Tuesday, January 09, 2007

High Diving

When I was three, I started taking swimming lessons. It was at the same pool, same teachers, same lesson mates and it went on for years. By age five, we were well on our way to treading water and not choking on it every fifteen seconds or so. We thought we were pros.

Then came the "big" pool. It had laps and a "deep end." A really, really deep end. With a high dive, which scared the living crap out of me all summer. Just staring at that thing made me want to jump out of the pool, grab my towel, slip on my jelly shoes and high-tail it the heck out of there. Thankfully, we did not have to go off the diving boards that summer. That sweet, wonderful, seventeen year-old swim teacher didn't even mention it, bless her soul.

A year later, I walked into the pool again, having completely forgotten about the high dive. But there, sitting on the deck with my innocent little six year-old feet hanging over the edge I heard the chilling words: "this year, we'll learn to jump off the diving board." What? Diving board? High? Above water? Oh yes, and more. They started us with the "short" board. A mere three (maybe four?) feet above the water, what could go wrong?

Nothing, really. I was all about the short board. Heck, I'd take a running start at that sucker, no problem. Go off backwards? Sure. Bounce twice before jumping in? Yeah, alright. Do a handstand and then fall head first over the edge? Challenge me, puuuhhleeaaase!

All the while, people were just over goin' off that high dive all morning long. I, being the excellent avoider I have always been, just chose to ignore it. That is, until one of the kids in my class mentioned it. Stupid Dusty Reynolds and his high-fallutin', wannabe Superman attitude wanted to go off the high dive. Though I don't remember the exact words I said to him then, if I were to go back to that scene and help myself respond with the benefit of my current vernacular, it would have gone something like dude, you must be on crack!

And then, the most ridiculous moment of my year spent as a six year-old happened. The teacher told him he could, if he wanted to. Then, as if attempting to make me pee in the pool right there, she also said that anyone else who wanted to could also go off the high dive. We just had to follow the rules (no fancy tricks on that one) and go one at a time. Wouldn't you know it, all but me and one other kid lined up. Slowly, one after the next, they took the plunge. Some going down in straight lines and screaming, others looking like jacks sprawled out and creating a smacking sound as soon as their bodies came into contact with the water. Left at the bottom of the steps there was only me and one other girl. She asked me if I was going to go and I told her I didn't know. She then said that she was and me, always the chicken at first but never one to be completly beat, raced up that ladder like it led to Disneyland.

As I approached the top, I was hardly able to stop and ask myself what I was doing. I remember slowly pacing out to the edge of the board, feeling the gentle bounce that I was certain would send me plummeting with even the slightest misstep. I remember the itch in my legs from the chlorinated water dripping down from my swimsuit. I remember the distant calls from the kids below, though I couldn't tell you what their words may have been. I remember thinking to keep my legs together and my hands by my sides, straight like a pencil. I remember stepping off.

I unexpectedly hit the water in a deep plunge, eyes closed the entire time. When I finally felt myself stop, my toes just grazing the bottom of the deep end, I opened my eyes. I remember looking up and thinking I'd never get to the top. I kicked my feet and held my breath. I kicked and kicked, held and held. I didn't have enough air, I wasn't going to make it. I was about to gasp and still, in my six year-old head, miles and miles under the water. I wanted to panic, but had no where to panic in, no one to panic to. So I kicked and kicked, and finally my finger tips felt the air, then my elbows, my shoulders, my face. I took one deep breath, then another before I began swimming to the edge. I turned, looked up at that high dive and grinned, because I knew I'd do it again.

And maybe that's sort of how things are right now. I'm afraid, yet don't want to be left behind. I'm plunging in, and not knowing what to expect. I'm looking up, waiting to get to the top and with every second, doubting I'm going to make it. Doubting I'll ever be able to breathe again. But maybe I will, and maybe I'll go back for more when I do.


Apparently, it's de-lurking week in the blog world. Not to be presumptuous (yeah, right) but if you're here and you don't comment, maybe this week you can. I suppose nothing bad will happen if you don't but, you know, I saw a hexing book at the library today and nothing would entertain me more than to check it out because then, a girl I went to high school with would have to look me straight in the eye while she scanned the book and my card and resist the urge to say I was right about you all along.


justacoolcat said...

I've been lurking fo awhile. Do I win a prize?

justrun said...

No. But you don't get a hex, either. :)

Sizzle said...

you know i'm here. i can't seem to keep my mouth shut.

i have every faith you'll get through whatever you are going through swimmingly (excuse the pun!).

Backofpack said...

Oh, great. I'm on my way to bed, and just stopped for a minute, then I thought I'd read and not comment, but then the whole hex thing came up, and I was worried you'd turn me into a toad or something, so I had to stop and comment even though I have nothing to say. So am I safe now?

Danielle said...

Wow, age 6 and you were going off the high dive?? My pool we weren't allowed in the deep end until we had passed certain levels...I so hated swimming lessons...but loved the pool!!

JustRun said...

Sizzle- No worries, me neither.

BoP- Yeah, right, like I would hex my blog mom.

Danielle- Yeah, people were less sue-happy 21 years ago. I'm sure we'd have to sign 18 waivers now.

e.b. said...

My best memories of childhood were spent in the swimming pool. Thanks for the read, it brought a smile on this Wednesday morning.

bcmatt said...

I don't mean to be a smart-ass, but are you sure you felt a gentle bounce when you were at the top? I thought that all the 10m platforms were just big concrete platforms. Was it possible that you were on one of the springboards (which I don't think get higher than about 5 meters). I remember being nervous going off the high platform myself as a college student (thought I wouldn't be able to keep vertical and I would smack and hit the water and my guts would be floating everywhere). Of course, I had to do it anyways, (what if the cute girl is watching?). Anyways, don't tell me if it wasn't that platform because I am so impressed with you as a six-year-old right now. Great story.

adam said...

Like the story, but am wondering what it is that could be keeping you from breathing right now! Forget about whatever it is . . . remember that you will always float to the surface! (at least unless you are like me - I tend to sink!) Hope it all works out. Please don't hex me!

Celina said...

What a great story! And, symbolic of SO many things in life... I'm struggling to reach the surface right now, too! (I've already dived in/off.)

Anonymous said...

No hexes please! Best of luck with all your jumps!

Ginger Breadman said...

I swear I haven't been lurking. My computer is finally fixed so I can blog away, and yours is the first one I've read in a week. Now after this post, I'm gonna have to go back over the last couple of weeks and figure out what it is you might be referring to in your life. I like Adam's comment though - about floating to the surface. You do, and once you get there, it's always okay to tread water for a while - then choose to either dive in again, swim awhile, or head to shore. Wow, I'm full of analogies. I gotta go read your blog some more.

Rosie said...

Hi! I saw your comment on Ms. Sizzle about the snow and being OVER IT.

Me too. Me toooooo. Uggh.

(I live in Denver)

I guess I'm delurking, kinda. This is the first time I've ever been to your blog!