Sunday, November 22, 2009

Swimming: its just like riding a bike

A few weeks ago, I swam laps for the first time in about 6 years. I was on swim team for a few years in middle school, but other than splashing around a little bit now and then I haven’t really swam seriously since then. However, last week I was working out in the room in Dixon that looks out over the pool, and I felt a wave of longing. I remembered what gliding through the water felt like, and I knew I had to go for a swim. A few days and a trip to buy a pair of goggles later, I was in the pool.

The reason I’m talking about this is that getting in the water took me back. For that split second every time my head was under water, nothing else exited. I felt like I could be 15 years old or 23, there was no difference as I slipped through the water. For me, swimming is one of those skill sets I think I will never lose, I feel like it was yesterday, not 6 years ago that I last swam. So I started thinking about other things in my life that are automatic. What are the things I can do so well, that I never doubt them? Well my list is surprisingly small. I count swimming, singing, reading aloud, writing and acting among them. I think at different points in my life this list will change and grow. And its different now than it was at 18.

Not unlike taking a 30 minute walk, swimming was 30 minutes in the water alone with my thoughts. So while I was in the pool, I thought about the things I knew and didn’t know at the age of 18. When I decided to go to a private school I took out loans to do so. At the age of 18, I didn’t really understand what this meant. I got that I would have to pay them back. I understood money. I’d had a summer job for several years, and had a little money in the bank. But I did not understand the enormous consequences of taking out a total of 30 thousand dollars in loans. In fact, it was really not until this last year that I truly comprehended it. And I haven’t even had to make any payments yet.

Only this week I found out that I have a credit card associated with the bank account I opened my freshman year of college. I had no idea. I’m not sure how this slipped by me. I think that we need to be aware of this, that while they are on their way to being competent young adults, a lot of freshmen have absolutely no experience in a lot of real life matters. I’m not suggesting that they are babies, or that we should treat them that way, but instead that we simply need to be aware that many college students may need a little extra guidance.

I wonder how this happens at a big school. I have been fixating over the last few weeks about the differences between different types of schools, but in particular, large public school versus small liberal arts school. In Programs and Functions, we have had a number of guests from different school from around the area come to speak to us about their job and their school. Finally this week we had someone come from a small private school: Linfield. As he spoke about his college, I thought “this could literally be Puget Sound he is talking about.” And it was both affirming for me to hear it, and educational for the rest of my cohort to think about the differences. There are only three of us out of 20 from school like Puget Sound or Linfield. Those numbers are reasonably surprising to me.

I talked to my sister this week about this. She went to a small private school in Ohio, Wittenberg University. I really wasn’t aware of this until now, but Wittenberg is very similar in mission and demographic to Puget Sound right down to the size, just over 2000. It literally knocks me off balance every time that I remember that OSU is ten times as large. My sister I and talked about the pros and cons of little schools and big schools. Large schools may have more resources, but small school can pay more individual attention. Large schools offer more subjects, but at small schools you can get one on one interaction with professors in your classes. The list goes on and on. For me, I think it’s important to remember that just because a small school was right for me, doesn’t mean it is the right choice for everyone.

So now I will go back to my train of thought when I was in the swimming pool. What are the things that freshman know? What are the automatic things they know how to do? How far out of their comfort zone are they willing to go? What are the things that they don’t know? I think these things are different for every single person. Making choices in live is always a combination of doing what you are good at, and talking the plunge into something more difficult.

Once I got in the pool, the strokes came back to me, and I was immediately kicking up and down my lane (the “slow” lane). But getting back in the pool after so long was not an easy decision. I wondered if the skill would still be there. And this time it was.

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