The summer after I graduated from high school was the last summer I worked as a life guard at the public pool in my hometown. There were 4 of us that wouldn't be back the next summer. We had all learned to swim, taught lessons, and pulled more than one child out of the water together every summer since kindergarten.
The four of us were the only ones on the crew (except the head and senior guard) that were deep water rescue certified. And to be clear, we're not talking only about jumping and pulling some tired thrashing swimmer to the side of the pool. This is the spinal injury, strapped-to-a-backboard-and-pull-them-to-the-side-all-while treading-water rescue. Not that we ever had to do it, but we knew how and would be able to if it was needed.
Since we were all leaving, there were two new guards that needed to be certified. It turned out I would be the victim to be rescued. I was fine with the decision and I agreed to it under the condition that K would be there on the side watching in case something went wrong. To which he immedetely agreed.
What could go wrong you ask? Think about being strapped to an aluminum backboard in 8 feet of water. Strapped in around your forehead, crossed over your chest, around your waist, and 2 more crossed over your legs. If those squirrly new guards get tired and drop the board, you sink to the bottom of the pool like… well like you're strapped to a 6 foot long metal board.
On the scheduled day I did my victim dance and floated in the deep end like a spinal injury victim. All while K kept close watch. Everything was progressing fine, I had been turned right side up (and could breathe again), head stablized, 6 straps strapped and buckled securly. Until I noticed J getting tired and then I got nervous.
I don't remember how, or who, but I do know that before I realized exactly what happened I was in the fast lane to the bottom of the pool. I remember hearing the clink of the board when it reached the bottom, then undoing the buckles around my chest and waist, and seeing K there making sure my legs were free and following me to the surface.
I also remember him being suprised that I had freed myself so quickly.
The tough part was that since the first attempt had failed, they needed to repeat the rescue to complete their certification. They gave me the option of waiting until the next day to do it but I knew I would fare better if they completed it that day. So with K sitting on the side of the pool watching carefully, I jumped back into the deep water to play the victim. I was completely freaked out the whole time.
I've been thinking about that deep water rescue over the past few weeks. How many times over the years, or months, have I felt stuck in the deep water? How many times have I had to tread water only to make it out burned and exhausted and vowing never to get in the deep water again?
My jaded self says that if I don't look out for me, no one else will. But I only believe this is partly true. I know that there are people who would do anything to help me if I needed them to. They would be there to rescue me. And there have been plenty of moments that I wanted someone to rescue me. To save me from the stress/disappointment/frustration I was feeling. But it's always been during those times that I'm reminded, even though there are people there to help, I'm the only one who can truely save me from the deep water.
And many times, it's only the reasurrance that someone is nearby that keeps me brave enough to continue getting into the deep water.