I never thought learning how to swim would help me glide through life’s adversities.
For some women, it takes years of social hangups to get comfortable in their skin and the trajectory of their professional life. But I learned laser-sharp focus and the art of staying in your lane through an aquatic sport during one intense summer.
As a college freshman, I dove head first into swimming that year after my weight tipped the scale at 220. I’ve always been a thick girl, and with television characters like Nikki from The Parkers, I owned my size 18 shape with little shame. My big thighs and love handles were proof I weighed more than the average girl in high school, but my underlying insecurities quickly surfaced once my doctor confirmed I wasn’t just thick––I was obese.
Instead of cutting down to a strict diet, trading in heavy fried foods for clean eating, I focused more on hitting the treadmill and lifting weights. It turns out, solely spending time in the gym wasn’t enough to boost my confidence or drop the weight.
Any ounce of confidence I had left was challenged when I slipped into a swimsuit for my first meet and saw my bowlegged walk, stretch marks that spanned across my waist and arms, and breasts on full display in front of a crowd of strangers.
But it wasn’t my semi-naked stroll that sent my self-esteem flailing for life support. The reality of my weight hit me when I struggled through my 50 back (two laps of backstroke); an event that takes experienced swimmers 50 seconds max to complete took me almost 5 minutes.
After that humiliating loss, I fixated not on winning but solely on progress. I owed it to myself to give swimming 100 percent and see how far it would take me.
So that’s what I did.