Swim session

"You're a beautiful swimmer."

I hear these words after I flip off my swimming cap and goggles and dip my head in the water, feeling my hair float around me and tickling my bare shoulders.  I was just about to hop out of the pool and make a dash into the locker room, already thinking of taking a nice long and steamy shower.  The man resting at the wall in the neighboring lane looks at me and smiles.  I noticed that he had been watching my strokes while I was swimming laps.

I stammer.  "Oh...  Th-thank you."  An awkward smile, then I use my arms to pull myself out onto the deck in one motion and manage to walk to the locker room doors without looking as if I was running away.


It's often like that.  When I hear someone compliment me over something I am really proud of, I am truly happy.  But I get embarrassed too.  Good grades?  That's something anyone can do as long as they put in the time to study.  Nice clothes?  That's rare to hear-- but I like them too; my friend picked those out for me to wear today.  But when I hear things like, "Why are you so beautiful?" from someone who doesn't easily or often say things like that, I'm paralyzed.

In the beginning, I thought they were just words, effortlessly flowing flattery.  I know a lot of people throw words around, sometimes as courtesy and other times as habit.  Too often am I greeted with "hey, how are you?" and before I can reply, the person has already walked off.  It's just a greeting, I know.  With people I know more, I will actually stop for a few moments and think.  How do I really feel today?  Lots of times, it's "I'm hungry!" or "Cold!"  and quite a few times, friends have laughed in bewilderment that I seem unable to answer such an easy question in an instant.  Haha~  I wonder if anyone ever notices that I usually only say "Hi," smile, or wave if I'm hurrying off somewhere, or that instead of asking people how they are that day, I ask them where they're off to, what class they just came from, or something else that will give a less automated and dead reply than "Good, how are you?"

So in the beginning, I laughed, brushed these compliments off with an airy thanks.  How else can you reply to someone telling you're beautiful?  Now when I lock eyes, sometimes I can feel the raw words with a sort of intense sincerity.  I really thank them, and sometimes I don't know how.


But back to swimming.  A beautiful swimmer?  That phrase makes me so happy and so proud.  I sacrificed a majority of my childhood, life, and sanity for swimming, experienced some true physical suffering and emotional struggles, but I am truly glad that I did so.  It taught me a lot-- determination, true grit, hope, and accomplishment, just to name a few.  Also, I learned that I tan extremely easily (a shade darker after a 2 hour outdoor swim practice in a shining Texas summer morning), but I also turn pale again in the winter pretty quickly!  :P  I think people notice me more for my stroke technicality than for my speed, hahaha~  To sum it up, my mom rarely thought I was trying hard enough to swim fast in competitions because my strokes were too graceful. *sad*  =_=''

His words remind me-- what you go through is never for nothing.  When I discovered dancing at WashU, I discovered that I had so many talented friends who danced so gracefully.  Watching them perform is true inspiration and enjoyment.  I have been in a few dances myself, but of course I can't compare to them at all.  It's fun dancing, but I'm not going to lie to myself that I'll ever be as good as them-- I just don't move correctly.  I could spend the rest of my college life practicing, but that's not something I want to do.  Dancing is a hobby for me, not a part of life.  When I am in the crowd cheering until I lose my voice (which I did last week and probably almost failed my voice exam the next week with my crackling voice, durr...), I am always pleased that so many people, like me, are really applauding these amazing people's performances.  And that little voice in the far corners of my head always manages to squeak out, And what good do people think you are?  Do people even know you have any talents whatsoever?

Am I that mediocre girl who does mediocre things, without any hidden powers up her sleeves?  Do I just go to class, come back and study, and repeat the next day?  In high school, I opted out of getting a varsity letter jacket my freshman year after placing first in Districts and swimming in finals in Regionals, and again even after medalling there and in the state meet the next year.  My parents thought my sister used her letter jacket as a way to boast.  She was really a rockstar waterpolo player, and she let anyone who would listen know.  To them, Districts and Regionals weren't that big of a deal, and as a daughter of humble parents and as a good girl, I must, too, also be humble.  So when people started wearing their letter jackets everyday in junior year two years later, I was starting to regret not ordering one my freshman year.  It was a chance to let people know that I can accomplish some things others cannot.  I remember when I told my teacher I would be absent on a Friday due to a 3-day swimming competition out of town, she asked me why.  I replied that I would be swimming at the UIL State swimming meet in Austin, and quite a few of my classmates were amazed; they all asked, "You're on the varsity swim team?"  Ahh, my pride was wounded!  My name is up on the record board, yet people don't even know I swim! Hahaha~

I can just let my small regrets go.  I don't need to tell the whole world what I can do; it'll be a surprise when (if) people find out.  And plus, it makes a great way to win bets if they don't know I swim, hehehe~  I savor my past experiences, am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished, and hope to become an even better person by slowly improving on parts of me that I know I need to work on.

Now and then, like today, these words make me warm and fuzzy inside.  Words, those things that people throw around a lot.  But today's serving came with a large portion of happiness and a side of glowing pride.


Someday, I'll be able to face them, break into a natural smile, and without wanting to duck away in embarrassment or habit, look into their eyes and really mean every word I say-- "Thank you.  Your words make me really happy!" :)

Debra said...

Ah, this is why I can't wait to go swimming with you! Wendy in her natural element~
What it will probably end up being is me drooling in the next lane while you fly off in the water. o.o

Wendy said...

HAHAHA. Sounds like the bridge~ Oh dear, it'll be more like Wendy floundering for a few seconds and then dropping to the bottom like a stone :P And when will we go swimming, ehhhhh? :D

And you misunderstood! He didn't say "You're beautiful, swimmer." He said, "You're a beautiful swimmer." As in, you're stroke is not messy :D:D:D

Elaine.Xu said...

I just came across this on tumblr and it reminded me of this blog entry.

加油 Wendy!

Wendy said...

Haha, so true :) Sanks Elaine! I liked the table manner post on your tumblr :D:D:D