Originally uploaded: 18th May 2019
When I was five years old I drowned.
When I was five years old, my family along with my church went on a retreat to Devon for the weekend. It was the first time I was exposed to a swimming pool and I remember being so excited to go in. Excited to put my over-sized pink swimsuit on and swim. I dreamed about what the water would feel like on my skin. What it would feel like to float on my back. How the world would look covered with a blue lens.
So when the day came I remember excitedly walking around the edge of the pool with my cherry flip flops. Breathing in the fresh scent of chlorine before waving at my parents that were sitting on the stands. Removing my flip flops, I remember dangling my little brown feet into the pool and wincing as the cold water touched my legs. It was so exciting, I was going to swim.
Slowly, I lowered myself into the pool.
I extended my feet to touch the ground of the pool. But there was no ground underneath me.
I had gotten into the deep end.
And I couldn’t swim.
I was drowning.
The muscles in my legs refused to move to the motion of the waves. Now they moved with an incongruous and an inconsistency, dancing offbeat to the rhythm of the water. Tiny bubbles and blue light covered and stung my eyes. My little arms were reaching up to grab onto something, anything. My little legs were begging to touch the ground, begging to remain on solid ground.
Water entered my mouth and dived into my stomach, muffling the attempts to scream for help. Arms and legs flailing around, I begged silently, helplessly to be saved.
Little brown baby drowning in her brand new pink swimsuit. Burning blue light is all I see.
Blue fire burning as I screamed.
A muffled scream.
Tears won’t help you little brown baby.
I screamed again.
Touch the floor.
Just touch the floor, the security of the floor. If I could reach the floor of the pool and touch it, I would be okay. Even if it’s just the nail of my toe scraping the floor of the pool, I would be okay.
I continued to sink further.
Touch the floor.
But I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
But in that moment, a hand reaches out and yanks me out of the water. My mum, my mother – who was sat in the stands on the other side of the pool, an Olympic sized pool – runs around the width of the pool and yanks me out of the water. My mother saved my life, Alice G saved my life.
I’m now uncontrollably crying as she wraps the towel around me and carries me off to the changing room. She reassures me that everything is okay while also asking why I went off into the deep end rather than staying with the other kids. I can’t hear her.
I can’t stop thinking about the fact that my little legs were not able to touch the floor of the pool. Why could I not touch the floor of the pool? If I was able to touch the floor of the pool I would’ve have been alright. This mystical and magical moment of floating and swimming in the water was shattered into a million tiny pieces. Pieces that punctured my whole body so that I remained completely still.
Why could I not touch the floor of the pool?
I remember saying this while I was on the phone to a friend a couple of weeks ago. It was around 5am and I was delirious as I recounted this story.
Then I said something I will never forget.
I was more concerned with touching the floor of the pool rather than breathing. It was more important to touch the floor than breathing.
I think about who I am now, 15 years after that incident. I think about how I am an amazing swimmer because my mum forced my sister and I to learn. I think about how I swam every week and was one of the best swimmers in my class by far. But the biggest thing I think about is how much I hate the water.
I loathe any body of water where I cannot see the bottom. Where I cannot stand.
Because I want firm ground more than I want to be able to breathe.
Knowing myself now, knowing how much of control freak I am, I believe I have internalised and built on this incident. It’s a metaphor and an ultimatum that I have confronted myself with: choosing the stability and certainty of the ocean floor rather than breathing, rather than having peace of mind.
I have seen countless examples in my life where I have chosen to compromise and settle. I will allow myself to be mad and sad in awful situations rather than allowing myself to have peace of mind. Rather than allowing myself to breathe. Rather than allowing myself to just float and drift and just be alive. Rather than allowing myself to relish in the unknown, the serenity of the oblivion.
This hit me hard like a tidal wave.
It hit me hard because I realised this is exactly the type of person I am. I am constantly drowning. Drowning in anxiety. There have been situations where God has told me to get out or to go but I have stayed because I had stability and security rather than choosing to be happy and be at peace.
I came to a wall as I pondered down this road of thinking: if I continue believing that I can only have stability rather than peace of mind, once I get stability I will never make it to the surface in time to breathe. I would die, metaphorically, because I never reached the surface in time to breathe. And the constant pursuit of stability is unbearable because as you sink further down, the pressure builds and everything becomes darker. Everything becomes darker the further down you sink. I would die inwardly never reaching the surface in time to breathe.
I’m telling you this because as I’m writing I am at a crossroads. In the past 24 hours I have had two panic attacks over two new separate opportunities that have arisen. Good things but terrifying. I have constantly said no to both these opportunities but they refuse to go unnoticed. To choose what God has laid out would mean being vulnerable and open. This scares me to death. Scares me with the depths that they are confronting me with. But it also means peace of mind. It means doing something and being with my serenity.
I want to apologise to myself for compromising my peace. I want to apologise to those I tried to run away from. I want to apologise for not realising and even now I’m not fully seeing the magnitude of it all. I’ve self-sabotaged to make it all run away from me because I’m too afraid to use my voice and say yes. I’m thinking way too much because I’m still in the mentality of drowning sometimes, of making quick irrational, decisions. This goes beyond everything Predictability taught me to believe about myself and others. This seems so dramatic but I'm making a grand exit from anxiety and a grand entrance to serenity.
I’m about to say yes, it is on the tip of my tongue and I’m so excited but scared, so freaking scared that I have to stop myself from shaking. But, first, I had to communicate in a language I can speak. I had to write because it just makes more sense hearing and seeing my voice written down. It is my form of therapy and escape.
I reached the conclusion a couple of weeks ago that I can no longer use stability as an excuse. I cannot treat stability and serenity as two separate ideas because they can and do converge. And who would have known that serenity would be found in the vastness and uncertainty of the unknown.
I’m about to say yes.
The undiscovered, uncharted waters is where I find my peace of mind. The undiscovered, uncharted waters is where I find solid ground.