I believe that I’m a scaredy-cat. I believe, though, that no fear is indomitable.
In first grade, I attended my first swim lesson, discovered my inborn fear of the water, and refused to attend another lesson in my life. After enduring a half-hour of floundering with a kickboard while inhaling mouthfuls of chlorine-tainted water, no amount of coaxing from my parents or sister could persuade me to get back in the pool.
Nine years later, I found myself standing on the edge of a dock at Berkeley Marina, shivering in a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. The thought of sitting on the sidelines at pool parties had since compelled me to join a swim team and get over my fear of the pool, but I had another fear yet to conquer: that of the Pacific Ocean. As I peered into the murky, brownish-greenish waters, I wasn’t so sure that this was going to be the fun excursion I had envisioned. I couldn’t help but recall my coach’s casual warning of hypothermia: “You start shaking, you lose feeling in your arms, then your legs, and then you die.” Great, I thought as I hesitantly dipped a toe into the very cold, cloudy water. I tried to clear from my mind the fear of getting hypothermia and to heed my coach’s wise words of, “watch out for the biting seals.” Procrastination had never been so enticing. My only motivation to jump into the water was to clean my knee, which I had accidentally smeared with seagull poop while kneeling at the edge of the dock. Most of my motivation must have been replaced by recklessness, for at the count of three I abandoned all morbid thoughts and jumped in.
My breath was sucked out of me. The bay made a public pool seem like a hot tub. I found myself floundering again, flailing my limbs and hyperventilating. Only this time in a much bigger, rougher pool filled with grimy strands of seaweed, without even a kickboard to keep me afloat. But I was more experienced this time, and, after I stopped panicking, I started swimming. I swam out a ways and then back to shore, and after I got out, I felt like I had done more than just clean the seagull poop off my knee.
I believe that any fear can be overcome. I believe in ignoring any doubts that emerge before doing something new. I believe in taking risks, if only for the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies success. I believe in getting in the pool, no matter how big or cold it is.
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