Gen Z

Diving into New Adventures Life Lessons From A Girl Who Wore a Bikini to a Swim Meet BY CHRISTA KIESLING

I want to start by saying I am no Katie Ledecky. My swimming resume consists of Mommy and Me swim lessons from the age of 3 to 6, a meet-and-greet with an Olympic swimmer, and trips to Oceans of Fun. However, my only “competitive” swimming experi- ence was who could hold their breath longer — me or my sister. And I usually lost to her elite, singer lung capacity. So, when my statistics classmate picked me to be the final member of her team for my college’s intramural swimming competition, needless to say, I was surprised. I don’t know if she ran the regression analysis, but statistically, the odds of me being an asset to the team were mathematically zero. Neverthe- less, who was I to turn down such an exceptional judge of un- tapped potential talent? I was now a proud member of Alpha Sigma Sigma, or A.S.S. if you will. It was the day of the meet. Dressed in my all-black string bi- kini, I exuded the confidence of a Victoria’s Secret supermodel — that is, before I stepped out of the locker room. Entering the pool “arena,” I was bombarded with the sight of lanky guys in speedos, leaving little to the imagination. As they began warming up, their icy stares pierced through the artifi- cially-heated air. They all had what I can only describe as the intense focus of a Hunger Games tribute moments before the buzzer was blown, and I was nothing more than their first tar- get. I knew then and there I was completely out of my league. The world seemed to move in slow motion as I tentatively walked toward my team. We then rallied together for some ste- reotypical sports team handshake that we made up on the spot. “Hands in! Alpha Sigma Sigma on three! One two three!” You get the drill. Our team relay was up. I was designated as the anchor — to end strong and bring the team home with my signature free- style stroke, the doggy paddle. I know what you might be thinking — Did I get up on that diving block in a two-piece swimsuit in front of everyone? Yes, I did. Did my swim bottoms fall down to my ankles the second I dove into the water? You bet they did. But there was no time to scold myself for only now understand- ing why swimmers wear a one-piece. All I could do was shimmy

up my bikini bottoms because the race was on. I flailed my way through the water in a half-swim, half-panic until halfway through the stretch my adrenaline ran out. I then realized — this is harder than it looks. But I was determined to finish what I started — moreover, my team was counting on me. Gasping for air, I reached the edge of the pool. Like the perfect ending to a cinematic movie, I crawled up from the deep end, where I was welcomed by the shouts of vic- tory from my team. But for me, like any good main character, I was just thankful to have made it out alive. We ended up placing 1st in our division — and I’m sure if it were a beauty contest we would have won that too. I even got a t-shirt with gold glitter lettering that I will probably wear until the end of time. I guess I should mention, we were the only team in our divi- sion. But the more important part is my takeaways from this experience. 1. Nobody really cares. Everyone is in their own little world doing their own little thing. You might be inclined to believe every move you make will be intensely scrutinized by everyone, but in reality, this is rarely the case. In fact, I don’t think anyone even noticed that I got pantsed by the deep end like a poorly executed gym class prank. So be yourself because otherwise, that’s lame. 2. You have nothing to lose by trying new things. By surrounding yourself with the right kind of friends that push you out of your comfort zone, your life will be a lot more excit- ing — or you’ll at least have some good stories to tell. 3. Not everything is about winning. Enjoy the experience and don’t let other people intimidate you. So get out there and join that recreational sports team, chess league, or craft group. Because not everything is about taking home that first-place award — except when it is. * Christa Kiesling is a graduate of Truman State University, where this story takes place.


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