Treading Water – By @ClancyForrest

By Forrest Clancy


Treading Water

The thing about swimming in the ocean is that it’s really awful. Between the ages of 7 and 12 I participated in a sailing camp on the Northeast coast of America, where, on the first day of camp every year, we had to pass a swimming test.  

Our teacher, Melissa, was a big, cruel, fat lady who enjoyed watching kids suffer. I had been to this camp year on year for half a decade, and yet she insisted each time that I jump into the ice cold water. This seemed to be her favourite day of the year. 

“Float,” she rubbed Mason Cherry’s head. “Sink.” She said, thrusting a life jacket into little Henry’s  arms. “Float… sink…” She continued, and children whimpered as she touched them with death. 

And then she got to me. 

“You’ll Float,” she said, heaving me to the water’s edge. “10 minutes after you stop breathing.”

As I looked down into the rippled water, even my reflection looked dead. 

My first term at SCA felt very much like a test of one’s will to survive. 

“Some of you will cling to your former lives, but the smart ones will just let go.” I think I once heard Marc say this as he piled yet another assignment onto our tired corpses. 

I expressed my struggle to Alex Meckleberg, our life coach, in a session we had about one month ago. I felt unable to excel in circumstances where my best efforts were only enough to tread water. This was clearly something she had heard numerous times, from numerous students. After I spoke, she smiled, knowingly. She uncrossed her leg from her lap and curled her index finger at me, beckoning me in for a bit of wisdom.  


Alex told me to pick oranges. 

Marc tells me to connect dots.

“HA!” Melissa howled as she pushed me in. “You’ll be fine.” 

I hit the water horizontally, the same way you would land on your bed after a long day of work, but not. It felt as though my entire body had been high fived. And then the cold set in, and I realised that I needed to keep my head above the surface for two minutes. Something I’d never done without the assistance of a giant sponge strapped to my torso. 

Today, Marc gave me a bookmark with my name on it. Beneath my name it read; “The Elevator to success is broken. You must take the stairs. Climb one step at a time.” 

“Climb.” I thought to myself. “This is a new one.” 

As we set out on our journey for term two, I don’t really want to climb. Like most mammals, I have always sought flatter plains. It is daunting to read my bookmark, to think about what this term has in store, to consider what people want from me. But if I’m totally honest, I think it’s just the anticipation of a change of state that shakes me, kind of like that moment  before you jump into cold water. You stand at the waters edge, knowing that you must jump in, knowing that once the cool water rushes over your head it won’t be feel so bad after all, but fearing it nonetheless.  

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