It’s a Tuesday morning, around 5:45 am, and I am standing at the edge of the pool. The sun hasn’t risen yet, and it’s dark. The pool is empty. I guess I could sleep in for an extra two or three hours, or head over to the pool, the bitterly cold, yet welcoming pool, where practice starts before I am mentally awake. It should’ve been obvious – “sleeping in” seems like a luxury as compared to my daily summer routine: wake up at 5:30 every day to be in the pool by 6. Why should I be punishing myself like this?
Every grueling experience takes me back to that day. I was about five or six, and it was mid-November, and it was bitterly cold. The fact that the pool was located on a hill, where the winds were stronger, could have been a factor, but the pool heater was broken, and the sky was pelting hail and malevolent raindrops at us. It was not the weather you typically think of when you go swimming. Lesson attendance dropped by at least 90%. Nobody wanted his or her kid to get sick. However, my father, the determined, headstrong man he is, decided that his children were not quitters, and dragged a very obstinate, six-year-old me to the last place I wanted to be. A thick layer of fog covered the pool, and though the pool heater may have been broken, the temperature difference between the pool and the rest of the world was clear.
I did insist. I tried extremely hard to back out of that situation, but my dad was confident that I could do it. He grew up with the belief that if he set his mind to something, he would do it no matter what. It was the Chinese way – the desirable result can only be produced through hard work, and you cannot depend on luck itself. I guess you could say that that confidence eventually reached me, because I remember looking back at my father’s eyes, his confidence in me radiating a new kind of warmth. The initial impact with the terrifying monster that was the pool makes my list of the worst experiences of my life, but as soon as I had submerged, all the cold, doubt and unwillingness washed away. My dad was standing on deck, withstanding this irascible weather for me, along with everybody else that cared for me – my mother, my coach, and the other parents who had the same kind of confidence in their children. I remember my coach pulled me out of the water, and asked me if I was happy, which I eagerly replied that I was. Perhaps if I stayed home that day, I would have been happy that I did not have to swim in that weather. But this was a kind of happy that you can only feel once you have done what you thought was impossible.
I’m thankful that my mother was by my side the entire time that day. I’m thankful that my coach didn’t give up on me, and still stood on that deck to guide us to be better swimmers. But most of all, I’m thankful that my dad gave me the push that I desperately needed. His trust and confidence in me did not falter one bit that day, and has yet to falter up to this day. Every time I jump into the pool is a new adventure, and my dad will be by my side for every step I take, encouraging me to be the best I can be. Thank you.