Do you remember the first time you opened your eyes under water? I do. And I hated it.
I was five and brought to a swimming lesson. It was a big deal. My grandmother, my favourite human in the world, was in attendance for this momentous occasion. Her grandson was going to learn to swim.
Most of the class was fine. Treading water was easy. It was as if I was born to do it. It felt good to be in the water. There was a sense of control; that I was doing something special. Nanny, we called her nanny, was on the sidelines smiling. She was so proud.
Then we were each given a coin and told to drop it our feet. Did I mention that I was not really treading water so much as standing neck deep in it. Details. Anyway, the pimply instructor told us to drop the coin at our feet. Once everyone made a show of empty hands, he told us to drop underwater, open our eyes and retrieve the coin we just lost. What?! I was confused. I had never opened my eyes under water. It always seemed a little dangerous. Wouldn't that let water into my head? What would happen to me? Wasn't that dangerous? Everyone in the class promptly sank under and came back up with their coin. I hadn't moved.
"Get your coin." The instructor said. I shook my head.
"Scott--" I could hear my dad start to say something from the side of the pool. I turned to him and nanny. She was no longer smiling. She looked worried. I must've picked up on that because I started crying. "You can't make me do it. I don't wanna open my eyes." I scrambled for an excuse. "This water is dirty!"
"You can do it. Everyone else was able to do it. Look. The coin is right there by your left foot." He was right. I could do it. I might even be able to do it without opening my eyes. I smiled a little. "Ok."
I pointed my hand right at the coin, squeezed my eyes shut, sucked in as much air as I could and dropped below the surface. I couldn't feel the coin. Before I even realized it, my eyes opened. The chlorine stung a little but it wasn't too bad. I looked wher my feet had been and saw the coin. The thing is, I had waited too long, and was floating back to the surface. The coin getting further and further out of reach. I stood up and did that thing that everyone does instinctively when their head comes out of the water "PFFFFFFFFF!" I may have also been crying a little, but that was because of the chlorine...
"Are you okay?" Nanny had come as close as possible by the edge of the pool. I nodded. "You can do it. Try again." I nodded again.
I pointed, squeezed, sucked and dropped. This time I opened my eyes quickly and didn't waste time looking around. I grabbed the coin and jumped back up. I had done it!
Writing is like that for me. It's why I don't publish as much as I would like. On paper, my ideas seem to lack depth. They remain on the surface, and they always seem much more interesting in my head. What I am looking to write lies beneath the surface, but I can't --won't, open my eyes to properly see it.
It's easier to skim the surface, to keep my head above water. It's comfortable. It's the known, but there is no mystery there. All of the good stuff lies beneath.
It may be a trite metaphor, but it hits home for me. We need to always go deeper, if we intend to pull up the best of ourselves. All of the greatness lies beneath the surface, just out of reach from the safety of shallows.
I am not yet to comfortable writing from depth. I am afraid of what I might find, of going too deep to be able to come back up for air. I think we all are. It’s what makes what’s down there so special. You won't find any pearls floating on the surface.
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At the end of the swimming lesson, the instructor said that we had done well and as a reward, we would be allowed to jump from the diving board. Everyone screamed. I didn't. We formed shivering line by the diving board. One at a time, kids climbed the two steps up onto the board, walked to the end and jumped in.
When it was my turn, I climbed the steps, walked along the diving board, feeling the rugged surface for the first time in my life, and stopped dead at the end. Nope. There was no way that was going to happen. It was too deep. I started crying, and I called for my grandmother. The kids behind me in line were getting impatient. My dad and the instructor telling me to jump. She looked at me and nodded a little. I shook my head slightly.
"That's enough. He's scared." She walked over to the diving board, and helped me back down the way I came, looked at my father. That was my last swimming lesson, ever.
Keep on Thinking Free.