I came home for a midweek swim today, to recharge after a pretty packed schedule these few days. But I ended up learning a lot more from it than I expected. Imagine going for a swim, and ending up in a pool with four generations of people, and learning a lesson about life from children as young as 4 years old, and adults as old as 70 odd years.
I’ll start with a little background about what swimming means to me. Swimming is a way for me to detach from the world and immerse myself into another world, and escape from the noise of reality. I grew up swimming in the pool at my condominium, and gradually moved into the world of competitive swimming, which pretty much defined my primary school, secondary school and even junior college days. I never intended to join swimming, let alone competitive swimming, but somehow I always ended up back in it. I guess water is my element.
I miss the days spending hours at training, showing off our bronze tans and awkward tan lines. I miss walking around school holding my pool buoy proudly; each of us had a different color, a sign that I was part of the school team. I miss the feeling after a particularly intense training and the muscle aches that followed, because it meant that we were improving.
I don’t normally swim when there are other people using the pool, because I’m worried I knock into the little kids, and I don’t like having to swerve around. But today, I decided to join in the fun. I swam a couple of laps, and decided to tease the four little kids who were in the pool by swimming under them, like how I used to when I was young. One of the little girls, particularly amused by my antics, started giggling and introduced herself to me. She talked about her brother, and her friends (another brother-sister pair), and very gently held onto my hand, a sign that she wanted to me to stay around.
In a sense, the pool is like living water…it represents life. Seeing how each generation interacted differently in the water was synonymous with how we take on life each day. The children were spontaneous, happily splashing around, yet they were also easily frightened. I could sense their fear when their feet could no longer touch the ground, and so I let them hold on to me, but they never let their fear stop them from trying something new. It is true that the best time to learn is when you’re young, because the fear you have will never outweigh the curiosity you have to try. The children were also accepting of anyone who wanted to play, and above all, they were honest. We were having a friendly race with each other, and one boy cried out “You cheated! You started earlier.” to which the young girl replied sheepishly and ever so honestly “Yes… because I wanted to win.” Her honesty impressed me, perhaps because the older we grow, the less honesty we have, as we grow increasingly guarded towards others and even ourselves.
I represented the working class. I went with a purpose to swim, and I did my due diligence by swimming continuous laps. But it was without the same kind of joy that the children had in the pool. It was routine, but it was fulfilling. It achieved a purpose, but it was less spontaneous. Just like how we tend to approach work, we go in with enthusiasm, but after a while, routine work can drain us, and result in us becoming more jaded by the nuanced version of life we seem to be in. But if we pause and look at life like we did when we were kids, through a pair of innocent eyes, the world wouldn’t be such a dark place.
The mother of the children came down a while later, and we started talking. Children really are the best conversation starters. (Haha, I’m talking as if I’m a mother). It turns out we were from the same high school and university, just 10 years apart. It was so funny to find out that her husband was an AC boy too, since I felt that her son had such strong AC boy vibes. It’s amazing how children emulate their parents, and you can really tell how a child will turn out based on the way their parents interact with them and even with others. Unlike us, the mother watched from the poolside, instead of joining in the fun. I think at that stage of life, when you reach parenthood, you tend to marvel at the miracle of life. I see parents simply getting so much joy from watching their children having fun, as if they are living vicariously through them. I will only know when I become a parent, but I think becoming a parent makes you take a step back to look at life as an observer, and to marvel at your own creation.
After a while, an elderly couple joined us at the pool too. Today was a really busy day at the pool as you can see. They smiled silently and slowly went about their laps. They too adopted an observer role, watching as the little kids and I played, perhaps reminiscing about when they used to be our age. They were in their 70s, yet they still made an effort to spend time with each other. I hope I’ll still be swimming with my special someone when I’m 70! At that age, they had experience being actively involved in life like the kids, being driven when they were my age, and being an observer and a parent. Now, it seemed like they were rediscovering life again, at an albeit slower pace. They were there to enjoy the moment, with each other, and just live rather than rushing around. At their age, I think they’ve seen enough to know that there is more to life than working so hard, and missing out on just being.
To find four generations in one pool on a random Thursday evening… it’s pretty insane to say the least. But despite the number of people in the pool, it was probably one of the most enjoyable swims I’ve had in a while. I learnt to be a child, and to play again, without worrying about the time. I learnt to be a mum, and to observe the wonder of life, and to be a protector of this life. I learnt to slow down, and to focus on the company of the people rather than the task at hand.
Seeing a glimpse of so many different stages of life in one place made me so nervous and excited of the years to come. I’m only a quarter through life, and I have so much to learn. But life is definitely an interesting road, and I’m just ready to embrace whatever comes my way!
My advice to you for life is: Look at it and live it through different perspectives, so that you can get the best of every generation. Play like a child, work like a young adult, manage like a parent, and most importantly, use your experiences to view life with the maturity that comes with age.
“Never stop learning because life never stops teaching” -Unknown