I just love summer. Winters, despite how mild this one even is, leave me craving summer. My summer memories are plenty and include two of my most favorite things: Bacon sandwiches and swimming.
We were lucky enough to have a swimming pool in our back yard growing up. We didn’t have much, but we had that pool. Dad wasn’t remodeling the house or updating any thing (still isn’t, just FYI – it’s time stood still since 1977), there were not family vacations every year, we didn’t have club memberships for tennis or golf, and we certainly didn’t have a pony… but we had that pool. I was without a life jacket since the age of 3, thanks to my brother and cousins who beckoned me to jump off the diving board without it (while simultaneously giving my Grandmother a heart attack).
With summer and the pool came the regular lunches of bacon, lettuce and tomato. My favorite, to this day (now add avocado and you’re golden!).
My brother and I were on swim team due to the effects of the pool (and having a mom that didn’t work who could take us to swim practice every morning during the summer days). We swam summer after summer (he swam year round so he had a leg up on those summer clubs, still holding a record at a local YMCA), and our brown skin showed for it. As I got older I asked to join a synchronizing swim team. Unfortunately, there was not enough interest so it fell through (I would have done anything to swim like Esther Williams) so I signed up for competitive diving.
Diving was not easy for me. I was not graceful on the spring boards, nor was I daring enough for a platform. In the era of Greg Louganis, many were striving to be just like him including myself, despite my fears.
Season after season I approached the boards with the same four dives I could do. I was afraid of flips and I wasn’t a fan of doing anything backward either… this really limits a diver’s repertoire. I did a front dive (swan dive, no tuck or pike for you with diver lingo), back dive, front dive with a half twist and an inward (an inward is a dive where you are at the end of the board, like you’re going to do a back dive, but you jump off and do a front dive… which was completely nerve-wracking for my parents to watch.). That was it. Those are still the only four dives I can do. My niece beckoned me to do a front dive with a tuck this summer that had drastic results (a bruised chest that lasted for a few days).
Anyway, when those are the only four dives you have there’s not much you can do except to take them to the high dive. In springboards, the low dive is a 1 meter board (1 meter from the water). The high dive is 3 meters from the water or, coincidentally, about three seconds away from landing in the pool if you took a good bounce.
I was about 13 years old when my dive coach took me up to the high dive to learn how to do a half twist. He was on the end of the board with me, talking in my ear about watching my hand all the way to the water and I’m sure he told me other valuable information… and I remember not paying attention.
Instead, I remember the sunrise was behind the clouds causing a pink hue across the sky. I remember the pool seeming very still, not noticing the other divers or the littles having swim lessons. The air was still as well and the train horns were nearby. All I could imagine was me doing the dive the right way, making a very little splash as my pointed toes entered the water. I was very eager to impress my attractive coach. Only that’s not at all what happened…
I basically did a cartwheel off of the board, free-falling, landing on my right side from head to foot. I sunk to the bottom of the pool thinking I had died. Literally. I was in such pain. Then the embarrassment set in and I didn’t really want to come back up because I knew how badly I did, but I needed to breathe eventually. So I slowly floated to the surface, my mom running over to the pool as I made my way to the ladder. I got out and my leg was already purple with big white spots (that soon turned to welts) all down it. I limped to a chair.
Unfortunately that event sealed my fear of being courageous on the boards. I was never one to “pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.” I was more the type to take failures as signs from God to quit doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. So I did. I quit the dive team after that season. Realizing that the best divers were the gymnasts, I was never going to feel successful on the boards.
At about the age of 30 or so my dives improved drastically. I had a much better understanding for my center of gravity and could finally make a very pretty dive with little splash, usually. There are no judges on the side of the pool reminding me of how bad my dive was (a very serious problem for creatives), and I truly just enjoyed (and still very much do) the feeling of getting a good bounce and making a dive.
Luckily, since my college years, I haven’t felt like I’ve been free-falling much. I don’t really recognize any decisions being bad ones anymore because time marches on. If a redirection of the sails need to be made then I have to hop to it. When you have littles at your feet there’s not a lot of time to focus on messing up (unless we want to talk about messing THEM up and that’s an entirely different topic).
I don’t ever wish I could go back in time and have conversations with younger me… I don’t think it would do much good. Only with the passage of time and life experience can a person grow and learn and move past their mental blocks. I still think it would be cool to be part of a synchronized swimming team, and my clock isn’t done ticking yet so there is still time. I really don’t want to add any more dives to my repertoire, those four still suit me just fine (I’m not nor will I ever be a very daring person if the situation could potentially end in physical pain).
I am sure that beautiful day on the boards was a life altering event for me, and we sometimes need them. They keep us grounded. They remind us of who’s in charge. They put our ego in check. Sometimes we need that redirection. Sometimes we need to bomb so we know what it is we REALLY want to do. If I decided to come back that next season, or next day, and try again then diving was holding a different place in my heart. Yet, I didn’t. It didn’t mean that much to me.
Those things that you want to keep doing no matter how badly you bomb, that’s what you’re supposed to do. When the bad doesn’t overrule the good, that’s a good sign. When someone doing similar tasks calls it “stress” but you think it’s “fun” or “rewarding,” that’s a mighty good sign you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. Also, if you know there are people out there who do what you do better than yourself and yet you still want to do it because of the sheer joy it brings, then I’d say you found something worth holding on to.
Anyway, if anyone is up for the diving boards this summer, give me a holler. Can openers are my favorite and if there’s anything better than trying to make little splash upon entry, it is trying to make the BIGGEST splash against your friends. 🙂