WHAT'LL IT BE? QUIT... OR SWIM?
"Judges and timers ready!" shouted the starter. "Swimmers, take your marks!" We all stepped onto our starting blocks, crouched in the start position and waited for the gun. I focused straight ahead, staring at the other end of the fifty-meter pool. The water glistened in the hot Indiana sun. My heart slammed.
It was a two-day regional competition organized by the Amateur Athletic Union as a qualifying event for the Women's Nationals the following month. Here's the thing: You couldn't get to the nationals if you didn't do well in the regionals and you couldn't do well in your region if you didn't get into the finals - which meant you had to have a really fast time in your qualifying heat. My race was the twelve-and-under girls' fifty-meter freestyle.
I heard my mom yell, "Okay, Gail! You can do it, sweetie!" The starter cocked his gun. And then an odd thing happened - the girl in the lane next to mine started teetering back and forth. I thought she was going to fall into the pool...which would've been a false start. But she didn't...I did! I guess watching her teetering threw me off balance and I fell feet first into the water just as the gun was fired. There I was standing in the shallow end of the pool - as all the other swimmers barreled towards the finish. I looked up at the judge and said, "Hey, that was a false start!" "No, it wasn't," he said. "But, but I...she..." I stuttered. "Sorry," he said with a shrug.
I started to cry.Then I started to swim. I pushed off from a standing start and cried and swam all the way to the end of the pool. I can still feel my arms tearing through that water and my feet kicking like there was no tomorrow. (In a way there wasn't.) I gave one final burst of speed and slammed my hand into the wall at the finish. I looked up, still crying. The timer yelled, "Number two!" I'd managed by a hair's breath to come in second. My coach, grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the pool. "That was terrific!" he said. "I've never seen you move so fast!" "But I only got second," I said. "I wouldn't have cared if you'd come in last," he said. "You swam!" My time was good enough to get me into the finals later that day and I was so pumped up - and still mad (but at least, not crying), that I came in first. And you know, it's funny, but nobody in my family talked much about that first-place medal. It was "crying and swimming all the way to second place" that they remembered. That's the part I remember, too...all these decades later.
We've all been in plenty of seemingly unfair, next-to-impossible-come-from-behind-situations in our lives - and there's absolutely no doubt that we’ll face more. Hey, maybe you're facing one right now. And maybe the temptation to just "get out of the pool" and be right about how wrong 'they' are, is incredibly strong. And maybe you are right. But that won't get you to the "finish line," will it? Here's what will: Ask yourself this question: What do I choose? To be right - and stop? Or to let it go - and move forward? It doesn't matter if you come in first, second or last. What matters is getting there, one way or the other ...even if you're crying all the way. Because sometimes that's where the real "win" is...not in the medal.
So get that kick of yours going, will you?
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns ©2014 All Rights Reserved
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