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.

If you liked this article, please click the little below to share. Click the (Follow) button for Medium to tell you when something new is published.