I had one personal goal I wanted to reach this summer, something so small and inconsequential it’s embarrassing to write down. But at the same time, I’m so ridiculously happy I was able to accomplish it, I feel it necessary to, yep, brag.
So here it goes: Last Friday, I learned how to dive.
All my life, I have loved to swim. My mom is afraid of the water, as is my best friend Kristin’s mom, so they put us in swimming lessons at an early age so we could avoid the same fate. After eight years of climbing up the colors karate-belt style (“I passed red, mom. On to maroon!”), I became a skilled swimmer in possession of most of the strokes (butterfly escapes me). However, when it came to diving off the diving board, that’s where I froze.
Let me be clear by saying I could actually jump off with no problem: pike, half twist, full twist, sure. And, though a runty kid, even a respectable degree of splash in the cannonball department. But the idea of jumping face first and risking the very real possibilities of, a), belly flopping, b), slamming my face into the bottom of the pool, and, c), having water injected pinball-style up my nostrils, made me pause every time.
I did spend a lot of time on the side of the pool contemplating and watching other people dive, however. Because, when executed well, is there anything more beautiful? I’ve long dreamed of being the type of woman who can casually dive off the bow of a boat or, hell, a yacht and land cleanly in the water. Collecting hardly a splash, but an ocean’s worth of admiration.
So, this summer. It was my time. I had told a couple of my friends of my plan and last Friday evening, I had my opportunity. My husband and I had gathered with a few other couples at the local pool to watch the kids splash around, eat pizza and catch up on the week’s events with, yes, perhaps a bit of bubbly.
Though firmly enjoying myself, I had been paying attention to the action outside of our party. As the sun dipped ever down, others were leaving the pool area to head home. Soon, it was just our party and a very nice couple enjoying the sunset on lounge chairs.
This was my chance. Because, let me just preface this by saying, you need a chance when you’re almost 40 and you’re trying to conquer something you should have conquered when you were 7. I’d enlisted my best friend Sarah to help me, a woman who would look so at home diving off the deck of a yacht you almost can’t believe she doesn’t have one.
We walked over to a corner of the pool. I looked at Sarah for instruction and she looked back at me and I could instantly tell that she suddenly didn’t know what to say because how do you break something down you’ve been doing effortlessly for 30 years?
“Just watch me,” she said, laughing.
I did and her lean body broke the surface of the water and bobbed up immediately.
“The trick is not to dive too deeply. Your legs shouldn’t bend. You’re diving to gain ground.”
“OK, do it again,” I told her, feeling that same resistance, that feeling of, “You know what? Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t want to do this.”
But then Sarah’s son Owen came swimming up and Sarah had him show me his dive. Then she asked his friend Macie if she had any ideas for me, and Macie got on one knee, put her hands together prayer-style and angled downward.
So, with the kids so patient and unembarrassed, happy to give advice and eager to get me on the cool side of the diving fence, my determination returned.
“OK, count to three,” I told Owen.
“One, two, three.”
“Wait. Say, ‘One, two, three, go.'”
“One, two, three, go.”
“Kay, wait. One more time.”
“One, two, three, go.”
And so I went.
It wasn’t the prettiest dive in Pulaski County, but it didn’t hurt and I was instantly a little bit addicted. So I went and I went and that’s how I learned to dive.