I've been 40 years old for 12 whole days now. I'm feeling pretty fierce and fearless, especially after my last swim lesson. As some of you know, I began taking swim lessons about a month ago, to try to conquer my fear of deep water and become a better swimmer. I've swum in deep water before, but mostly with life vests or other safety floats to aid me. Yes, I can swim to save my life, but calm breathing and smooth strokes would surely get me farther than hyperventilation and doggy paddles.
On Wednesday night, I had my final swim lesson for the season. My crawl stroke form and side breathing have vastly improved since my first lesson. I can swim with my face completely in the water for three full exhales before I have to take a breath. More importantly, I swam a decent crawl stroke across the deepest part of the pool without the safety float. TWICE. And I totally didn't die! Victory in our time!
So what’s my next fear to conquer? Well, back in September, my friend Karinn asked me what kind of writing I really want to do. The last couple of freelance gigs involved video game writing, but it’s been a long while, and honestly, that’s not my passion. I was too shy back then to admit to her what my passion is, but last Monday, I finally said it aloud.
I want to write poetry. I want to have a book of poetry published. I want to hold it in my hands and turn the pages to read my words and hear my voice. I want to tell my story through my poetry, like Merle Collins or Jessica Hagedorn.
There, I said it. Poetry is my heart, my home. Some of my poems have even been published before, in college publications and small literary journals. I’m not a prolific poet, but I have more than enough to fill a manuscript. I have one such manuscript, in fact, full of notes from one of my writing professors, somewhere in my office.
Sweet! I already have a manuscript! Just get that sucker edited and published, right? Er, um, ah… First of all, a lot has happened in the 20 years since I put that manuscript together. It may not be the story I want to tell anymore.
Second of all, I AM SCARED. What am I so afraid of? It’s just words on a page, right? Yes, but no. It’s my heart, my home, my story. I am scared of sounding pretentious and precious and inauthentic. I am scared of hearing “No” from publishers, although that is the absolute worst that could happen, right? Right.
It was also the absolute worst that could happen when I was in college, but I wasn’t ready back then to accept “No”. I shelved the manuscript because I wasn’t okay with rejection. I’m still not that okay with it, but now I have lived enough life to know that if a rejected manuscript is the worst thing that could happen to me, then I have a really kickass life.
Where do I begin? Well, I guess I should dust off that manuscript and revisit that story. My 20-year-old self may still have something to say to me. Then I need to do my research on publishing and publishers and such. If anyone reading this blog has any insight on how all this works, please share. I need all the help I can get. Then I need to get over myself, woman up, and start writing and editing. So much to do.
When I first started this whole crazy business of conquering my fears one by one, I wanted a catchy, easy-to-remember mantra to help spur me on. And, naturally, I found my inspiration in a kids’ show. In an episode of Super Why, called Molly’s Dance Show, Princess Pea panics before her dance recital and bolts offstage when the curtains open. It is only after the Super Readers read Molly’s story that Princess Pea musters up enough courage to dance.
How? By saying to herself, “Breathe. Believe. Begin.” I need to believe. That’s going to be the toughest part. Believe in my story. Believe in my voice. Believe in myself.
My panic in the deep water was epic and dramatic (Try not to look so surprised, y’all.), even when I was wearing the safety float. But I said that mantra to myself every time I swam practice laps. I said it to myself when my swim instructor told me I had to swim across the deepest part of the pool without the safety float. I even said it to myself before I went onstage with my sisters for the hula competition.
And I’m going to say it to myself now, as I prepare to face what may be my biggest fear yet. I want to write poetry. I want to have a book of poetry published.
Breathe. Believe. Begin.