The Slow Lane

Describe a setback or ethical dilemma that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?

I’m going to be honest. My mom has not been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, my best friend has never jumped off the Sears Tower, and I am not scheduled to compete in the Olympic Games while sporting a missing leg, two broken arms, and a lazy eye. For once, unfortunately, it seems that I have to describe myself as a “normal kid.” So when I asked my dad if he could think of any amazing and incredible feat where I valiantly rose above all odds, all he could say was “swimming.” At first, I found no relief in his one-word answer-until I took a moment to think about his simple response. From ages seven to ten, I participated on a summer swim team. I was a horrible swimmer. Absolutely, utterly, undeniably, embarrassingly horrible. Despite this obvious truth, I’d set my alarm for 7am every day and, in-between yawns, get ready for practice. I would strut confidently to the pool area with my gigantic blue and white swim bag draped over my shoulder, squeeze on a swim cap, fiddle with my goggles, and finally slide into a pool of water fit for polar bears. Now before you slap on your sympathy face for this poor young girl desperately trying to find a place to fit in, please take note that I was quite a capable athlete in almost every other arena; my complete lack of skill when placed in water was a bit unexpected. Nevertheless, I looked forward to swimming every summer. I found my home in Lane Six (the slow lane) and thrived to my own standards. As much as I hated to admit that there might be a grain of truth to the theory “practice makes perfect,” I knew the only way to improve was to endure the endless sets of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Every couple weeks, I had the opportunity to show off my hard work at the swim meets. I always swam in the “exhibition” rounds, meaning my inevitably worthless performance would not impact the success of the team. So there I’d be, perched on the diving block, swim cap applied firmly, goggles in place. “READY…SET…” I would jump off the block at the fake gunshot, plop into the water, and swim like the fish I knew I was inside. Long after the other swimmers were wrapped up in towels, Lane Six Lisa Haidostian would triumphantly slap her hands on the edge of the pool. Climbing out with some difficulty, I would beam to my courtesy claps from the spectators and rush over to my parents. “Good job, Sweetie!” they would say, and each time I would smile and reply “Thank you.” Even though I was predictably the worst swimmer in my gym class last year, I have never thought of my swimming career as a failure. If I hadn’t worked so hard and persevered during practices, I could never have felt that sense of accomplishment each time I finished a race. I may not excel in everything I try, but my swimming experience has helped give me the will to attempt just about anything.

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