnoxious 🙂

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  11. Sometimes the adrenaline rush that comes from just going with the flow of the fear is such a HIGH. I have always been terrified of swimming. 4 years back we went to Bali and at that point I hadn’t swam in 6-7 years. But me being the adventurous person that I am signed up for jumping off a waterfall. I was fine till I got to the point of doing it, then I was SO terrified but it did it anyhow. Unlike you, I had a full blown panic attack once I hit the water and had to be calmed down and brought to the river bank by one of the guides that had gone with us. 😀 But I made it a point to swim on weekends after that – and I am not so terrified any more.
    I love the adrenaline rush that comes when doing something scary – love that high!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes there’s something to be said about chasing fear and that adrenaline rush, i totally get that. After accomplishing something that I feared and didn’t know if I could do, I always have such immense pride about it! It definitely is a wonderful feeling ❤️🙌

      Hopefully I’ll dive again one day, but maybe when I know how to swim 😜😏

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  12. This story is very compelling. I remember taking those same gym classes, but I did know how to swim. The fear was still there, though, and I don’t remember what they did with the kids who didn’t know how…I don’t ever remember anyone actually teaching them how…and that sounds strange, but it was the 80s lol and I think your story is somewhat a metaphor for all of our 80s childhoods. We were all kinda thrown into the deep end, having to figure things out on our own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I was born in ’83, I too don’t ever ever remember anyone asking if I knew how to swim or teaching me how to swim or even the basics. I honestly only remember me playing in the shallow end picking up pool toys with my toes as they sank to the bottom lol and that diving incident… To go from that to diving in the deep end😱😳 I can hardly believe it now!

      Great metaphor, I feel that way about my childhood lol

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  13. Oh I love this post and relate to it so much!! I have never been a strong swimmer and have always thought that if I swim in the middle of the pool and not by the edge I’ll drown which is just ridiculous! Fear and anxiety is such a cruel emotion! This post was worded so beautifully so thankYou for sharing xxx

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