Speech presented at 6.01.2015, MinneapolisToastmasters Club 75
Every year, there has been one of my new year’s resolutions which has never changed on my list, that is “learn how to swim”. I’ve tried it almost a dozen times, and each time, my heart jumps to 140+ beats-per-minute after watching the beautiful blue water. Already 29 years old and I still could not swim.
This inability has always been my insecurities and embarrassments, since most of my friends are able to swim and seems that they don’t understand why I have the dreadful fear of water.
I tried everything, took swimming class with kids, watched swimming training videos, talked with professional swimmers, and still failed.
Swim rings? Tried them. Loved them, I even wore two swim rings and tried not to die in the sea. My friend laughed at me, and yes, I know it’s silly, but I don’t want to die in a shark’s belly!
Kick boards? Tried them. I barely moved at all and — as someone who is usually keep cool — felt humiliated. My friend even suggested me to wear flip flops on my hands to help me float. How dare you give me this suggestion?
Swim noodles? Tried them. My waist will never forgive me. Is swimming supposed to bend over on my waist and roll down to nowhere in the pool? This makes me more scared! Maybe they should be used like this?
Water is a source of fear and panic for me. This feeling is exhausting and unpleasant. After all these good tries, I was prepared to give up. But I didn’t. First of all, it’s a good reason to show my hard body workout. Another reason, I don’t wanna die because of global warming.
The real reason is this: my roommate told me she learned how to swim in a swimming class in the U. and this got my attention again. My fighting will came back again. Then I went to a summer swimming class. During the whole one-month class, I spent most of the time at the just-here-to-chat lane at the corner of the pool. I could only swim in that area, I was even not able to float. One day, the instructor took us to the deep water and asked us try not to sink down in 30 seconds without any help. She did not let us hang on the edge, nor did she allow us to go back into shallow water. I screamed and yelled yet in my helpless fear I had no choice but to start. I don’t know how many seconds I struggled in the water. I used all my strengths, my arms, my legs, and my screams. Finally, she offered me a noodle and dragged me to the edge. This was the end of the summer class. I was a little less frightened of water after the practice in that summer class.
I am too resilient to just stop there. I took a beginner swimming class again in this spring. This time, I was much more confident because several classmates were at the same level as me in the summer. They only stayed in the shallow corner, like what I did in the summer. While I tried to cross the pool at the second class, I succeeded. Getting into the water is the first step of learning how to swim. It is only by letting go and trusting that the water will hold me up that I can learn to swim. This is far more important than technique, but it takes time. The only thing I need to do now is to practice my strokes. After some practices, I can do freestyle and breast stroke for 50 meters, I can float on my back, do elementary backstroke, and I can do dolphin kick as well. Although I am still afraid of open water and deep water, I can survive with my floating skill and I am much better than before.
Learning swimming has taught me so much about fear itself. Fear keeps us safe, but it also prevents us from moving forward. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you ask me, I would speak up more often and more publicly, I would encourage myself being ambitious in leadership positions, I would set up my own independent research organization and work for myself in the future, I would go out of comfort zone, in general. Trying to do what we are afraid to do is the only way to get improved and developed in our life.