Livonia, MI – This is 40
As I let the cool water of the YMCA pool take over me, all of my senses are on point. The scent of the chlorine is filling my nose, my eyes are closed as the picture show of being on a pristine white sand beach begins in my head.
Last year, I celebrated a big birthday. 40! This is 40 years of life for me and I realized that I needed to do something special. Something that would test my confidence and would change my life. I would learn how to swim. Heck, John Legend learned at 40, why can’t I? You see, before this moment, I couldn’t get close to a pool or any place where there was the potential for me to be completely submerged under water. Sometimes a simple bath would give me anxiety, but Calgon would quickly take me away.
That was it! I was going to finally learn how to swim, even though my friends had tried and failed miserably to teach me before. Those attempts were my bad. I was a terrible and petrified student that didn’t take their help seriously. How could I?? We were just talking about the new episode of Real Housewives and bottomless mimosas, now you’re going to teach me to swim?? Pshh, please! So, after days of pumping myself up and my support squad getting tired of me telling them that I was going to do it tomorrow, tomorrow became today and I signed up. I was going to be a swimmer.
Asking Myself...Why at the Y
Day one of swimming, I did a Facebook live on my professional page to show my LITD friends and family that I was literally about to take the plunge. I look at that video now and see fear in my eyes, dancing with the light waves in the pool. I started to get nervous. I was thinking about the people who had ventured into a pool or lake and didn’t make it out; about the statistic I read from the Red Cross about how over half of Americans can’t properly swim. What consistently flashed in red letters in my head was “You’re black!! You can’t swim!!! Girl, we don’t swim”!
That was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome before I even signed up for classes. As a black kid, I never was around a pool and if I was, my mom’s voice saying, “Kila, don’t you get in that water!” echoed in my head. Not just from childhood memories, but from the day before I signed up! Momma was still saying, “Kila, why do you want to get in that water???? You better stay out of that water!!” Alas, as many times before, I nodded my head in agreement and went on and did my own thing. I respect my mom, but this was a path I had and wanted to tread (did you get that??? 😉)
First time in the water was terrifying! My instructor, Kevin, was patient and encouraging. Not only was he teaching me how to swim, but also about 6 others, who all varied in ages from 15 to 60. It was mind-blowing to see people older than me in the pool, with the same fears I had but also the same goals. And they were all people of color. It was like we were a family taking classes. It made the journey a little easier and I felt comfortable. I quickly learned, and Kevin reiterated many times, that I had to put mind over matter. If I was going to learn how to swim, or just float, I needed to tell myself that I could do it. A few deep breaths and a mild internal meltdown later, I was floating on my back!
Swimming, The Final Frontier
Wow!! I did it! Then a few classes later, I was doing the backstroke, then I did it the entire length of the pool! Next, I was treading water and swimming, yes swimming back to the walls. After 8 weeks of classes, I felt confident enough to go to the Y on my own and swim during the open pool hours. Now I do my normal workout, then swim for 30 minutes as a cool down. When I went on my vacation over the holidays, guess who was in the ocean and the cruise pool like a mermaid?? This girl!
So, the moral of my story is, you don’t have to be young, or a certain color, or an Olympian to achieve your goals. Learning to swim at 40 was mine and I am happy to say I did it! I take pride in knowing I can swim for leisure and for safety. I happily swim to the fact that I climbed the mountain of doubt, leapt into the ocean of fear, and now float in the river of mission achieved! Jump on in, the water is fine.