Thursday, December 15, 2005

Something Different

So, I thought tonight I'd take a break from diabetes-related writing and do something a little different.

This one, I'll call "The High Dive..."

I could feel my heart beating. I could feel it everywhere. My fingers and toes pulsed, the rhythmic beat occupied my throat, I thought my eyes would leave my head with each throb. I looked up at the white ladder, climbing into the summer sky. I looked at the pool and at the shadow of the high-dive that danced on its surface. The sun was just starting to set, an orangey wafer dipping into the pink-yellow west.

It was a perfect day. In my ten year old mind, it was the only day that would ever matter. I had spent most of this summer here at our town's public swimming pool. The sunny, humid days had left their mark - my skin was freckled and a little peely, my hair shot through with streaks of red-gold. I had decided that this was the summer I would start training for the Olympics. Instead of frolicing with the other kids in the shallow-end of the pool, I chose to swim laps in the deep-end. Lots of laps. I'd leave the pool pruney and exhausted at the end of each day, whispering to myself "It'll be worth it when you win a medal..."

The thing was, I knew I might not become an Olympic swimmer. So, I had a Plan B. If swimming didn't work out -- I was going to be an Olympic diver.

Our public pool had two diving boards -- a low dive, set about three feet above the pool's surface and a high dive, set about ten or twelve feet above the surface. My plan to become a diver good enough to compete with the best in the world was a simple one. Step one -- step onto a diving board. Any diving board. I took that step on day one at the pool. I stepped out onto the low dive, and I walked all the way to the end. Then I walked back and right down the ladder onto the side of the pool, petrified. The idea of jumping head first into anything was just too scary. But I knew I had to do it, if I was going to have a Plan B.

On day two, I ventured again to the end of the board. I was afraid, but not as afraid as I'd been the day before. I held my nose, and jumped into the water -- feet first. OK. Step one, check.

My next goal was to actually dive off of the board. It took me a month to even try. And that first dive wasn't exactly swanish, it was more walrushish. But I was pretty proud of myself.

I decided that in order to have a viable Plan B, I would need to put my swimming on hold and really dig in with this diving thing. So I did. I dove and dove and dove, I swam some, but mostly, I dove. Once, I even climbed to the top of the high dive board -- then I climbed right back down again. The line of divers waiting at the base of the ladder weren't happy. Not happy at all. The next day, following the same pattern I'd followed with the low dive, I made it to the end of the board and jumped off, feet first.

"Well, that wasn't so hard now, was it?" I thought to myself.

With three weeks left in the summer, I had to work on my final step -- really facing the high dive. I knew an Olympic diver had to be able to dive -- not just jump -- from boards higher than three feet from the water. Each day of those three weeks, I climbed the ladder over and over, contemplated a dive -- and without fail, I jumped off of the end of that board feet first.

It came down to that last day -- near sunset, no less. That last day of the summer and my heart was beating as it never had before.

Sweating and shaking and queezy, I climbed the white-painted metal rungs, counting each one as my right foot hit it, then my left. Onto the board, its warm, sand-papery top tickling the soles of my feet. Slowly, I stepped to the end of the plank. I looked down at the water below, out at the low-end of the pool where my friends and brothers were playing, at the roof of the buidling that held the shower and bath rooms. I stood straight as a pin at the edge of the board, arms at my sides, knees slightly bent. I rocked onto the tips of my toes and gave a bit of jump, pulling my arms above my head and leaning into my dive. Oh, and it was swanish, folks. Yes it was. It was perfect. It was my moment. It was my proof that I could compete with the best in the world.

Obviously, I did not become an Olympic diver. And, no, it wasn't because Plan A actually worked out (you know, my becoming an Olympic swimmer). Instead, I tried about a million other things in my quest to be the best in the world at something. I tried football, baseball, softball, gymnastics, chess, Atari, hula-hooping, spelling... Too many more things to name. And I never became the best in the World at any of them. But it doesn't really matter, does it? It doesn't matter because I'm the best I can be. It doesn't matter because even after all those tries and all those things, I still set goals and have quests and adventures. I never give up and I never think that I'll NEVER be the "best" at anything -- I never limit my own potential. I climb the high dive as often as possible. And I dive.


julia said...

That was wonderful. Bravo!

Sandra Miller said...

Beautiful, Nicole.

My heart was beating right along with yours as you stepped on that board.

gina said...

wow, very descriptive i felt like iwas diving too! great post!