I recently took a personal essay writing class with Gotham Writers Workshop. It was wonderful, and I think I have finally found the medium that I want to use to tell the stories that I want to tell.
I never learned. I am the younger sister of two lifeguards, and I still never learned. When I was 5, I took a swim class that was all about immersing kids immediately into the water. They were apparently of the school of thought that children were like fish and that they would naturally take to the deep. We would either sink or swim. I sank.
I was not the normal child. I was what my mother still describes as “odd.” I was also highly attention seeking and had a flair for the dramatic. To die, drowned at 5 in a public pool with my father standing on the side, on the outskirts of my life, would have been the ultimate drama. I lived.
And as the spoiled only child of my mother, and the eldest girl of my father’s 11 (maybe 15) children, when I protested about returning. I never went back.
So I never learned to swim. I never got comfortable in the water and I often retold the dramatic story of my near drowning. It is only now that I realize that I probably faked the whole thing. I didn’t suffer some great trauma, just the consequence of being a 5 year old asshole. I wanted the attention of my dad, who was almost never in my life, and somehow later in life even less than never.
At 40, I’ve begun to recognize the truth of the sob stories that I like to tell myself about myself.