Being a swimmer
I can’t recall the moment when I realised that being ‘a swimmer’ was the thing that defined me. It wasn’t always this way.
I wasn’t thrown in the sea when I was two; I didn’t grow up by the water. I didn’t swim competitively as a kid. I don’t have grainy photographs of me standing proudly poolside, grinning with a medal round my neck, surrounded by the long limbed, wet haired youths of my swim team. I didn’t spend my holidays surfing and learning about rip tides and waves and the inhabitants of the sea. I have no pedigree.
But somehow, despite my lack of early submersion, being a swimmer has become what defines me.
Maybe it was a gradual process that started when I was a little older? Maybe later years spent swimming — the lengths of pools and the happy hours spent in rivers and the sea — changed my form — like the lapping of the waves on a beach changes the shapes of the pebbles, making them smoother and rounder and softer.
I’m a swimmer. My swimming-ness defines me. It shapes my life in subtle and unsubtle ways. It dictates the time I get up in the morning, the rhythm of my weekends and my attitude to the seasons. It shapes the friends I have made, and the adventures I’ve been on. It — quite literally — colours my hair, and my skin. If I lick my forearm and breathe in the scent, I smell of chlorine. It’s deep within me.
You should know that I’m easy with my affections. I don’t favour one body of water over another. Pool, or sea, or lake all have their places in my heart. The democracy of an urban pool, the unbridled joy of a lido on a summer’s day, the magical journey of travelling while swimming down a river, the awe that the sea inspires: I have no favourite. These all are the places I’d rather be than pretty much anywhere else. The places I feel at home. The places where you will find the very essence of me.
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