Just keep swimming

What comes to your mind when thinking of the phrase “just keep swimming”? In my case, it’s Dory’s carnival-suggestive expressions and Allen DeGeneres’ merry sparkling voice. The “Just keep swimming” melody is FIGURATIVELY inspiring to me. Feeling blue? Just keep swimming! Feeling lost? Just keep swimming! Feeling tired? Just keep swimming! It is a vulnerary remedy to every single kind of negative mood. But when it comes swimming itself, LITERALLY, it never works for me.

Without any terrible memory related to water, I am terribly afraid of staying in a swimming pool. The simple action of lifting my feet off the ground could easily trigger a scream of HELP. While I positively though that as a spontaneous expression of “love life”, I always know it won’t help save life at all.

That’s why I signed up for a swimming training course at a swimming pool near my neighborhood, expecting some professional guide would finally break the spell of water. Well, miracles do not happen easily.

The course I chose is a one-month beginners’ guide to breaststroke, which means with twice training every week in a month I could hopefully splash water as freely as a frog. Excited? I was. The night before my first course, I did pretty good preparations. I consulted my roommate who knows how to swim about the points should be paid attention to. I Googled for kind suggestions for swimming pool starters. I even double checked my bag for the next morning, feeling as ready as a pupil for her first school day.

Then the next day came.

The weather was nice with the autumn-special crisp air, which cheered me up more for my first lesson. Here I come!

However, the high-spirited mood cooled a little down when I tried to locate the training area. With poor vision due to the takeoff of eyeglasses, I went to a staff closest to me, and asked in Mandarin about the location. Soon I realized we were speaking apples and oranges. She could not understand what I was asking, neither could I rephrase my question in Cantonese. The reality that this swimming pool belongs to local community instead of the university suddenly squeezed in my cheerful mind. Anyway, I let that go by following a woman who wore a same swim cap as I did.

The mood continued to cool down when I met my fellow trainees. There were about eight of them. Although it’s definitely not a good habit of judging people by appearance, I didn’t expect being among a group of grandmas. “Cool down! It’s eight in the morning of a workday, who else do you expect to meet in a swimming pool?” I thought to myself. Looking at the smiling relaxing faces of the grandmas, things were not that bad, right?

But the mood just kept cooling down to the lowest point when the coach started speaking. I knew it might be in Cantonese. I knew there might be small problems in communication. Despite all these presumptions, when he actually spoke, I was overwhelmed. I tried to connect the dots by catching few keywords in his speech and soon found that’s impossible when he was speaking professional swimming things. How I wished there were subtitles under his face like that of TVB dramas!

Wind blew in through the opened doors, and I felt the chill. “That’s it? Am I going to dive into the terrible water being unable to decode the Cantonese training content?” I didn’t think I had the STAMINA to do so.

Well, I might have if I was not alone. A grandma standing nearby might have discovered my puzzled face. She came to me and whispered in Mandarin, “You can’t understand, can you?” I shook my head. She then told me the key points of the coach’s talk and continued to interpret whatever the coaching was saying. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine”, the melody echoed in my head.

Things happened following a U-curve. The coach got to know that I could not understand Cantonese. While he kept coaching in Cantonese (he could not speak Mandarin), at some point he would pause and remind the grandma to tell me “this part is important”, which was really friendly.

After the theory training on warming up, basic actions of a breaststroke, etc., here came the big show— “Off the pool”. Surprisingly good enough, I didn’t feel the panic when I went off into the water. But whatever will come, will come. When the coach asked us to do the breathing practice, panic started. What about my eyes? What about my ears? What if I drank gallons of water?  Calm, calm, calm. To calm yourself down when it’s necessary may be the best gift of growing up. It worked. And whew, I managed to breathe underwater.

Following breathing was another task. To float. We were instructed to grip the hollow at the side of the pool and try float ourselves. I remembered a mischievous advice online which said when doing floating, just imagine yourself as a dead body. Nasty imagination as it was, I followed it. And it turned out not working for me. One main reason might be that I thought too much, which a dead body generally wouldn’t do? I thought about the tricky balance of all parts of body. I thought about the ships passing by the sea outside. And I even thought about the scene in which a fetus was lying in mother’s womb, a place full of water. These drifting mundane thoughts kept me down to the ground, and till the end of the class I didn’t succeed floating.

“Don’t worry, usually people will make it after two or three classes,” the coach encouraged me. Well, well, the miracle does not come overnight.

And it’s time to take Dory’s “Just keep swimming” remedy.

(Featured image from wallpaper site.com)






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