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Since then, I have always kept my distance from swimming pools or any kind of deep water. The image of suffocating, like a chicken struggling for air when its neck is being squeezed, haunted my life. Nightmares of drowning came again and again, and I found my body was wet with all my sweat. When I was fifteen, I was playing in a public pool. At first, I played at the shallow part of the pool. Although I did not know how to swim, the water cooling my body in the burning day made me feel comfortable and. I put my entire body and head into the water, like a duck ducking into the water to catch fish. The illusion of being a great swimmer came to my mind and I imagined staying under the water longer than anyone else. I walked to one side of the pool in the shallow part. The resistance of the water made me feel like I had two heavy metal chains on my legs. Suddenly, I felt like I had fallen into a swamp. Even though I was standing, my head was under the surface of the water. My mind was blank and I could not think of anything but air. My hands moved violently up and down like a bird flying with its wings in a storm, and I kept jumping with all my strength. No matter how I struggled for air, my body sank constantly to the bottom. It was like a heavy iron ball dragging me down. I ran out of oxygen very quickly. Instead of breathing oxygen in my lungs and stomach, I drank lots of water unwillingly. Very shortly, my stomach was full of water, and I had no strength even to make a single move. Everything I saw was black at that moment. I thought I might die because none of my friends were coming to save me. They believed I was fooling around and that was what they told me later. The coach jumped into the pool
immediately and got me out. I lay on the ground like a dead fish. My stomach was big and full of water inside. Even though I was unconscious at that time, I felt somebody was pressing my stomach with both hands and I felt nauseated. This terrible event was unforgettable. I hated swimming and I determined I would never go into a pool again. Nevertheless, two years later, I went to a summer camp in Philadelphia. Unbelievably and surprisingly, I learned my swimming lessons there. On September 12, 2003, a sunny Friday morning, my church group and I took the bus to the outskirts of Philadelphia. We spent about three and half hours getting to our destination. When we disembarked, I smelled the fresh air. My body felt relaxed and vigorous. I was at the foot of a tall mountain, and I saw a lot of cottages and trees sprinkled around. The birds were singing and the squirrels were running on the grass. Not very far away, there was a lake. Under the reflection of the sunshine, the lake water was like golden jewels. Everything was natural and the color of the green environment was really pleasing to my eyes. Basketball courts, swimming pool, ping-pong and pool were all available at this summer camp. I knew how to play basketball and ping-pong, and was an expert at them because I had taken lessons in junior high school and high school. My friends Kevin, Qiao, Wu, Edgar, Alex, and I went to play basketball indoor for a while, and we all felt hot. Edgar and Alex suggested going to the swimming pool, and I kept myself silence while Qiao, Wu and Kevin were cheering loudly, “Yes.” Then, everyone went into the swimming pool, except me. I sat next to the pool by myself. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the pool. My friends splashed water at each other and were laughing. The weather was pretty hot and I
kept sweating. If I knew how to swim, I would have joined them, but I still remembered what happened two years before- I sank and almost drowned in the swimming pool. While I was retracing my memory, one of the coaches, Henry, patted my shoulder softly and spoke to me in a low voice. My retracing process stopped right away and I shivered by the coach’s sudden interruption. He asked, “Why wouldn’t you go swim with your buddies? Don’t you feel bored and lonely sitting here by yourself?” Looking at the pool water, I replied, “I don’t really like swimming.” Before Henry had the chance to say anything, I said I was going back to my cottage and would see him in the chapel later. I left without saying goodbye to my friends, who were playing and having fun in the swimming pool. The cottage was small and simple. We had four of each thing: four beds, four chairs and four small tables, and two of each of these were in the sides of the cottage. All the supplies were made of wood. There was a bathroom all the way in the back. I lay on my bed. I felt that the cottage was exceptionally quiet with no one else in it. The feeling of loneliness was all around the room. I felt depressed that I looked like an outcast, even though I chose to leave my friends. Suddenly, I heard a sound of someone knocking on the wooden door. At first, I believed it was just my illusion of hearing the sound because everybody should be playing and having fun outside. I heard the knocking sound again, this time I was assured that someone was knocking on my cottage door. I yelled, “The door is unlocked, you can come in.” I felt that my depression had been released a bit by yelling out loud. The door opened and was followed by Henry’s face with a smile on it. Henry was big, tall and might have been in his early forties. When he entered the cottage, he bent his body to
prevent his head hitting the top frame of the door. “Looking for something?” I asked curiously. Henry was coming towards me and sat on Qiao, my roommate’s bed next to me. While I was sitting up in my bed, Henry said I looked depressed and asked if there was anything that I wanted to get off of my chest. I felt really happy that I was not alone at the moment and had someone to talk to. I explained the events that had happened to me, and said that I really disliked swimming. The coach smiled, and leaned forward and patted my shoulder. He then replied, “Don’t worry, I am the coach and I will teach you some effective ways to swim. Trust me.” Henry’s face was full of confidence and he seemed to have sufficient experiences. In addition, he was strong and muscular, and should have no problem saving me from drowning again. But still, I did not have the courage to do it, so I shook my head and refused. The coach continued, “Trust God and me. Just take one more chance. You don’t want to stay alone, right?” I said, “Yes, but….” He continued and told me a story of his own: “When I was young. I had problems sleeping at night because I believed there was a monster hiding in my closet and would come out in the darkness. My father told me there was not a monster in the closet and it was just air and fear. What I needed to do was to open the closet door myself and the monster of fear would disappear forever.” Henry said I should face the monster of fear myself and he would help me anyway he could. Finally, I was convinced. On the way back to the swimming pool, I felt really weak. My heart pounded faster and harder as we approached to the pool, and my body temperature was rising because of the nervousness. When I was standing next to the pool, I had a feeling that something ominous was about to happen. When stepping in the water, I felt I did not have
any strength to move on. In the shallow part, my mind was full of images of a chicken struggling for air when its neck is being squeezed, again. The same image had haunted my life for the past two years. As I was moving to the deeper part with the coach, it was like killing myself. Henry told me to relax and hold tightly on the surface rope, so I would not sink. My body should be parallel to the surface and my legs should be moving like walking on the ground, but parallel to the surface of the water. A lot more strength is required to do that. After a while, a strange happiness of success invaded me when I only began to feel the water lifting me up. I said, “Henry, it is just like what you said to me before. See. I am floating.” “Good, you are making progress,” Henry replied, “Just remember, keep your head up so you can get air.” After some practice, he encouraged me to let go of the rope. Although I was still as frightened as a rat running across the street, I did as he said. My body began to move forward slowly without sinking. The coach was next to me the entire time, which gave me a lot of confidence and encouragement. After a while, I felt self-trust. I could swim no matter how deep the water was and felt brave. During this summer camp, the harvest I gained is that I learned how to swim. Since I almost drowned once, I kept my distance from the swimming pool. Under the encouragement and assistance of the coach, I confronted my weakness and faced my fear, and learned my swimming lesson.
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