I just did the scariest thing at my time at Cornell.
Sure the first prelim you take is intimidating. Yes, my senior year is daunting. And I agree, most of my professors are probably zombies, or aliens. But all this pales in comparison to the University required swim test.
It may not seem that daunting, but trust me, it is. Started in the early 1900s as a way to prep people who were going off to war, the University has decided to not keep up with the times and still requires a swim test. This is stupid.
“You’re on the sailing team!” People have said to me. Uh, yea, we were life jackets…I know how to swim, just not that well. Growing up on the various Great Lakes and spending plenty of time near the oceans, water doesn’t scare me that much. But lake and ocean swimming is so much different than pool swimming. Playing in the pool is way cooler than doing laps. Does anyone out there even enjoy doing laps? I bet even Michael Phelps just swims so he can kick ass, take names, and get onto Wheaties boxes.
I digress though. Freshman year, I signed up for a time to take the test, but was so confused about the ILR course requirements, I decided not to leave a meeting early for something that I considered useless. Sophomore year, well I just was lazy. Junior year, I figured I would call their bluff. I mean please, they won’t actually keep me from graduating right? They slapped me across the face and told me I will not graduate. So I signed up.
And missed it.
So today, I showed up at my newly scheduled swim test, the only senior amongst a sea of freshman. One kid tries to strike up conversation: “Hey man, you look familiar, do you live in Donlon.” If looks, could kill, he’d be dead.
I stood in line behind two chicks who were on the swim team in High School and a nice guy from Korea who had goggles and a swim cap. This was the beginning of my insecurities, as I stood there hoping I would be able to make all three laps while the people on either side of me started betting on who would finish first.
It got worse when I looked around; I don’t think I am a bad looking dude, I have some body acne from years of hockey pads and a love of greasy pizza, but at 21 years old, I have mostly come to terms with it. The swim test makes you feel all weird all over again. All sorts of people are there. As I mentioned, I grew up on the lake,my friends and I literally spending all summer wearing little more than a bathing suit. But this was a new experience as a hundred or so of us stood there awkwardly waiting our turn to jump in.
Anyways, my turn comes, I jump in and take care of the first lap with almost no problems (although, how the hell do you keep from bumping into the rope things??) Second lap, on your back, is almost relaxing. “This isn’t so bad” I thought. Then the third lap comes.
This one was tougher. My arms start to go numb and the chlorine is stinging my eyes. I try flipping onto my back only to look at the hundred awkward freshman, take a huge mouthful of water, and immediately flip back around onto my front. About halfway, across, I experience vertigo. I can see the wall, but also the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is coming towards me fast. I am reaching, grasping, stretching out as long as I possibly can, praying that there is a just and loving God who will either forgive me, or lift me to the end of the pool.
I get to the end, pull myself out and walk to the table full of student IDs, assuming I will get a medal, maybe even a high five. Instead the lady just looks at me and says “Kid, you can leave now”.