Gain confidence in and out of the water with each stroke (released in 2020)

Summer is always my favorite season. Some of my best memories include warm weather, long nights, and special moments with friends.

However, when I was in college in my early twenties, it was also a season to be aware of the differences with my friends. We drove to a beautiful girlfriend’s house a few hours away from the Connecticut campus and enjoyed her swimming. Pool.. I remember seeing others not afraid to dive into the water, sunbathe and relax. I sat sideways, nervously kicking my feet in the water and looking at them from a distance.

I wasn’t the only color person in the group, but in the sea of ​​people with racially ambiguous and white-passing traits, a dark-skinned black woman with tightly curled hair I was the only one. Their laughter was studded with remarks about why I couldn’t get into the pool, why I always had problems getting my hair wet, and why black girls didn’t like to swim. Was done. Water reflected our difference.

For me as a black woman, swimming was more than learning techniques and how to be comfortable in the water. It was an activity that was engulfed in systematic racial tensions and permeated into class discrimination. Access to the swimming pool has long been considered a privilege of the middle class and above.

After World War II, public pools became more popular in the United States.But they too Racially separatedAnd even after integration, this is Permanent impact on African Americans.. According to a survey by the American Swimming Federation, 64% of African-American children have little or no swimming ability, but 65% want to swim more than they do. I was one of those kids.

From the 90’s to the early 2000’s I grew up in the neighborhood of Harlem, where access to the pool was restricted. Even if I had the opportunity to swim, I had to tackle another problem. I became overly sensitive about how people see me as a black woman when I’m at the water, when I’m obsessed with my hair, or how weak my swimming ability is. I remember trying for years, and it’s that self-doubt that I quit every time I tried to take a lesson, and I’m always super-critical to all the mistakes I made was. I felt defeated.

It was in 2017 that I became an adult and started swimming lessons again, but this time I set a new goal of supporting the response within the company. I was in the midst of depression and often had anxiety attacks due to stress. I took a free lesson near my house from the New York City Recreation Center. Other than therapy, I thought that spending time on physical activity would make me mentally stronger. I was always tired of being a girl sitting in the corner and wished I could be free in the water. After giving up on the perms and straightening products I used at college, I learned how to manage natural curls and prevent them from being damaged in the water. I wanted to experience the same joy as the faces of people playing underwater without fear.

As the lessons progressed and I became more confident, something changed in me. The anxiety that plagued me began to subside.

As I practiced and completed the strokes, I felt calm in the water. When I was practicing swimming, there were days when depression seemed to have become lighter. It helped rebuild my self-confidence both in and out of the water.

As the new summer season begins, water, previously feared and suspected, has become a way to relieve stress. I’m no longer a scary girl in the corner of the pool. I am one of the many smiles I can indulge in activities with my friends. I no longer saw my difference, but I saw my value and happiness. I’m not the best swimmer yet, but every time I practice, I feel anxious and relieved of the stress of being depressed and involved.

Learning to swim has opened up a new world for me in the last few years. During my vacation on the island, I can now be in the ocean and discover the wonders of marine life while swimming with dolphin pods and colorful fish. Swimming while blacks are underpinned by the history of separation is a challenge. However, by swimming with anxiety, I was able to find comfort on the darkest days.

Dana Gives is an associate digital editor for Black Enterprise, a freelance journalist and podcast host.Love and passport.

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