If you had to choose one life lesson to impart, what would it be? That’s tough, no? If you’ve had many life experiences, it’s challenging to pick one. Sure, there are those lessons that we all expect to hear; love one another, follow the golden rule, save money like your grandparents (or for a rainy day), work hard, be respectful, network, etc. But there’s one that maybe you haven’t heard. Learn to swim.
Where I went to college, swimming was a requirement. I don’t know if it still is, but you HAD to pass a swimming test to graduate when I was there. It was no problem for me as I grew up swimming. We had a pool in our backyard, so I think I was swimming before walking, but you would have to ask my mother that. I swam competitively in my teens and for my high school. I taught swimming lessons in the summer when I was in high school and earned my Water Saftey Instructor (WSI) credentials to lifeguard. Unfortunately, my college didn’t have a swim team at the time, but it did have this swimming requirement. The thought was, I think, that you might never know when you might find yourself on a boat and need to save yourself and others. Swimming was considered a life skill.
Invariably, people who are not swimmers would put off the swimming test until their senior year, Spring semester, when they had to pass the test to graduate. Since I had taught swimming previously and had a valid WSI, I helped administer the test or teach the remedial PE course for learning how to swim. I can remember, very clearly, rescuing a linebacker from the bottom of the pool since he didn’t have enough fat to actually float. He learned to swim, or at least was drown-proofed by the end of the semester, but it was a close call.
Why was swimming so important? First, as I said, you never know when you might be on a boat, fall overboard, and wish like hell you knew how to swim. Second, if you aren’t from a family that already values watersports, it opens up an entire world that is totally different from our everyday life. Boating, fishing, sailing, water skiing, wind-surfing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, diving, rowing are all sports where swimming is essential for survival. Third, it’s a life-long sport. No matter how old you are, swimming is a sport anyone at any age can do. It’s easy on your body. Even if you don’t want to do laps, there’s water aerobics or water running to help keep you in shape. And finally, it’s very zen-like and meditative. So, my advice and life lesson recommendation is to learn to swim.