Forty years is a long time to feel terror about something. That’s the place I found myself in the late fall of 2016, as I approached my 52nd birthday. I had been terrified of water ever since three girls held me under water at a public pool when I was 12-years-old. I tried taking a swim class in college to overcome that fear, but found myself sobbing and clinging to the edge of the pool when the teacher tried to get me to swim across.
I decided that 40 years of fear was long enough, and I would not let another birthday go by gripped by this fear. I went to the membership office at the Northwest Family YMCA with the intention of signing up for swim lessons. I was helped by Suzan L. Smith, who congratulated me on my decision to tackle this fear. She told me that my timing was perfect because one of their very best swim instructors was starting a new class the very next day. While I was ready to commit to taking swim lessons, I wasn’t quite ready to start the next day. Suzan adeptly shot down all of my excuses to avoid that class, and when all was said and done, I was signed up for it. She said that it was a great decision, one that I would not regret. She was absolutely right.
My instructor, Muriel Cochran, was absolutely the perfect swim instructor for me. She was kind and patient. She understood my fears and knew when to push me, and when to let me move at my own pace. Weeks later, I could tread water and swim across the pool with the aid of a kick board. But most importantly, my fear of the water was gone. I really felt comfortable and happy in the water. What an amazing feeling!
At the first of the year, Muriel invited me to join the U.S. Masters Swim Team to hone my skills. Three days a week, I followed her swim drills in the beginners’ lane, and in a couple of months, I could swim backstroke and freestyle without the aid of the kick board. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined that I could get into the water without crying, much less actually knowing how to swim. A year later, I can confidently call myself a swimmer who loves the water, and who looks forward to each workout with Muriel and the U.S. Masters Swim Team. What a life-changing experience this has been for me! I will forever be grateful to the YMCA for offering these wonderful swim classes and, of course, to Suzan and Muriel for their parts in helping and encouraging me to change my life for the better.