I fear black lines. Not just any black lines. I’m afraid of the black lines at the bottom of an Olympic size swimming pool. I’m not sure why I fear them or when I first became afraid. But ever since I can remember I’ve felt a surge of fear every time I’ve been in a pool with those lines. It might not seem to be a big deal. There aren’t a lot of negative repercussions for avoiding big pools, especially in my nursing career but in retrospect, this fear has held me back. When I was in high school, I was encouraged to join the swim team. Not as a swimmer but as a diver. I’ve always been a good dancer with fluid movements, flexibility and a graceful stance. Diving came easy for me and I could have been good. However, every time I walked up to the diving board, I saw those black lines. I was able to overcome at first but each time I stood on the diving board and looked at those lines, I was more and more afraid. After a while, I quit the swim team. I can remember saying that I was just too busy and that I really didn’t like it. But the truth was that I just couldn’t face those black lines every day. Silly thing isn’t it? But it did prevent me from doing something that I could have been good at with time and practice.
Today I’m in Nashville Tennessee at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. My husband is here for a conference and I got to tag along. While he’s been busy at the conference, I’ve been spending my time alternating between work and fun. It’s a beautiful hotel full of many great restaurants, beautiful gardens, waterfalls, cozy lounges and a state of the art fitness center with an Olympic size pool. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a pool and thought I would try swimming today instead of working out on the treadmill. As I walked down the stairs and into the pool area I noticed the familiar black lines in the pool and turned around. I felt that fear again and decided that I didn’t really want to swim anyway. But then I felt silly being afraid and went in. While I was sitting there contemplating going into the water I thought about how many times we let fear stop us from doing what we want or trying something new.
I can remember being a staff nurse and listening to the other nurses complain about their jobs day in and day out. It got frustrated after a while until I finally left to take a job working in homecare. The funny thing is that 10 years later, I came back to that hospital while working for a managed care company doing utilization review. The same nurses were there complaining of the same things. Their world didn’t change for the better or for the worse. They were in limbo. I, on the other hand, left my job for a different one. I took a risk that this next job would be better. I faced my fears of a new environment allowing myself to me the new guy again. I am in a much better place today because I have always been a risk taker with my career. They say that the fear of the unknown is more powerful than the fear of what you know. At least you know what to expect. However, staying where you are because of fear means that you may never experience anything better.
I questioned myself today, how can I be such a risk taker in my career but allow a silly little thing like a black line in a swimming pool stop me in my tracks. Then I got over myself and headed into the pool. I swam for 30 minutes but the first 10 were hard. I can’t put my head in the water without opening my eyes and every time I opened my eyes I could see those black lines. I was able to swim without anything bad happening to me. As with anything new that involves risk, it can be scary at first but by facing your fears you might end up in a much better place. I finished my swim and walked out confident knowing that I faced my fear.
What fear has been holding you back? Is it real or is it imagined like my black lines? What might you be missing out on? Go ahead. Take the risk!