March 2020 SOLC–Day 29
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I have a really poor memory. It’s so bad that when I can’t remember a person or event, my sister asks me, half kidding, “Are you sure you didn’t do drugs?” There are certain rare moments though, that shine intact through the blur of past events. It’s as if they’ve been coated in varnish and are impervious to the ravages of time.
I’ve been thinking about one of those moments a lot lately. I don’t know how old I was, but I distinctly remember taking a five minute “treading water” test in a pool. This was one of the prerequisites for heading into the hallowed deep end, something I longed to do.
On the day of the test, the lifeguard squatted by the side of the pool with the timer and I jumped in, then moved back to the wall.
“Ready?” she asked.
I nodded and turned around, poised to move away.
I pushed off the wall and into the water.
Immediately, I began to tread. I started out confidently, briskly treading away. I was a decent swimmer and very comfortable in the water. I wasn’t too worried about the test.
After a while, maybe a minute or two, it dawned on me that five minutes might be a lot longer than it initially sounded like.
I waited as long as I could, longer than I wanted to, longer than I thought I could, and then, I gasped out, “How much longer?”
Surely it must have been at least four minutes already.
“Less than three minutes left,” she answered.
Three? Almost three minutes left? It’s only been a little more than two minutes?!!!
I kept going, automatically moving my arms and legs, but along with my energy, my confidence was ebbing.
I might not be able to do this.
Time slowed down to a molasses trickle. My arms and legs moved slower and slower.
“You’re doing great, Molly! Keep going!”
When you tread water, you’re constantly moving, yet staying in one place. My focus narrowed to that small circle of water around me. My arms. My legs. My breath. My arms. My legs. My breath.
I don’t remember the moment I decided I couldn’t do it any longer. I’m not sure it was even a conscious decision. I just found myself heading to the edge of the pool.
“There’s only a minute and a half left,” the lifeguard called.
I kept moving forward, desperate to stop. To hold onto something solid. To have the test over, even if I had failed.
Finally, I came within reach, and she stretched out one hand. I reached my hand toward hers, and as soon as our hands met, she pushed me back into the water.
“You can do it, Molly!” she called. “You’re almost done.”
I was shocked. Utterly shocked! I kept treading, because what else could I do? She wouldn’t let me quit!
Would she let me drown?
My arms and legs were heavier and heavier in the water, and I was just barely keeping my head above the surface. I didn’t have the energy to argue. But I was done. Finished. I truly felt I had nothing left to give. I remember feeling scared, feeling I couldn’t possibly go on.
Yet ultimately, I did.
“Time!” she finally called. “You did it!”
I ducked under the water, and wearily kicked to the side. I came up, hair streaming and clung to the gritty pool edge with wrinkled fingers, exhausted. I remember having such mixed feelings. I’d passed the test, but I also felt betrayed. She’d pushed me away! I wonder if the shock of that is what etched this moment in my memory. Still, I’d passed the test. I’d made it for the full five minutes even though I didn’t think I could. I didn’t feel triumphant though. Mostly I felt dazed.
I think of that moment now as I deal with the fallout from recent events. I already felt overwhelmed with teaching before all of this happened–so often struggling to keep my head above water. Now I’ve really been thrown in the deep end. I’m trying to figure out how to do my job in an entirely different way while adjusting to a whole new way of life, and a whole new raft of worries. I’m so thankful that I still have a job and that I can connect with my students and their families. Yet, I feel uncertain, vulnerable and exposed (Video lessons? Ack!), and at times, overwhelmingly inadequate.
I keep telling myself this is an opportunity to grow. To learn more about myself. To recognize that I can do more than I thought was possible. I’ve learned a lot already and I know I’ll learn more, but there are moments when I want to give up. When it all just seems like too, too much. When every atom of my being screams for me to head to the side of the pool.
Instead, I have to keep treading water madly as the edge of the pool moves farther away. No one’s pushing me back in (Thank God!), and it isn’t a physical endurance test (again, Thank God!), but I’m having to push myself further than I thought I could and in so many different ways. It feels like I’m being tested on teaching myself new strokes while simultaneously trying to keep my head above water with the ultimate goal of moving myself and my students forward through the now turbulent waters to reach some far-off yet-to-be-defined edge.
I wish I felt as confident in my abilities as that long-ago lifeguard did.
We’ve only been doing this for 8 days?
How much longer?