Yale Supplement Essay: Swimming

Yale Supplement Essay: Swimming


I thought there was something wrong with me when I realized that I was a terrible swimmer. Swimming never came naturally to me and I considered it to be my biggest adversary at the time. I began to take swim lessons at the age of twelve and I dreaded every moment. However, my parents continually pushed me in hopes that I should learn this lifelong skill, especially since they never had this opportunity growing up. Each lesson ended just as the previous: in failure. I believed that my effort was useless when it came to swimming and felt defeated after each swim lesson.

All was not futile, for I did make progress session after session. I went from not being able to even step into the water to mustering up enough courage to calmly float on my back. But my progress was relatively stagnant, for I still feared the water and did not dare to fully submerge myself. My parents were still unceasing in their efforts. Although they were unable to directly coach me in swimming, they managed to coax our town’s swim team coach to take me on the team. It was clearly evident to the team coaches that I was not proper material for the team, but my parents’ relentless efforts had worked. Before I knew it, I was “part” of the swim team, on condition that I would improve my swimming skills within two weeks.

And within two weeks, through constant exposure to the water, I managed to swim; slowly, but nonetheless, I was swimming. I actually enjoyed swimming for quite some time, until my first competition, in which I was put to shame by the more advanced swimmers. I would finish races forty seconds after my competitors had all finished. I didn’t mind coming in last, but I did mind the cheering I received. I perceived it as an expression of the audience’s pity for my performance. I eventually swam averagely compared to rest of my team, but I never felt as though I had accomplished anything of significance.

In life, we tend to accentuate our failures and ignore the tiny successes that we have had along the way. For a long period of time, I completely forgot how far I had come as a swimmer, and was quick to dub my entire competitive swimming experience as a “failure”. Whenever I won any awards, I would perceive them as hidden behind the shadow of my initial failures. However, now I can see the major impact swimming has had on my life. Learning to swim was my first true challenge, and the road I took to overcoming it was one filled with numerous struggles. Now that I look back at it, I realize every small success that I have had along the way. Swimming truly defined me as an individual. As a child, I would remember thinking that if I could possibly overcome my fear of swimming, I could overcome anything. Now I know I can.

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