Bringing the Outside In

When I was enjoying my pool recently, a casual conversation with my mom evoked a memory I hadn’t thought about in ages. I mentioned how thankful I was to have been introduced to an aqua belt, the flotation device I’ve used since I was an adolescent. It gives me the support I need to keep me from drowning, while also offering me freedom to move about somewhat naturally.  Prior to our discovering it, I had to either use a life-jacket, floaties, or an inner-tube to have fun in the water—and in those cumbersome implements, I’d hardly call it fun.

We didn’t discover the belt on our own, though. In fact, we never would’ve if matters had gone my way. When I was in third grade, my school had everybody in my class take swimming lessons at the local recreation center. I usually tried to do everything the other kids did and never wanted my Cerebral Palsy to define me, but on this one, forget it! I’d had a pool at home since I was a toddler, and I managed in it just fine. I realized I wouldn’t swim like a regular person, so what was the use? It’d just be another instance where I’d be reminded of what I couldn’t do, and I’d feel like an outsider.

Despite my pleas to stay behind and read in my classroom, my teacher and parents insisted I go. At my first lesson, a surprise came my way in the form of my own personal instructor, who I’ll call Becky…because her name was Becky. I still remember her smiling face as she approached me, her eagerness to help me easing my tension and stubbornness in that moment. And what was she carrying? Yep, the aqua belt. (Photo courtesy of Amazon) 

For the next six weeks, she trained me to use the belt so that I could get the most out of swimming. While I didn’t get to share in the shenanigans my peers were doing, I had relaxing, one-on-one training that benefits me to this day. Best of all, I had a warm pool almost to myself, whereas my classmates had to crowd into the cold one! What I dreaded all summer ended up being the highlight of my year.

Admittedly, I still have my bull-headed streak that rears its ugly head on occasion, but the experience taught me a lesson that went beyond the water. I learned I couldn’t assume I was going to be an outsider just because I usually was. I’d been through a very rough patch at that time, and looking back, I realize I’d let it embitter me, even at that young age. But Becky showed me I couldn’t let the harshness of others make me give up on the possibility of someone being kind.

When you’re accustomed to being the outsider or even an outcast, it’s all too easy to get a chip on your shoulder or to simply say, “I’ve had enough.” If you stick it out and power through it, though, you’re bound to find people who will pull you in the circle and improve your life in ways you’d never fathomed.  I guess you could say you can’t let the bruises you get on the shallow end discourage you from trying out the deep.

Also See

Ugly Changes Lead to Beautiful Transformations

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