Here’s proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks: at 21 years old, I’m learning how to swim for the very first time.
Sure, I’ve gone to the pool and beach all my life. I’ve dipped my toes in the water. I’ve splashed around in the pool—as long as my feet could still touch the bottom.
But swim a lap? Nope. Go to the deep end without clutching onto the gutter for dear life? Not a chance. What’s the difference between a butterfly and a breaststroke and freestyle anyway?
I probably sound a little dramatic, but picture this: every time a friend had a pool party or my family would take a trip to the beach, I’d have to hang back and watch everyone else go off and have fun.
After a while, the combination of the fear of the water and the social anxiety over having to participate in water-related activities had become pretty crippling.
So, last fall, when it came time to register for my last semester of undergrad, I had a little flexibility with the courses I was going to take. I needed sixteen credits to complete my degree, so I began going through the one-credit health and fitness classes my school offers.
Beginner’s Yoga would’ve been the easy choice, but what’s the fun in taking the easy way out? When the spring semester rolled around, at 8:55 on that first Monday morning, I found myself waiting on the pool deck for class to start, instead of on a yoga mat.
Each and every class has presented me with a new challenge. First, it was actually getting in the water. Then, it was floating and learning the strokes and trying to figure out how to actually take a breath while swimming laps, which, mind you, is totally critical to swimming and a real game changer once you finally figure it out. This week, it was jumping into the deep end for the very first time and actually being able to tread water.
It’s scary and challenging and fun all at the same time. I’d be lying if I said the fear of getting into “the big kids’ pool” didn’t keep me up at night for the last few months, but I still made it into the pool every Monday and Thursday morning.
For a while, I was also pretty embarrassed by the whole thing—so embarrassed I didn’t even tell my family about it until recently.
I was embarrassed that I was 21 years old and learning to swim for the first time in my entire life. I was embarrassed that it took me so long to learn. Once class actually started, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t always figure out the strokes right away, or that I was scared about getting in the big pool for so long.
It’s taken me a few months to realize, but there’s actually nothing to be embarrassed about.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think there’s something really great about being able to admit you don’t know how to do something, and actually taking the steps to learn a new skill.
We all love to say we’d love to learn how to do that thing: knit, cook, speak another language, whatever it might be.
But not a lot of people actually do what they need to in order to start learning.
I was embarrassed that I didn’t know how to swim, and I was embarrassed to be taking a Beginner’s Swimming class at 21 years old, in my senior year of college.
But if I didn’t learn now, when would I ever take the time to learn?
Look, I’m not expecting a call from the United States National Team anytime soon to swim at this summer’s Olympics. But I am expecting to be able to go to the pool this summer and swim laps with my sister and I am expecting to be able to go to the beach with my friends and do more than just dip my toes in the water.
Here’s the moral of the story: if you want to learn how to do something, just go and do it. Don’t wait. Don’t make up silly excuses in order to talk yourself out of it. You owe it to yourself to at least try. It’s never too late to learn a new skill, and it’s always going to be worth it.