If you know me in person, you will know that I’ve had a bit of a revelation this summer. A swimming revelation. It’s a weird revelation to have at the age of 24 but I’m rolling with it.
It turns out, I really quite like swimming. I’ve known this for a long time – whenever I do actually go swimming, I enjoy myself every single time. The only problem is that over the past 5 years (before this summer) I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I have actually ventured out for a float.
And that’s what I mean by swimming, by the way; a float with the most exertion occuring when I float towards a wall and need to push myself away.
Usually I would choose to swim at other people’s pools and would rarely go to the beach but this year, I’ve been to the ocean pools at one of our local beaches no less than 10 times. Sure, I’m not out in wide open ocean but I hate waves and it’s just never going to happen.
For me there is a lot of anxiety that comes with going to the beach, most of which I am not even going to mention but for me, going to the beach isn’t as simple as just rocking up and jumping in the water. The effort it takes me to go to the beach has always deterred me from going but more than that, like a lot of people, I suspect, it was the swimsuit issue that stopped me the most.
I went swimming on New Year’s Day this year at a friend’s pool. I wore a singlet and boardshorts over my cozzies – which I have to say is an improvement on what I used to wear which was a heavy t-shirt; at least this way I was encouraging a less noticeable tan.
I had a good time that day but the reality was that I was uncomfortable. I went swimming a few other times this year wearing exactly that and came to the same conclusion. There’s always so much to wash after you go to the beach but it’s even more frustrating when you’re wearing all these unnecessary clothes.
I mentioned that I had a revelation. I want to clarify that the revelation was not that ‘I love my body and all its flaws and now I go to the beach in only a bikini’. I’ve already told you the revelation and it is simply that I like swimming. The annoying and yet unavoidable truth is that I quite honestly hate everything about the way I look. Some days I feel more positive than others, like we all do. Some things I could change about myself to make it a little better but then there are things that I will always have and I will always hate – just like we all do. I think it would be more damaging for me to pretend that I like the way I look when that’s not true, than to just be honest and say that I do not.
But, I’ve never liked the way I look. I haven’t swum without a bulky t-shirt or singlet on since before I even hit puberty. We can say it was about ‘modesty’ (ack) or say it was about sun safety (important) but really there was no way I was going to be around other people without having that safety blanket over my cozzies.
Then I took it a step further and thought that I shouldn’t EVER go swimming because the only way I felt comfortable was by wearing all of that and I didn’t want people to think I was weird by dressing like that. So I stopped going swimming at all. Logical, right? Except that I like going swimming.
So this year, despite the fact we are not even a month into it, has been the year that, without planning it, I decided to stop letting this fear get in the way of doing something I actually enjoy. I didn’t decide to start liking the body I’m in nor did I decide that I would stop worrying about these things that many other people probably see as trivial but take up a lot of my brain space.
No, I doubt that either of those things will ever happen but I’m trying to power ahead anyway and keep doing the things I like, even if there are certain aspects of those things that terrify me and consume my every waking thought.
Now, for the first time in over 14 years, I go swimming in my one piece and boardshorts. It’s not always the most attractive combo but it’s the one I’m comfortable in at the moment. I do not magically stop worrying and I do not magically start liking the way I look, but I don’t let either of those things get in the way. Considering it’s only day 24 of the year and considering what I was wearing at the start of this month, I think this is a lot of growth and something to be quite proud of, for me.