Six months ago, I made a decision that changed my life – I was going to finally learn how to swim.
I signed up for improver adult swimming lessons at a leisure centre near my flat in East London. For my first lesson, I showed up extremely early – I was nervous.
The course was all about improving technique and building confidence – two areas I was completely lacking on. We were instructed to do one lap after another, switching types of strokes. I could barely get through half a lap without being completely exhausted.
“This is too hard,” I thought. “Am I in the right class? Maybe I should go to a beginner section instead?”
I told myself to give it a few more classes. The next class was a bit better but overall, I was not doing well. It became clear to me that if I really wanted to make the most out of this, I had to commit to more than my swimming lesson. I had to come on my own time and practice. And so, I started going to swimming once a week for a 45-minute lesson and then an extra day at minimum where I would swim for 20-30 minutes.
I had to really motivate myself to go the first few weeks but by a month in, I was completely hooked. I started to love swimming. I can now swim 10-15 minutes lap after lap without exhaustion. I can finally jump into the deep end without a dramatised fear of drowning. And my fondest memory – for my recent trip to Croatia, I finally swam in the sea! (Thanks Tarif for encouraging me on that one!)
Today will be my last swimming lesson in London. Exactly one week from now I’ll be on a flight back to North America, marking the end of what will go down in my biography as “The London Years”.
Although relatively a short time, the last two and half years have significantly changed my life in ways that I cannot begin to express. The journey itself began not too different from my swimming lessons, with a very slow start filled with self-doubt to a stronger finish where I feel better than ever. London has taught me that you don’t have to be the best or the smartest; you have to be willing to try, willing to fail and willing to get back up and keep…swimming! 😉
As my living room currently stands as a huge pile of mess and I have started packing my things into suitcases, I recognise that by far the greatest thing I will take away from my time here is something that no baggage capacity can account for – the people I have had the pleasure of knowing and the conversations we’ve shared.
I have not found the best way to capture all of these conversations yet (stay tuned) but the ones that have recently sat with me has been with some very cool thirty-somethings who I would often ask, “What did you learn in your 20s?” or “What do you wish you did in your 20s?” Perfectly enough, many of their answers have summed up the lessons I myself have learned in London and so I share them with you:
- Get to know as many different types of people.
- Take more chances and learn as much as you can.
- Relationships will change. You will change.
- Prioritize your health.
- Respect yourself.
The hardest one for me by far is accepting that relationships with people change as well as you will change. Especially when your life starts to straddle an ocean, I’ve been really grateful for the new friendships I have made, the older friendships I have maintained and the lost friendships I have revived.
I will never forget the day I was at my lowest point in London and I had turned to my best friend asking, “Should I just give up?” to which she responded, “I think you have another round of fight left in you.”
I dedicate this post to her and all my loved ones who have kept me afloat. Thank you for everything.
And thank you London. It’s been a happenin’ two and a half years.
But it’s now time to cross the ocean.