Fear of Failure

I always believed that failure was not an option, that if I worked hard enough, any failure could be overcome, until my swimming incident.

I tell my teammates and my coaches that “It feels like floating.” But “floating” is simply a euphemism, a concealment for the terror, the confusion, and the many other inexplicable feelings that flow rampantly throughout my head.  The “floating” is uttered as the most simple, candid explanation as to why I am grasped, with cold hands and white knuckles, onto the lane line. The feeling is the antithesis of the connotation surrounding floating: tranquil, placid, satisfying. This “floating” is a constant, detrimental element of fear that invariably crosses my mind every time I step onto deck.

The feeling begins as everything around me brightens. I may be sprinting across the surface of the water, but inwardly, I am forcing myself to keep my eyes open amidst the brightness that surrounds me and focused on the solid black line that dons the bottom of the pool. I know I have lost the battle as I slip into a subconscious like state. As if a force has detached my brain from the body, I slowly become unaware of my actions yet my brain simultaneously allows me to register my movements after they have been committed. I tell myself that I must continue onward towards the wall, the shallow end of the pool and tell my coach, but I am distracted by the periodic waves of brown in my peripheral vision — my arms. As if a neural connection between my initiation of actions and my perception of these actions are lagging, I fail to make the connection as I fall into a state of terror and confusion.

Throughout my entire encounter with this “floating experience,” I had constantly been withheld from my fullest potential. I missed practices, meets, goals. Achievable goals I set the beginning of the season became unattainable and distant as the “floating” feelings kept me away from the pool. With goals to achieve certain time standards, every day spent not practicing, was a missed opportunity. As the season ended, I watched my goals wither away while I watched my teammates progress and improve. I was stuck; I had high ambitions, but my body would not allow me to train for those ambitions. My philosophy failed me; working harder did not help me. Why did I have to be held back when I knew I was capable of succeeding?

This experience undoubtedly molded my philosophy. While hard work  is a significant aspect of improving and learning, even more importantly is the ability to branch out, to explore rugged paths, and to venture into unfamiliar territories, to improve oneself across multiple expanses. For an unknown reason, the strikes occur only in the pool, and for that reason, I have ventured away from the safety of the pool deck to the faces of boulders and the wrestling mats of the gym. While many, myself included, may have seen my difficulties in the water and considered them failures, I know these experiences have led to the expansion of my passions. Though I have not disconnected myself from the pool, my exploration  allows me to apply my new philosophy: failure is not an option through the combination of hard work and the willingness to attempt new experiences.

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