The day I learned to swim

Some moments in life stay with us forever and one of those moments for me is when I first plucked up the courage to trust my buoyancy (Drummed into me by several teachers “You can’t sink boy if you just relax”) and attempt to swim in a fashion the width of the school swimming pool.
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The reward was a small red ribbon which at a later date could be sown onto the trunks by a parent. Although the blue ribbon was the ultimate prize, (an entire length of the pool was required for this) the red one was still a sought after by us none swimming oiks.
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Looking back as an adult, the distance was really just a few feet but even with my ridiculously long orangutan like arms it seemed like the width of the Thames.
This was another blight I had to suffer, my arms outgrew the rest of my body and remained that way to a degree into adulthood. Something that for a few years worked in my favour in the boxing ring, but for a sprat of a child this was a huge embarrassment.
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I will never forget that moment when I became the focus of attention of the entire class. Almost breathless as the chest deep water seemed to crush my lungs and that moment when the master blew the whistle and I fell forward into the blueness. For a moment all noise disappeared as my head went under although that was not in my plans. Then back up to the cheering and life giving air.
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My method of accomplishing the distance was kind of based on doggy paddle but leaned more towards drowning really. Arms and legs flaying out in all directions I somehow managed to get enough water under me or behind me to propel myself painfully slowly across the few feet required and then suddenly breathless and exhausted I touched the side.
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This was of course long before the days of camera phones, so my amazing feat was never recorded and I am glad about that as I am sure my parents would have been mortified to see a video of their child basically drowning.
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I now of course could separate myself from the boys who could not swim but was still looked down upon by the blue ribbon holders. A few days later I was handed over a certificate and the sought after red ribbon. They are long gone now but the memory stay with me. In fact when I achieved blue ribbon status a few weeks later it held less importance because by now I could swim and it seemed simple. It never held that dangerous fear of leaving the comfort zone like the first attempt.
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True success often requires you to do that.
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Andy Beveridge

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