Since I’m a 31 y.o. dude, you’re probably thinking that my “Learning To Swim” title is an artistic reference to becoming free or liberated in something. No. I was a 31 y.o. dude that was very good at drowning!
Brown people don’t swim. That’s the truth. Since we grew up in predominantly poor neighborhoods, no one has the luxury of owning a swimming pool, leaving near a park that has a swimming pool, or living next to a natural body of water (ocean, lakes, rivers, etc).
Added to that, the fact that I have banged-up, arthritic joints due to my hemophilia, I was a fish with broken fins, destined to fail.
Here’s how poor I was. A few blocks down from my neighborhood, lived our good friends and my parents compadres*, the Gonzalez’. They were and still are, like our extended family. Well there house just so happened to be right next to a canal. You’re thinking Oh no, well I’m here to say Oh yes, we used that thing as a Water Park. Looking back, it was extremely dangerous, unsanitary, and just plain stupid. To me, however, it still brings a smile to my face. There truly is something special about being the children of immigrant parents in America. You get great stories like these. We even had a funny name for our “Water Park”, Chicano Big Surf. Good times.
Also, growing up, I had two experiences where I nearly drowned. I won’t go into those now to spare the length of this post, but suffice it to say, those memories spurned me to learn to swim. That and that fact that I volunteer at summer camps, surrounded by water means that I needed to learn to swim.
I contacted the local Red Cross who directed me to go to my local parks & rec. The nearest pool was in the northeast valley (again, we wouldn’t want these nice facilities to go to the communities that need them now, would we?) Sure enough, my swimming class consisted of me, another Mexican guy, an Arab, and a black lady. The only white person there was our instructor. The instructor was a young high school guy who never taught anything in his life. F.Y.I., even if you’re new at something and have never done it, please don’t don’t remind everyone about it every few minutes. Confidence, even faked at times, is great. No one makes love the first time and is like, “Sorry about that, I’ve just never done this.” However, he was great. Since our class size was so small, it was more one-on-one training than anything.
Preparing to learn to swim, I read this post several times before and during my two-weeks learning to swim. It’s by Tim Ferris (shocker) and really accelerated my growth in swimming. I went from going about 1/8 of the pool distance to about 7/8 in about a week’s time.
After the first week, our instructor, Wes, was no more. He was called out to go fishing in Alaska. Maybe I’ll see him on Deadliest Catch, who knows. But our new instructor was this blonde number who was thick in all the right places. She was cute, friendly, and helpful. And cute. Anyways, since I was preparing my mind for swimming and already learning other things, I think that’s the reason I excelled so well. Some of the other’s were jealous and even questioned if I really couldn’t swim. I couldn’t, I just applied myself the best. I would practice my arm movements for 5-to-10 minutes, trying to get my muscle memory correct, and then I would swim. Everyone else would just throw themselves in and splash around like wounded seals.
All my life I could never float. I tried countless times, always panicking and failing. My blonde baby’s momma explained in about 10-seconds that to float on your back, just spread out like a starfish, therefore making a bigger imprint on the water, making one more buoyant. Old Tony would of hesitated and panicked. Instead, I did a soccer style bicycle kick in the water, let the fear of water-getting-in-my-nose be damned, and just went for it. There I was, on my first try, floating on my back. It felt great. The fact that I have been facing my fears and taking chance on other things, really came to a head that one time. Some thought, correctly, that I am a fast learner. Some thought I was full of it and already knew how. Regardless, sometimes if you want to get the quickest result, you just have to say Screw it and do it.
And that boys and girls is the lesson of the day; screw it and do it.
*Compadres are your parents best friends, yet more. They are also like adoptive parents and the children of both families are like cousins. It’s a Hispanic thing. A very beautiful Hispanic thing.