Diving in | PostIndependent.com

Diving in

April Clark
Staff Photo |

The concept of diving into water seems simple enough.

Bend the knees. Point arms above the head. Drop the chin. Then propel myself forward, head-first, into the water. No big deal, right?

It has been for me.

People have been diving for ages. Kids have been trumping me on this seemingly simple task since I was one myself. Before last weekend, I had tried to dive, unsuccessfully, too many times to even count.

I should have kept a tally.

When I was about 6, I took swimming lessons. A far as I can remember, they weren’t as fun as I envisioned. According to my mother, who had to jog my memory — because I likely blocked out the experience — I wasn’t real crazy about the swimming lessons. I definitely didn’t want any part of the deep end. I had an experience in Florida when I was in the deep end of a pool before I fully knew how to swim and it frightened me. When it came time to jump off a diving board at the end of the lessons, I completely froze. I bailed. I just couldn’t do it.

Luckily this was the pre-Internet video era.

I spent the following summers of my childhood swimming and trying to follow in the lead of friends. They dove into pools and lakes with carefree whimsy. I either took the stairs or the cannonball route, forming into a ball and jumping into the water with a splash.

I probably won’t stop that anytime soon.

In high school, my boyfriend had a pool and tried everything possible to teach me how to dive. I would have him hold my feet on the cement. That didn’t work. I would try to fall into the water, leading with my head.

Definitely didn’t work.

I tried to learn to dive throughout college, too. It’s not that I have a debilitating fear of heights — I once went cliff jumping at an Indiana quarry, launching off a 30 foot-high ledge holding my boyfriend’s hand. I put my legs up before hitting the water, likely because of my cannonball habit, and ended up with a gnarly bruise on my upper leg.

That’s a lesson I learned quickly.

At some point, I remember deciding my chances of learning to dive were as unlikely as cliff jumping again. So I gave up. I resolved to only watch others gracefully access the water while I opted for the never-grow-up method of entry.

That was at least good for a laugh.

Then last weekend, while watching my friends’ triplets and the neighborhood kids dive into the pool with a tinge of watered-down envy, I decided to put mind over matter. I was finally going to learn to dive.

And of course have a kid teach me how.

I asked Wyndell, who at 12 already has one of those old souls that reminds me of a fun grandpa, to help. Even though I’m 30 years his senior, and clearly should have correctly learned to dive into a pool by mid-life, he saw that as no big deal. I knew he would have the patience to get me through this.

I needed all the help I could muster.

I was coached to point my arms above my head. Drop my chin. Then propel myself forward, head-first, into the water. No big deal, right? Actually, I had made a way bigger deal out of it than it really is.

Another life lesson learned the long way.

Feeling especially confident, I tried the diving board first. Talk about a failure to launch. I flashbacked to being a kid, chickening out on diving at the end of those swimming lessons. I decided that with a little more height to the side of the pool, the diving board was going to take some time.

That was probably for the best.

With coaching from the kids — by this point I had attracted a young audience — I perched myself on the warm concrete at the deep-end of the pool and bent my knees, probably more than most divers do.

I had to do what I had to do.

I pointed my arms forward, peered into the crystal-clear water, and told myself I could do it. I let go of the idea that I can’t. I made it a non-option. I realized I always used that as an excuse, and that would stop at exactly that moment. All I needed to do was to put my mind to it. That if I believe I can doing anything, especially dive for the first time, I can.

And it worked.

Once I felt the rush of the water hitting my face by diving head-first — as opposed to the bottom or feet route — I wanted to get right out of the pool and do it again. There was that first-time exhilaration and excitement of experiencing a real dive for the first time. Most of all, I felt accomplishment.

I couldn’t wait to do it again.

I felt like a kid who just learned to ride a bike. I wanted to practice and improve. My best friend Megan arrived and I had to show her what I had just learned, like she was my mom and I was 6. She loved it.

“That was absolutely the best thing I’ve seen all day,” she said.

I had to agree.

April E. Clark is trying something new this week. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.

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