07 June 2018
Learning something new is always a bit frightening. Now overcoming something that is
new and a personal phobia can be downright scary, hence the “phobia” part. One of the hardest
things I have ever had to do was learning to swim. I was always afraid of the water, not for any
specific reason, except that it was an unknown for me. When I decided to join the Navy,
swimming was an important skill that I knew I was going to have to master. I also thought it
would be good exercise and help me to become physically stronger before my time at Recruit
Training Command in Great Lakes. What I didn't realize was that learning to swim would also
make me a more confident person. It would make me feel as though I could accomplish anything
that obstructed my goals in the future.
New situations always make me a bit nervous, and my first swimming lesson was no
exception. My Naval recruiter had offered to teach anyone who wanted to go to the local YMCA
after recruiting station hours ended a chance to get a jump on this vital, yet elusive skill. After I
changed into my bathing suit in the locker room, I stood timidly by the side of the pool waiting
for the teacher and other students to show up. After a couple of minutes, the teacher came over,
and two more recruits joined us. Although they were both older than me, they didn't seem to be
embarrassed about not knowing how to swim. I was 20 at the time and felt sort of dumb being
afraid of swimming, and the water in general, however I began to feel more at ease knowing that
I was not alone.
We got into the pool, and the teacher had us put on brightly colored water wings to help
us stay afloat. One of the other students, May, had already taken the beginning class once before,
so she took a kickboard and went splashing off by herself. The other student, Jerry, and I were
told to hold on to the side of the pool and shown how to kick for the breaststroke. One by one,
the teacher had us hold on to a kickboard while she pulled it through the water and we kicked.
Pretty soon Jerry was off doing this by himself, traveling like a dolphin to the short end of the
Things were not quite that easy for me, but the teacher was very patient. After a few more
weeks, when I seemed to have caught on with my legs, she taught me the arm strokes. Now I had
two things to concentrate on, my arms and my legs. I felt hopelessly uncoordinated, which was
difficult for me because I played several sports and coordination was always a strong point for
me. Sooner than I had imagined things began to feel "right" and I was able to not sink like an
anchor, from there I really took off. It was a wonderful free feeling, the accomplishment...