Out at sea, a large boat jerks and a young, champion Olympic swimmer is pitched overboard.

He has precisely one thought.

“I am a champion, Olympic swimmer… I’m better than this!!”

To make matters worse a storm erupts out of nowhere, rain splattering viciously, stinging his eyes. The boat he was pitched from is still close by- not more than 100 yards of steady stroking on his part.  He can swim twice that distance in half the time.  He knows this.

I’m better than this!

Water sloshes into his mouth.  People are shouting something from the boat, but he can’t make out what it is.  His mind is rattling.  He’s unsure of what his body is doing, but furious at it for not doing what he wants it to do.  He’s not a very good runner, not the best academically, pretty average when it comes to technology, not great looking but not ugly, classifies himself as an introvert socially… but the water- the water is his uncontested element.

And it’s killing him.

I’m better than this!

Those four words echo mercilessly around his brain.  His body seems to physically respond as he catches sight of one of his highly trained arms thrashing around uselessly.  The words of the folks still on board finally make sense to his ears.

“Just swim over here!”

“Come on man!  You can do it!”

“You’ve done things WAY harder than this!”

“Just do what you do naturally!”

They too know the awful truth of this drowning swimmer…

I’m better than this.

Did I trip?  Was I too careless?  Did somebody bump me?  Did the Captain make a bad navigational call?  Is this water cold enough to impair muscle movement?  Is the saltiness interfering with swimming reflex? The blame must be placed somewhere.  How can a champion, Olympic swimmer DROWN in anything less than a hurricane??  Yet here he is… thrashing around in the water, swallowing it by the mouthful, growing more disoriented each passing second.  He is tiring. Drowning was eminent.  Impossible.

I’m better than this.

A weak claim in his mind now… Something concrete that he’s no longer certain of… Confidence is beginning to fracture… panic threatening to overtake him and finish the job- confidence is all he’s known.  It’s what his ability thrives on.  Without confidence…

I’m better than this.

Insecurity surges.

am I?

And for the first time… he realizes that he may NOT be better than the situation he was in.  That being a champion, Olympic swimmer did not make him more impervious to drowning than anybody else.

He coughs violently, sputtering up water but frustratingly replacing it with a desperate, lounging mouthful just as quickly.

There are no prerequisites for guaranteed success- If he wants to not drown… he’s going to have to not drown. But the choice feels too big.

His body shudders and numbness temporarily flashes through his legs. Through squinty eyes, he can still just make out the boat through the downpour of dissuading discouragement.  Still 100 yards away.  But in his physical state it seems like 1,000.  All the reasons for his inability to survive flood his thinking.  Who to blame in the event of his potential death ricochets around his mind and begins to weigh him down.  It’s not fair.

He could still drown.

The water undulates like an erotic dancer in motion, rising to a dramatic crescendo and dropping down with the force of a hell bent anvil.  Clouds begin to claim the sky, transforming the enticing summer day into a nightmare. Being a champion, Olympic swimmer is the only thing that’s kept him alive so far…  But it would not be enough to save him. And he realizes… Being highly skilled or deeply gifted doesn’t disqualify you from having a struggle just as difficult as any other person.

The gift or the skill may keep you afloat, but choosing to live and taking action will carry you through the storm.

He forces water out of his lungs with a desperate, racking cough, grabbing a shallow breath before angling his body towards the boat. A new thought was in his mind, fueling both his choice and his action.

I am capable of this.


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