I try to swim at least once a week. I started a “Swim Mondays” tradition in January and have been going pretty consistently since. Although Swim Mondays has turned into “Swim Any Day of the Week Before the Next Monday Comes,” I’m still quite proud of myself for picking up a new habit and getting back into swimming. I even go in full gear in my swimsuit from my high school swimming days, swim cap, goggles, and ear plugs. Yep, I get serious.
When the ear plugs go in and I make my first launch, the world drowns out, and all I can hear is the sound of the water swishing and my own breathing. It’s calming at first, focusing on my breathing as I swim laps. The world is quiet and it’s just me. Then I get tired. As I start to take faster breaths, all I can hear is myself struggling, and then I get slower and slower and eventually find myself chilling in a lazy backstroke as I catch my breath.
But today I tried something new. As I swam, I started thinking about my day and being grateful that I had a productive and healthy day of work, dance, and now swim. I started thinking about my mom and sending her good vibes, acknowledging my love for her and thanking her for everything she’s done. I thought about how I want her to be happy and healthy. Then I turned around for another lap. I moved on to my brother, whom we just left up in Seattle—he’ll be there all summer for an internship. I started wishing him luck with his new job and with living away from home for the first time in a new place with no friends yet. I know he’s uncomfortable right now, but I’m confident he will be just fine, as he always is. I spent two laps sending my thoughts to my brother. Then another lap for my grandma—the queen of our giant family, resilient as ever. And another lap for my other grandma who’s in Shanghai—I haven’t seen her in a while, but I still love her and wish her well. Then more laps as I moved on to other aunts, uncles, cousins.
Swoosh. I got to Shirley, the first of our cousins to be a mother, and just being so proud of her for being the best example of a mother I’ve seen. Swoosh. Then on to Donna, Frank, oh, and then Raymond—thankful for him picking me up from school and swim practice back in the day. I even swam one for my Gemini friends who are having their birthdays over the weekend. “Happy Birthday Allen!” I thought mid-lap.
I kept going and going, because I had more and more people to thank, more people to think of, more people to send love to because they deserved it (I would name them all but I’ll save you from boredom). With each lap, I realized how many awesome people I have in my life, how many people have supported me and loved me and contributed to who I am. And for them, I had the stamina to keep swimming. There were even some laps where I wanted to tear up in my goggles because I just felt so much love.
Eventually, I did start to get tired because my legs were cramping. And then I got to my cousin Kevin. Oh, Kevin. He’s a man’s man: a big guy with a beard, who BBQs, shoots guns, loves cars, and can build machines with his own bare hands. He’s a strong one. I have to be strong too, like Kevin. And so I finished one more lap, just for that.
When I finally stopped for water, I realized I had never swam that many laps nonstop with so much energy. I wasn’t even that out of breath. I could keep swimming because I had a reason to keep swimming. I had people to honor and thank and love. I felt so much energy from focusing my thoughts on the people I love and that really fueled me.
What I learned from this: It can be boring to focus on yourself all the time. Try to focus outside of yourself once in a while, appreciate what’s around you—the people, places, and things that have contributed to your life—and be grateful for it all. Next time you exercise, consider running each lap for a specific loved one, or dedicating each rep to something that you’re grateful for. Just like how people get through workouts by letting music pump them up, see if you can create your own “music” and get pumped up by thinking about who and what really matter to you.
Now my legs are so sore, but I’m happy. And I’m looking forward to get back in the pool because I still have so many more people and things to swim for.