As a child, I was pretty much a wimp. Adventure was something to read about, not to actually participate in. Every now and then, though, something would snap inside me, and I would decide that I was going to do…X.
When I was, oh, ten or twelve, X was the act of diving off the high dive in swimming lessons. We were required to jump off, but it was our choice if we wanted to dive. For most of the week, I climbed up that ladder, walked to the end of the board, and jumped. None of this did I do happily.
And then, toward the end of the week, I decided I was going in head first. As I climbed out of the pool after the last jump and walked briskly back to the other end, I stopped at the chain-link fence separating the pool from the parents. My mom always brought a book to swimming lessons (hey, we must be related!), and I made sure that I stopped, got her to pull her nose out of it, and promise that she would watch–all without telling her what I was going to do. Then up that ladder I went again.
Keep in mind, these were the days of required swimming caps for girls, even though–in the early seventies–my pixie cut was several inches shorter than most of the boys’ hair styles. And keep in mind that, when I dove off the low-board or the edge of the pool, I would “part” the water with my hands, then pull them down to my sides.
Off the high dive, of course, I parted the air and had my arms at my sides miles before I hit the water. With my head. That had a rubber swimming cap stretched tight across it.
Say it with me…OW!!!!
Probably needless to say, that was the last time I ever dove off anything more than a few inches away from the water.
About two years ago, I wrote a complete first draft of a middle-grade mystery. Today, that mystery is complete and would love to find its way into an agent or editor’s hands. Meanwhile, what am I doing? I’m back up on the first-draft diving board. The completed novel is a long, long way down. What’s it look like from up here?
- There’s a little extra confidence, because I’ve done this once. I believe (usually) that I can do it again.
- There’s a little extra worry, frankly, because I also know how much work is ahead of me.
- There is some serious excitement. In 4-6 weeks, I will have created something new. It will be a mess, I’ll probably have had my share of tight-swimming-cap headaches along the way, and I’ll be a long way off from a swan dive. But I’ll have added a new piece to the world.
Perhaps the best part. I am liking myself a whole lot right now. I remember this feeling from walking back along the pool, from saying, “Mom!!” half a dozen times in a progressively louder voice to make sure I had a witness, from knowing that I–the wimp–was going to do something big and brave. It’s a much happier place for me than standing on the sidelines watching all the other kids dive right in.
Today, let’s celebrate our courage. What are you doing this summer that might be pushing your usual limits, just a bit? Let us know, and we’ll all clap like crazy. Well, once you’ve got your swimming cap off and have taken a couple of aspirin. 🙂