Saturday, April 20, 2019

Staying in the Pool & Finishing the Race

I started listening to Brene Brown talks around 2012, a year after she made her now famous first TED Talk. I actually watched a second one that year called “Listening to Shame” first and then I went back to watch the first one. After that I read her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and loved it, followed by “Daring Greatly.” I’ve been meaning to read the three books she’s published since then but life has gotten in the way. 

 I couldn't find a picture of me in my middle school swimsuit!

Yesterday and today I watched her new Netflix show, “The Call to Courage.” Wow! Just wow at everything that she says. She tells a story about her daughter and swimming near the end.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the story really spoke to me. 

I struggle with a lot of insecurities like so many of us do, whether we know we do or not. I want to strive for greatness in my life and I fall on my face again and again in certain areas, because life becomes too overwhelming and sometimes I feel like I can’t possibly handle everything. So I decide to concentrate on just one area and to do that one thing really well, whether it’s raising my kids or my career.

Listening to Brene’s Netflix show and this specific story about her daughter reminded me of one of my own stories and thinking about this I realized that sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit.
I joined the swim and track teams in the 8th grade. I had no business joining either one but I did it so I could have 7th period gym with all my cheerleader best friends and my friends on the swim team. I learned how to really swim by being on the swim team because I realized once I joined that I really didn’t know how to swim. It turned out competitive swimming is completely different from leisure swimming. Since I wasn’t the best swimmer or the fastest swimmer there was no way I could compete in any of the 50 meter events. So instead Coach Scerbo chose the 100 Freestyle for me. I was not excited about swimming 100 meters but I was glad I wasn’t doing the 200 Freestyle like my friend Serena. I practiced and practiced in our little pool at Hamilton Middle School. My coach even had us swim extra because she knew our pool was smaller.  Then came my first meet at a middle school with a regulation size pool and I almost died. I couldn’t finish the 100 meter event and when I saw that I’d been lapped and had lost anyway, I got out of the pool. This happened at least two more times. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed for being too slow and for quitting.

On the very last swim meet of the season I promised myself that I would finish no matter what.  I’ll never forget that feeling of finishing.  I didn’t care that I had been lapped and that people were waiting for me to finish. I was all alone in the pool just swimming the length. When I got out my legs felt like jello and Coach Scerbo hugged me. I’m sure the other coaches and swimmers wondered why she rewarding me for mediocrity. Because they didn’t know what Coach Scerbo and what my teammates knew. That I had given up every other time before this, that I was embarrassed at being last and quitting. When I finally finished that 100 meter event I’d met my own personal challenge. At fourteen I had learned a very important lesson, to not give up and to go back and to try again and again until I accomplished my goal. What seemed like a small thing to some, was a huge thing for me.

Why do I mention this experience? When you watch Brene Brown’s Netflix special you’ll know. I have to give myself more credit. I have to remember that I may quit sometimes but I always go back and try again. That's been the story of my life and it will be to the end. I'm about to be 50 years old. At this point I have less years left of life than what I have lived. I will make this time count. I will be that girl who stays in the pool and finishes. 

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