Monday, May 7, 2012

Swimming: a love story.

When I was 7 years old, I started swimming lessons.

I remember being absolutely terrified. I loved being in the water already, but I had a severe phobia about being in water deeper than I was tall. At the time, this meant 4 feet of water was my arch nemesis, the thing I was most afraid of in the world (other than house fires, which at the time I used to stay up at night planning escape routes for) (yeah, I was a neurotic kid). But I was also one of the last people my age to learn to swim, and it had to be done. I was embarrassed to be the oldest kid in my class, so there was extra motivation to just learn and get through it.

I still have all of my swimming "report cards" and they tell an interesting tale. From the terrified girl who was sure she would never get past her fear of "the dreaded 4 feet" (this is verbatim what my instructor wrote on the card), bloomed another girl, a naturally talented swimmer who flew through the rest of the levels the recreation center offered, and loved them. In fact, I got up to the final level before you were placed on a team, and I was offered a place on a team, but I turned it down because a) I am a poor competitor, and b) I am really, really bad at diving, and had no interest in learning how to be a good diver. So after 11 levels or something like that, I quit lessons and became a recreational swimmer.

To this day, I love swimming so much. Especially when its at an outdoor pool on a warm, sunny day. I am lucky enough to go to a gym near my house that features a rooftop pool, and it's just ... incredible.

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the rooftop pool at UCSF Mission Bay
I tend to only go swimming when it's warm outside, which around San Francisco can be a dicey prospect indeed. Last year we didn't really have a summer, and I was very sad due to all the swimming I didn't get to do. This year so far I've been several times, and the weather has been really cooperative, and we're not even to summer yet! Yesterday was one of those days. It was about 80 degrees outside, and conditions in my house were increasingly unbearable, so I escaped to the pool.

I love to swim laps, and I generally do that, because it's great exercise, both physical and mental. Just for the record, I am a good swimmer but I go in the "slow" lane, because I like to relax when I swim, and not freak out that some fast person is coming at my tail. I am fine with this!

But more than lap swimming, I love free, recreational swimming. I am lucky, once again, that my gym does "open/family swim" every day, but they open up a larger part of the pool on weekends. Today I got to do some laps, but after not very long I realized that I was really there to have a good time, and I switched to the open swim area. Ahhhhhhh.

There is just something about swimming, for me. I am a fish, I belong in water, it's amazing. The feeling of water on my bare skin as I propel myself through it is second to none. I've noticed that the entire time I'm swimming, whenever my head is above water, I'm smiling. I'm sure that must look strange, but I couldn't care less.

Once I moved over to the open swim area, I floated around for a bit before picking up something I hadn't bothered with since I was a beginning swimmer: a kickboard. It was floating in the middle of the pool, and I thought, why not? And wow, I had no idea how awesome kickboards actually are! I floated to and fro across the pool, in endless different forms, and that kickboard was a really good (and fun!) floatation device. I was able to relax and really appreciate the gorgeous summery day around me.

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me, today at the pool, with my awesome mondrian/rubiks cube swim cap
I feel total freedom when I am swimming. Like a forever child in that life, during those moments, couldn't be more innocently perfect. I hope I get tons of swimming days this year; I hope I never stop swimming.

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