Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Shallow End by: Karen Pilarski



I remember the first time I took swim class in high school. Ugly black swimsuits recycled from decades past. It was 1995 not 1940. The hideous and tight swimming cap left a long red mark on my forehead. In the class period after there was always one smart ass who would ask if you had swim that day. If it wasn’t the imprint of the cap it was the repugnant smell of chlorine that lasted the rest of the day.  
I was a big baby about gym and swim. That first day I cautiously dipped my big toe in the lukewarm water.  Around me colorful swimming caps bobbed up and down in the pool. I noticed long arms of classmates stretching out making beautiful rhythmic waves. The swim coach yelled for me to get in the water. There I was clinging to the ladder and making my way into the watery abyss. My legs tensed up and arms flailing around like a fish out of water. As I gasped for breath I clutched the wall. Somehow I passed swim class with a C-. 

It is simple to stay in the shallow end of the pool. It is comfortable and protective. The bad part is all that is being missed by taking the easy way. While flopping around in water that barely goes up to the knees, others have the freedom to move. There are unlimited boundaries to see how fast it takes to make it to the other side. At times, I have clutched that wall and stayed in the shallow end. However, when I really want something I go full force like an Olympian going for the gold. It is hard to take risks and have a leap of faith when there is nothing stopping from dragging someone under the tide. Maybe this is where the saying ‘sink or swim’ comes from. The choice has to be made, should I try or just let myself give up and drown in effort? 

It is very hard to make the choice when it is a small fish in a big pond. Think of the job market and read a random job posting. There is always a requirement of a specific number of years experience. Others applicants are more experienced and skilled. Many are biting at the bait wanting that job. I’m educated and creative but the hook is I lack experience. How can a person make a splash if no one is willing to take a chance on the little fish? I often dream of writing and editing for a newspaper, magazine or news station. I do have my writing ‘sea legs.’ My work has been published. I just have to keep sticking my head out of the water to be noticed. The possibility of sinking is feasible but the opportunity to swim in the big pool is worth the dive.