Sink or Swim

Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?

One of my first memories of PE at school was a trip to the local swimming pool. A few years later the “L” fell off the sign for the “Park Pool” causing great childish hilarity. It seemed to take an awful long time to replace it. I’m digressing two sentences in…

We went to the small pool, needless to say, and stood in a line beside it waiting our turn to see how we were. My turn came, and while I can’t remember entering the pool, I can certainly remember sinking to the bottom of it. I was looking up for some reason, and can remember the probably not so subtle splashes and ripples I was generating at the surface. I then remember someone coming to get me.

I have turned in to a fairly utilitarian swimmer, in that I can get from A to B slowly, while displacing most of the water in a pool with my less than graceful strokes. Unfortunately I don’t think doggy paddle will ever be an Olympic event.

That’s a pretty good analogy for other circumstances.

Some people won’t believe me, but I actually back myself in difficult situations. I’ve been put in them at work and have had positive outcomes against things like tight deadlines and where I’ve been lacking technical skills. When I’ve had the odd job interview, I’ve actually backed myself to be the best person. Turns out sometimes I’m not, but I didn’t go in thinking that.

Where I struggle is what I call “getting opportunities”. I use the term loosely because getting an opportunity can be, in itself, an overwhelming situation for me. I struggle to get the interview, for example. When I’m there – great.

When I played football for The Greatest Sunday League Team The World Has Ever Seen, we did a penalty competition in training to decide who should take any penalties we were awarded in matches. The idea was that the whole team would take them in turn and when you missed you were out. Last man standing was the penalty taker. That was me. I think I took 8 before the other guy missed. Of course, the issue was that I was very rarely on the pitch whenever we got a penalty! When we got one and I was on the bench I used to ask the manager if I could go on to take it. I knew I was going to score.

This is where my perceived lack of confidence comes from, and I desperately want to beat it especially where other people are concerned. I believe in myself, but if others don’t then the opportunity doesn’t present. That’s what I see. Others see a lack of success and assume I’m not trying, and then see my not trying as a lack of confidence in myself rather than me simply not seeing the opportunity.

I’ve said in a conversation recently that I can actually thrive under pressure and I do thrive when people trust me, in whatever way that may be. Everyone feels better when they feel important to someone – it’s why we look to spend our lives with people and why we hurt so much when we lose them.

That’s why I got back in the swimming pool with my armbands on. I needed some help but then I swam.

You’ve gotta swim –
Swim for your life.
Swim for the music
That saves you.
When you’re not so sure you’ll survive
You gotta swim,
And swim when it hurts.
The whole world is watching,
You haven’t come this far
To fall off the earth.
The currents will pull you
Away from your love,
Just keep your head above…

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn.
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun.
A crack in the armor.
I swim to brighter days
Despite the absence of sun.
Choking on salt water,
I’m not giving in –
I swim.

You gotta swim
Through nights that won’t end.
Swim for your families,
Your lovers, your sisters,
And brothers and friends.
Yeah, you’ve gotta swim
Through wars without cause.
Swim for the lost politicians
Who don’t see their greed as a flaw.

The currents will pull us
Away from our love.
Just keep your head above…

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn.
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
Cracking me open now.
I swim for brighter days
Despite the absence of sun.
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in.
Well I’m not giving in –
I swim.

You gotta swim.
Swim in the dark.
There’s no shame in drifting,
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark.
Yeah, you’ve gotta swim;
Don’t let yourself sink.
Just find the horizon,
I promise you it’s not as far as you think.
The currents will drag us away from our love.
Just keep your head above,
Just keep your head above,
Just keep your head above
Swim, swim.
Just keep your head above,

Swim by Jack’s Mannequin

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