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Right Way

By Sarah Gandluri

I hate the pool. I hate the smell of chlorine, and the strangely loud pattering of the mushroom
fountain. But most of all, I hate the swimming . I guess I was just never compelled to learn how
to flounder in the leaf littered water the right way. I preferred to sit on the side of the kiddie pool,
dangling my feet in the suspiciously clean water - I’m sure some kid had an accident in there -
and ate goldfish and drank unnaturally red fruit punch, which was my typical four year old diet.
But of course, the unexpected turns of life decided to jump scare me (as it tends to do) into
forcing myself to learn how to swim.

I remember the day very vividly: the sun was unrelenting and the breeze decided to take a
vacation. It was the perfect day to go to the pool according to my amphibian friends who seemed
to have gills and the ability to breathe underwater. Giving into the direct influence of toddler
peer pressure, I decided to descend into the depths of the pool and clasp the edges with my life.
I was already shaking, but clearly holding onto the pool curb for dear life wasn’t good enough
for the preschoolers surrounding me. I guess I should have been educated on the effects of peer
pressure long before middle school because I was coerced into letting go of the edge. When I
couldn’t swim. In four feet of water - I wasn’t a particularly tall toddler, so this was deep for me.
Naturally, I began to flop, and then flail, and then sink. The aromatic and absolutely delightful
taste of chlorinated water filled up my throat and I began to thrash around. It probably didn’t
look like much from outside the pool to anyone, but I didn’t think I would make it out of the pool
alive. Suddenly, I was lifted from the water, gasping for air as my arms clutched the pool walls.
One of my friends had noticed that I was having an interesting swimming experience and
decided to help out.

I climbed out of the pool and sprinted to my mom, despite the red paint on the ground clearly
reading ‘do not run’. I don’t think she believed me when I told her I almost died. A hysterical
toddler telling you she almost drowned in three feet of water? I wouldn’t buy it either. But
clearly, I didn’t take the hint and continued to babble on about my ‘near death experience’ (I had
just learned that phrase from a Barbie movie). I didn’t go into the pool to swim for a whole year
after that.

At the wise age of five, I forced my dad to sign me up for swimming lessons. This girl would not
almost drown in four feet of water again. To nobody’s surprise, I hated every excruciating
minute of the lessons. I still couldn’t do anything but splash around like a fish out of water -
well, a human in water. But I signed up the next summer. And the summer after that. And when I
turned nine, five years after my absolutely traumatizing experience, I passed my swim test at my
local pool. That day was better than my birthday. When I popped out of the water at the end of
the 25 meter swim test, I felt like I had just slain a dragon. Even though it wasn’t that big of a
deal for anybody else, passing that test was so important to me because I thought I would never
be able to do it.

If I hadn’t pushed myself to learn to swim, I would have never learned to do it. Even though it
took years to grasp, I felt a sense of weird accomplishment for getting over my immense
aversion for swimming. Don’t get me wrong - I still hate it. But now, I am equipped with the
necessary skills to save myself the embarrassment of drowning in barely four feet of water.

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