Swimming had been a luxury where I grew up, like buying new sets of crayons. The first time I went to the pool was in elementary school when I took my first swimming lesson. I remember spending quite some effort convincing my grandparents to enroll me in the group lesson taught by the community gymnasium. Lessons weren’t cheap and the pool wasn’t near. I was so excited after I’d successfully convinced them. Not just swimming, purchasing a swimsuit and cap had been a special event too. Grandma and I planned half a day to do it, taking the bus, going to the department store, purchasing the items, taking breaks to eat, etc.
After a lot of waiting and anticipation, it was finally time for the lessons. The first time I stepping inside the natatorium, I was greeted by a wave of humid and heavy air. Although it was huge, it was filled with people and loud chatter. The water wasn’t blue and clear but a cloudy gray. Nothing like the scenes I’d seen on TV. I was distraught as I followed the other children as we lined up near the pool ladder as our teacher introduced himself. There must have been multiple lessons that lasted at least 30 minutes long, but now I could only recall less than 10 minutes of it.
We were told to practice ducking our head into the water and holding our breaths by the wall of the shallow end. As the these were amateur lessons, none of the students had goggles. So we squinted our eyes tight as we fought the buoyancy of water and submerged our heads. I guess the teacher did not approve of my work, he singled me out and pulled me to the deeper end of the pool. He then held me up like Rafiki holding Simba in the Lion King before dropping me into the water. It was literally sink or swim.
I froze but luckily held my breath and didn’t choke. Everything slowed down; the florescent lights, orange nylon swim cap, lukewarm water were carved into memory. It’s surprising I am not terrified of water and had competed as part of my high school’s varsity swim team.
This isn’t just a post about a childhood memory. I didn’t just bizarrely decided to share a distant story.
Little over two months ago, a new person joined my team at work. As I had more experience with team team, our manager asked me to mentor him even though his role is above mine on the corporate hierarchy chain. I may just be petty; but not only did I never got similar support, I was left to fend for myself right after joining the team as our manager went on vacation the same week. Figuratively sink of swim.
Looking back, there had been many times where I was thrown into unfamiliar situations (some caused by others, some due to my lack of insight) with no support system. For example, moving to Chicago alone, traveling solo to Japan without knowing Japanese, putting on projects half way. I’d faced all these circumstances with a can-do attitude (sprinkled in with some stress, anxiety, panic attacks, what most people feel). Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself “I’ve literally survived without sinking, I will swim figuratively as well.”