* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this a couple of months ago. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *
Sometimes people are surrounded by people who tell them they can’t. I am one of those people. No matter what I did, it was the wrong thing to do, and it wasn’t good enough. Or it was too good, and needed to be sabotaged. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was a comic strip artist. I was good. However, it is an industry dominated by White men. I found it difficult to break into a level that would pay the bills.
During this difficult period, I sent some original comic strips to my family as Christmas presents. It took me a long time to work up the courage to do it, so they went into the mail a little late, and arrived close to Christmas. I didn’t hear anything from any of them until I received a long, typed letter in the mail. It carefully explained why original comic strips from Walt Disney or Charles Schulz would be a lovely treat at Christmas. But, the letter reminded me, I was no Walt Disney or Charles Schulz.
I was crushed. I believe it was that very letter that destroyed my passion for comics. My heart was so broken I was speechless for several days. I never experienced that before or since. It would be almost a year before I would draw again. And never sent my art to my family again.
So, that’s an example of one of the adventures I’ve experienced with my family. And 43 years of adventures like that, combined with my husband’s special recipes, left me discouraged.
And then I got mad. I got really, really mad. And I decided to fix my heart. I decided I would be my own best friend. And then I made a friend who came into my life in exactly the right way at exactly the right time. She has been an enormous source of encouragement.
I’ve wanted to teach kids to swim for several years. Over the past couple of years, I learned formal swim strokes, and recently joined a Masters Swim Team. I love it. But still. Every time I go to the pool, I shuffle past the Rec pool. I jealously (and probably creepily) watch people teaching kids to swim. Could I do that? No. No time. No experience. No skill. They’d never want me. Too old.
I applied anyway.
Today was my first day teaching 3rd graders to swim. It’s as fun as I thought it would be. The kids make my heart grow three sizes every time they giggle. But I didn’t expect the level 1 and level 2 kids. I’m still choking back tears. I had to excuse myself between sessions.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to take a child from being terrified of the water to realizing they are capable of more than they initially thought. I made them look me in the eye and say, “I can do this. I’ve got this!” before each turn. I told them to high five everyone on their team when they completed their turn. I saw what changed in them while they swam, and I wanted them to see it in themselves and in each other. I even had one little girl flipping her hair and snapping when she said, “I am a strong woman!” by the end. She started out so shy, and so unsure, and she ended flipping her hair and snapping!
As a mom I certainly know where those tentacles of confidence will reach, and how they will permeate their school work, their friendships, and their willingness to take chances on themselves.
Kind of like what I just did.