Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Summer I Conquered Fear

   I took a drive through our park the other day and a flood of memories washed over me as I drove past the swimming pool. Many a summer day was spent at the pool enjoying the summer break. As a member of the "fair skinned" club, I suffered quite a few sunburns over the years, but that didn't stop me from wanting to be at the pool every day.
I don't consider myself an Olympic swimmer by any stretch of the imagination. As a kid, I swam well enough to hang out at the deep end of the pool with my friends playing games and watching people do tricks off the diving board. When I was a kid, the city pool had a low dive and a high dive. In my mind, the high dive was hundreds of feet in the air. Just looking up at it made me dizzy. I feared the high dive and swore I would never climb those stairs and jump!

   One summer afternoon, several of my friends decided to take their initial launch off the high dive. I believe I faked a stomach cramp and just sat on the side to watch. Part of me was sick with envy they had the nerve to walk up this monstrosity and jump into the water so far below. I watched for what seemed to be an eternity when I decided I would conquer my fear and not only jump off the high dive, I was going to do a "swan dive". (It's important to note here I had never dove in my life….ever….not even from the side of the pool.) I had watched plenty of people do the swan dive.      Seriously, how hard could it be? Step, jump, roll your arms out and dive.
   This was it. I was going to do it. I didn't tell my friends, I just walked to the ladder and began my ascent to the platform.
   On the way up (it was a long ways, I had plenty of time to think) I began my plan. Instead of running and bouncing on the end of the diving board, I would just calmly walk out to the edge, enjoy the view and then do the most beautiful dive in the history of the Fair Park city pool.
After what seemed to be several minutes, I finally reached the top. I can still feel the rough texture of the board on my feet. I had a great view of the park from up so high. What had I been so afraid of all these years?
   Calmly, I walked to the end of the board and looked down to the pool. Way down to the pool…how did the water suddenly become so small? Everyone below appeared to be so tiny! I heard someone shout my name and noticed those tiny little people were looking at me!
   My mind began racing at how I was going to be able to take the "walk of shame" down the ladder. There was absolutely no way I was diving off this diving board to my ultimate death. I could have faked a leg cramp, but that would have made it hard to walk down all those rungs on the ladder.   Nope, that wouldn't work. Where were the lifeguards when I needed them? Wasn't it time to blow the whistle and take a break? Someone had to save me…I had to get off of this deathtrap!
   As I turned to walk to the edge of the board, I noticed I wasn't alone. There was a line on the ladder waiting for me to take my turn. Not only was I going to have to take the "walk of shame", I was now going to take it while making other people get off the ladder. I was stuck.
   I gathered what little courage was left and turned to face the pool. I walked to the edge, looked down at the water and swallowed the big lump in my throat.
   I decided the swan dive was out of the question and a good, old fashioned bend and dive was going to have to do it. I leaned over to my toes, leaned out over the water and began my drop.
   As I was barreling to the water, I thought to myself, "This is going to hurt. Bad." Seems like if you are going to dive, you should actually point your hands and head to the water. You don't have a lot of time to work these things out when you are rushing towards a body of water at 100 miles per hour.
By the time I hit the water, I was completely horizontal. It felt like needles stuck in every part of my body. I can still hear the sound of my body slapping the water. I'm sure people all over town heard it.
   I knew I couldn't hold my breath long enough for the pool to clear out and me come to the surface with nobody around, so I slowly made my way to the surface hoping nobody noticed. As I surfaced, I immediately heard the "oohs" and "ahhs" and laughter. My pride was hurt and my body was hurt, but I was alive!  I didn't do an epic swan dive, but I had actually jumped off the high dive! For a few fleeting seconds, I felt like I could conquer the world.
   As an adult, I've had to muster up that same courage and conquer situations in which I felt fear. I may "bust" a time or two, but the fear doesn't conquer me anymore!
   If fear is holding you back, take a deep breath and take a big, 'ole belly flop right in the middle of your fear. You'll be glad you did!

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