I was feeling pretty good about building up to 18 laps in the pool from my previous staying power of 10 laps or less. Then I asked three swimming friends about how much they swam. “Oh, not more than 60 laps,” they all said in one form or another. I deflated. Of course part of my issue is that I swim slowly (and enjoy doing so!). Swimming 60 laps not only would leave me sprawled out on the pavement next to the pool, unable to summon up the energy to crawl to my car, but it would take me three hours.
I was thinking about this as I was swimming, wondering why I berate myself with “What’s good enough?” so often and even bother to compare my beloved activity with how someone else does it. Then a bunch of little kids jumped into the lane next to me. They couldn’t have been older than 7, and the youngest was only 3 or 4. Before they took off, the littlest one asked me if it would be okay to hold onto the lines separating the lanes “in case I can’t hold my breath all the way across the pool.” I explained to him that you’re not allowed to hold onto the line, but then his sister, so little that she still had all her baby fat, said, “If you get tired, just swim on your back.”
The four kids then took off across the pool, faster than anyone I ever saw. Like a school of fish on steroids, they sped from one side to another, varying between crawl, dolphin, backstroke and breast stroke with ease, diving under to turn around and surfacing half-way across the lane.
As a few of them, after about 10 laps, caught their breath on one end of the pool, the littlest of them hanging on the ropes, the life guard screamed at him, “Get out!” She didn’t have patience with kids in the lap lanes or anyone touching the ropes. I was ready to call out to her, but being across the pool, I couldn’t reach her in time before she walked away.
The kids climbed out, the smallest of them hanging their heads, clearly thinking they didn’t swim well enough to get to stay. I wanted to leap out of the pool, put my arms around them, and tell them they were the Olympian champion swimmers of little kids, and they inspired the hell out of me. But I couldn’t swim fast enough to catch them.
Next time I see those kids, I’ll ask them for some lessons.