Pool Joy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My mother loves to swim, whether in the town pool every summer or in hotel pools on vacation. She wanted all three of us to be able to swim and enjoy it, but by the time I was in middle school, the prospect of us enjoying swimming was slim. My older sister made a feeble attempt at the high-school swim team, but disliked it and quit. My little brother and I could hardly swim to save ourselves, lessons having had no effect on our ability. We both thought the sport was torture because it was so hard.

Seventh grade was the first year we could participate in sports. My mother, of course, wanted me to join the swim team, which was one of the only sports I didn’t have to try out for. She said I would enjoy it. Being an argumentative 12-year-old, I refused. Instead, I insisted on trying out for basketball. Since I was a scrawny, uncoordinated asthmatic, the odds of making the team were not good, but I wanted to try out anyway.

My mother and I argued about the choice of basketball versus swim. She would yell, “Stop being difficult” while I would reply, “You are not listening to me. Let me do what I want!” The vicious cycle usually ended with me in my room or losing TV privileges for talking back. But when it came time to try out for basketball, I still wanted to be on the team, and I wasn’t giving up easily.

Unfortunately, my mother wasn’t about to give up either. She wanted me to do swimming and was going to make sure that happened. She convinced Kara (a friend of my sister’s who was also a swimmer) to talk to me.

“I would rather be running than swimming,” I told Kara, which was a lie because I hated to run since I couldn’t breathe.

“Running will hurt more than swimming,” she replied, which was just what my mom said. I ignored them both.

Then my mom proposed a deal. “If you don’t make basketball, then you will join the swim team.” I agreed reluctantly, since I wanted her to leave me alone.

The day of basketball tryouts, the huge gym was packed with eager seventh and eighth graders. We had to run, sprint, dribble, shoot and demonstrate other skills, all of which I failed. The exact events have slipped my memory, but I know my lack of ability resulted in being cut before the tryouts were done.

To keep my deal with my mother, the following day I began swim practice. Walking onto the pool deck, the smell of chlorine and intense humidity smacked me in the face. To warm up we swam 500 yards, which is equivalent to 20 lengths of the pool. To a swimmer that may not be a lot, but to an out-of-shape 12-year-old with no swimming ability, those 20 laps were hell. I crawled out of the pool gasping for breath and sobbing. Shivering in the high-ceilinged room with tile floors and no windows, I developed a new loathing for swimming. This was all my mother’s fault and I wished I could be anywhere else.

The coach walked over. He was a big man with little hair and an earring. As he towered over me, I said, “I want to quit, it is too hard. I can’t do it.”

“Don’t quit, it will get easier,” he said.

“I don’t think it will. I don’t want to swim, let me quit.”

“Give it a try for a little while. If you still hate swimming and can’t do it, you can quit. How about that?”

“Okay,” I responded, thinking I would quit in a few days.

“Good,” he said. “Now get back in the pool.”

So, I started swimming. And, to my surprise, I got used to it. Since that winter, I have continued for four seasons, learning not only how to swim, but how to enjoy it. My mother was satisfied. She had gotten me to try swimming and she was right, I did enjoy it.

I began to love swimming and, to this day, my mom reminds me how I didn’t want to do it in the beginning. Swimming has become my favorite sport, from the daily two hours submerged in water, to the weekly meets to compete with intense spirit, rejoicing happily when we win, or hanging our heads when we lose. I am so glad that I didn’t quit and even happier that I didn’t make the basketball team.

My life would not have turned out the way it has if I hadn’t got back in the pool that day. I would not have the friends and memories I cherish, including bus rides home and telling jokes that make us laugh until our sides hurt. I have made many friends who have supported me in and out of the pool.

Swimming not only allowed to me to meet people and enjoy every autumn afternoon, it became an outlet for me to get rid of my stress and spend two hours thinking of nothing but swimming.

I guess my mother is the reason I swim. When I was 12, I resented her for being right about me enjoying swimming, and even to this day I hate when she wins our arguments, but I know that everything she does is in my best interest. We love each other, even at heated moments when we ignore that fact. I am thankful for her involvement in my swimming and in all aspects my life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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