By: Lauren Freier, Regular Contributor
I am beginning to imagine graduation as a sort of diving board standing over the pool of reality. One by one, individuals walk the plank and dive in. While some may approach the edge equipped with flotation devices, goggles, or swimming caps, these can only go so far in helping prepare for the inevitable. No one can predict the temperature, current, or depth of the pool staring back at them; thus no one has any real sense of what they are getting themselves into.
The confident and self-assured graduates swan dive head first, aiming for a smooth, splash-free entry where they can take right off swimming in their designated lanes. The naïve yet strong-willed cannonball in, determined to shake things up and make their mark. Risking that this first impact might be painful, they laugh it off once they see the seemingly powerful aftermath of their presence. Others hesitantly stumble off the board, unsure of which way they’ll be facing once they hit the water and which direction they’ll swim once they get there. Their most immediate fear is to avoid hitting their heads on the way down.
The problem with this reality pool is that it is inescapable, regardless of how people launch themselves in. Some may find ways to extend their diving boards, but in the end everyone must ultimately take the plunge. While fun at first, eventually people just want to climb out, grab a towel, and lounge in the sun. This is where things get tricky; there are no stairs, there is no way out. This is reality, and pruney fingers, goose bumps, or wet hair are not reason enough to justify escape. It is here that the water begins to turn murky, eyeliner begins to smudge, and bodies begin to tire out.
Up until this point, individuals have been taught that they will sink or swim; they will either make it or they won’t. However, I find this old adage to be a polarized falsity. While this phrase literally refers to the options people have when they fall into the water, it metaphorically implies the idea of failure or success. Ingrained into people’s brains are these absolutes, void of any gray in-between. In this ignorance of the journey and process, forgotten are those who are treading water and just trying to keep afloat.
I for one would like to pay homage to these doggy paddlers, kicking furiously with heads bobbing to break the surface. They have not yet “made it,” but no chance they’ll stop trying. These are the fighters—struggling to gasp for air, searching for the occasional life raft, and dreaming of dry land. I know this because I am one, and though I wish I could say I have mastered the art of doggy paddling, I am not so sure anyone ever can. So as you continue to feverishly tread: embrace the waves, curse the current, and at least get yourself a damn good bikini.
Lauren is a passionate writer, Beatles fanatic, celebrity gossip junkie, therapist, and mental health advocate. Her personal and professional experiences in both LA and Chicago have inspired her dedication to emotional wellness, resiliency, and self-acceptance. She holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and is a therapist at InnerVoice Psychotherapy and Consultation, a Chicago-based private practice, as well as a social-emotional health educator at a non-profit organization.
Featured image via 53riverbankrun.com