The Goddess Speaks
I don't fit in. I never did. Not in elementary school, high school or college. I won't even mention intermediate because nobody fits in there.
It's no wonder I've chosen to work in a place where I find myself in the ethnic minority. I've become at home with being different and the discomfort that it often brings.
I can remember coming home from grade school and crying to my mom over afternoon snack that the kids were mean and nobody liked me. Her advice was always to be patient. With time, she said, I would find the right friends. She was right. Some of them are still my friends now.
By the time I got to high school, I blamed myself. I was too short, too round, too loud, or too smart. Something was keeping me from being a part of the "in" crowd. It had to be my fault.
By the time I got in to college, I was used to being on the outside. I found friends there, too. But still I remained on the peripheral of what seemed to be a vibrant campus life. It just wasn't me.
It turns out I was looking in the wrong place.
Recently I joined a swim team. I swam competitively when I was younger, but forgot how much I liked it. Now I remember. I love it. All this time I've just been a fish out of water -- literally.
Swimming reminds me of the endless springs and summers I spent gliding through the aqua-colored water, staring at the sky and the diving board or the bottom of the pool. Counting strokes and trying to wait for a breath. The smell of chlorine and the refreshing coolness of working my body without sweating.
I love swimming. It's where I feel connected. To myself, to my past, what's going on now and to all the possibilities in the months and years to come.
I can go there when I'm stressed, when I'm happy, even when I'm tired.
Sometimes it's like a stiff drink, numbing my mind to the trials of the day. Eliminating any thoughts of what I haven't done or still have to do as I concentrate on the strokes and the laps and the breaths, pushing myself to go farther or faster, sliding away from there or then, into me and only now.
By the time I'm done I can't even pull myself up over the side, but have to paddle over to the ladder. I am so tired. My hands are all wrinkled from being in the water so long. My skin and hair are dry and crunchy from the chlorine and my muscles are sore, forcing me to hobble around like an old lady.
But I emerge refreshed. Renewed to myself and all that I can do. Back and forth I travel deep into the far reaches of my potential and beyond the constraints of the regular day.
It doesn't matter about my height, my circumference, my loud mouth. In the water I am light and sleek and with each session move closer to exactly where I want to be -- comfortable in my own skin. Turns out, that's exactly where I fit, right inside myself. I just had to take the plunge.
Lorraine Gershun is publications adviser for Searider Productions at Waianae High School.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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