I Am At Home With Myself
Sometimes, it takes a smack upside the head with a cinder block to get my attention. Sometimes, that cinder block has to have a giant spike at the end of it too. Although other times, it is not as simple as that. Other times, it is a subtle and gentle reminder that overtakes your mind while driving your car down a dark country road on a warm summer night. It is that type of smack that is perhaps the most powerful of all.
As I spent the summer as a lifeguard and teaching swimming lessons for my fourth year, I had a few moments to question why the water kept being closed during the duration of lessons. It seemed the health district would come to the waterfront on Tuesday and take a sample, then close us on Wednesday, and call us Thursday morning to reopen. The issue I had was simple: How in the world we were getting shut down then reopened the next day if we never touched the water at all? It happened generally each week. What then made me suspicious was when it happened the week before move-in day at school; the health district called to tell us our waterfront is closed. However, remember that the water had been clean for a few weeks. 10 minutes later, the district called us back and said that “apologizes because we mixed your beach up with one in another town.” After hearing that, I wondered if they were ripping us off the entire summer. It might have been that way, however that is what I speculate.
Anyway, fast forward to now – finally settled in and beginning classes at Southern. I was at the student center having a conversation with a friend of mine and we talked about this thing called “legacy.”
One of my students is moving back to New York with her foster father and I am so excited. However, what struck me the most was that I told all my swimming students that a legacy is “a gift that one leaves behind that becomes a responsibility to pass on to others.” I continue to tell everyone the same thing – however, there is a new part to it now.
The new part is simple: Legacy is about “knowing where you came from to know where you are going.” I have always believed this. One’s journey is defined by one’s past. The path set before us is unknown, and while we do not know what we will encounter along the way, our past has already created the foundation upon which we will construct our future. It is not emptiness we stand before, but rather a partially-built highway that we will complete as we press forward.
At the end of the summer, my student that moved back to New York came up to me and told me that she was thankful that I taught her the past 4 years and that she will never forget me. Her words will always resonate with me for I believe she was right: It was during our swimming lessons that I learned how to fly again. She said (and I paraphrase):
“You have done so much for me these past 4 years and we had fun. But this past week was when we finally got to have more fun than we ever had.”
She was right! That was a defining moment for me this summer remembering how to fly, and I will always be grateful that she noticed. For it takes someone who has walked along a similar path, who has faced the same challenges life brings in order to truly understand another person’s world.
Over the years, I would say to all my friends that I did not know how much longer I would teaching swimming. They would generally say that “Drew, you will always do one more.” However, this summer’s situation with the water has taken its toll on me as I already am questioning if this situation will happen next summer and that forces me to stop lessons. Yes, it has made me question the future. Which, this brings me back to that dark country road on a warm summer evening.
The morning prior to leaving for school, I was talking to my friend about the program I started four years ago. As with all things, staff will come and staff will go – and we are, indeed, trying to develop new people to step up and take on more responsibilities. And I added myself to the list of people who would one day step away. It made sense: This is a young person’s job. I am not old because I will NEVER get old (thanks for teaching me that one Anthony!). As with all things, one needs to let a new life flourish.
However then, something happened … it was subtle and soft but it focused all my thoughts on one thing and only one thing. While driving down to school, I could think of nothing else except this:
“No. This is what I am suppose to be doing. It is a new year, and each year will bring something better than before. I should be proud of what I am doing and that should be motivation for me to have a good year.” I love teaching swimming; not because I am obligated to do it, but because I love to do it. There is so much more to do, so much more to teach. Just like everything I do in life, it is who I am. For others, there may come a time to step away however no. I want to finish it. Time to fly.”
Perhaps, I was listening to my heart reminding me of who I am and what I am meant to do, or perhaps it was a little child with me in the water holding a kick board and swimming to the dock smiling at me. Whatever it was, at that moment during the summer of 2016, I remembered the magic of life and both the why and appreciation of it all.
Hey guys, it feels great to be at home with yourself.