Don’t Mess with Water

I took some time to think about my near-death experiences, how many of them involved water, and how many I didn’t realize were as dangerous as I convinced myself at the time.

I don’t remember much of being a young child, but I remember being stuck under an inflatable by a lake. My parents gave me swimming lessons, and I could tread water at a young age, but I never advanced much further. We were sitting off a dock by a lake, and there were large rafts tethered to the pier. I remember trying to swim under one to get to the other side. Then I realized that I didn’t have enough breath to make it right about the midpoint of the raft. I tried pushing it up out of the water, but it was too heavy. I was scrambling around, trying to figure out if there was a quick way out. Finally, I made it back to where I started. No one knew that I was trapped. I could have easily drowned in relatively shallow calm water.

My next water scare was never actually a scare until I tried it again later in life. After realizing that I could not hold my breath for very long underwater, I thought it would be a good idea to practice. We were on a summer vacation with my brother and young girls I wanted to impress. Someone challenged me (might have been myself) to make it from one end of the pool to the other without breathing. I couldn’t do it during the day. So I decided that I would practice at night. I decided it was an acceptable idea to only swim by myself in a pool in the dark but also to see if I could hold my breath as long as I possibly could while doing it. When I tried this at a pool with my family as a parent, I realized how naive I was.

When we went on vacation to Hawaii, I was a freshman in High School. I don’t remember much of the trip, but I remember becoming caught in a rip current. I was quickly underwater forty feet from the shoreline. I remained under the water for several seconds and promptly realized I had no control over what would happen next. I couldn’t find up or down while being thrashed around violently. Finally, I turned calm and accepted my fate. After a few seconds of terror, I could feel the ground below me, and I pushed myself up. I walked back to the beach and continued my day as if nothing had happened.

These experiences are vivid to me, but they didn’t create a phobia. I felt OK enough to go on a boat ride with some friends sometime after having my first child. We were floating around when I saw a floodway. It looked like a giant concrete waterslide. There was some debris in it, but I figured I would be able to navigate around it. I was wrong. As soon as I started sliding, I realized that I had no control over how fast I was going. I could not move left or right when I saw a giant tree stump in my path. I had to decide which part of my body would receive the impact damage. I smashed my tailbone into the tree. At this moment, I realized that as a new father, I should stop doing stupid things.

Don’t underestimate water.

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