As a kid I loved to compete. I competed against others, and loved to win, but I also loved competing against myself, perhaps a little too much. I was a ten-year-old swimmer with fiercely high expectations and I expected the best out of myself every time I dove into the pool to race.
There were two phrases my dad said often when at swim meets: “Are we having fun yet?!”, and, “Hey! You didn’t drown!”. These words weren’t intended by him to be advice so to speak, but looking back, they are two of the best pieces of wisdom my father has ever passed on to me.
Swim meets were often long, boring and muggy. The outside meets were hot and the inside pools often had poor air circulation. Furthermore, as a kid I put a lot of pressure on myself. I loved swimming but because of my hyper focus on performance I struggled to have fun with it. My dad, always down for a good time, was notorious for not having “hello” to fellow parents and to my friends. Instead of “hello” he would say, “Hey! Are we having fun yet?!” I didn’t realize the lesson about making life fun that he was teaching me then, but I get it now.
When disappointed in my own performance, “Hey! You didn’t drown,” was a phrase he would often whisper in my ear as I gave him a wet-chlorine soaked hug. He knew me well enough to know that there would be no way to reason with me about how I thought I did. If he saw my heart heavy, he knew he had to take his compliment to an extreme. Thus, the emergence of a pep talk that went something like this: “Hey! You didn’t drown…I don’t see you on the bottom of the pool right now, now do I?…I see you sitting right here with me, and to me that is a success! I don’t care how fast you swam, or what place you took, I care that you tried your best and that you tried to have fun in the process. That’s it. That’s all that matters. And for your next race? There’s no need for nerves because all you need to do is go try to have fun. Period.”
Thanks Dad, for teaching me that as long as I always try my best, and have fun while doing it, that life is good. Thank you for teaching me that life is to be enjoyed, and if I’m not having fun doing something, then it’s up to me to make an effort and find a way anyways. What a good way to live – just be yourself, try your best and have fun.