Be who you are.

I walk in and the smell of chlorine hits me like a wall. I see the water that looks like glass, beckoning me to dive in. I grab my supplies and sit down at the waters edge. As I dip my feet in the water, the glassy surface is disturbed with small ripples. I wet my cap and the rubber stretches as I pull it over my head. It snaps in place and I wince as it pulls at my skin while I tuck my hair beneath it. I put on my goggles and slip into the water that always feels a little too cold at first. Then I take a deep breath, submerge and kick off from the wall. I keep my arms out in front of me like an arrow, kick my feet, before breaking the surface and taking my first breath. With each stroke, I sense a fullness in my mind and body with the realization that I was made for this.

I love swimming. Well, in truth, I’ve always had a sort of love-hate relationship with it. I was on a swim team as a kid in California, but had to quit because practices started running into dinner time and Mom wanted me home (at the time it was annoying, but now I love that family dinners were so important to her). My sophomore year of high school I decided to return to the pool and join the swim team. It wasn’t until then that I truly realized that I was made for this sport. My coach’s jaw dropped after I swam a timed 50 free and he looked at me and said, “Where have you been?!” I was surprised and delighted because I honestly didn’t know that would happen.

Throughout that season, people kept asking me if I would start swimming year-round. I kept telling them no, that I didn’t want to get tired of it. I felt that if I swam two hours every day, 5 days a week, I might begin to loathe it. And I wanted to love it. So, I held the deeper commitment at arms length and enjoyed the light-hearted high school team. But after the season my junior year, I broke down and decided to swim year-round. I wanted to make it to states my senior year and I knew that I would improve tremendously by immersing myself in the sport. And man, was it tough. Every muscle in my body was sore, especially my shoulders, and I came home every night completely famished and ready to eat anything I could get my hands on. But after a couple of weeks, my body started to transform. I could push myself harder and I felt myself getting stronger. Even though I still dreaded going to the pool most days (out of laziness), I knew that it would all be worth it.

I swam all year, until that fall when I could only go to morning practice because of volleyball. And I had a phenomenal last high school season. But once it was over, I knew my swimming career was too. I wanted to do other things, like the spring musical in town. I was tired of the pool and always smelling like chlorine. I needed a break. I’ve gone swimming several times since then, but all in all, I left the sport behind. We broke up and I moved on.

But that all changed last year. When I moved home, I got up early several times with my dad to go swimming (it’s easier to be motivated when you go with someone). The first workout was tough…my arms felt like lead and I gasped for air with every other stroke. But I quickly remembered why I loved swimming. It started to woo me again, like only first loves can, and I found myself falling. Have you ever done something you just knew you were made for? I thought to myself, why don’t I do this more often?! It’s an awesome workout and it comes naturally to me. I love jogging because I enjoy being outside, but I’m slow and not a natural at it. But put me in a pool and I am in my element. I wish I had been more consistent with it last year, but I got busy and tired and just never made it a routine.

So now I’m deciding to make it a routine. Since we share a campus and facilities with the college next door, I can use the pool for free. Last fall, I started swimming a bit more, but again, got distracted and lazy (do you see how inconsistency is one of my biggest vices?). But last week I made a commitment to swim 6 days a week for a month. I’ve heard that if you do something for that long, it becomes a habit, and I want to make this a habit. I don’t want to become legalistic about it, but I like having goals. I just want to see how I feel at the end of March after swimming almost every day. This week was great – I went almost every afternoon and it’s already getting easier. I still sense my laziness creeping in; everyday I have the feeling that I’d rather take a nap than drag myself to the pool. But I expect that feeling and know that it will pass. And it does.

Swimming and I finally got back together. It’s been a long time coming, but like most things in my life, I just had to figure it out for myself. I had to do other things before I realized that this is really what I want. Oh, I’ll still go on jogs in town and around the lake, but I’m finally giving into what I was made for. I want to be who I am. I’m choosing to see this as a metaphor for my life – I’m ready to embrace the parts of myself I’ve let slip away and do the things that God created me to do. The best thing in life is living out of who we truly are and letting God fill us so completely that we become the best version of ourselves.

Even if it makes us sore and smell like chlorine.

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