“What Being a Fish Means to Me: Just Keep Swimming”

After attending our annual NACAC and EMA conferences in Seattle last fall, we returned to Boston refreshed and renewed after reconnecting with colleagues and touring Reed, Lewis & Clark, and the University of Washington. We also found inspiration for our 2022 blog theme in Pike Place Fish Market’s FISH philosophy of teamwork: Be There, Play, Make Their Day, and Choose Your Attitude. In the coming months, my colleagues and I will take turns providing our own takes on “What Being a Fish Means to Me”.

Squinting through chronic eye strain and occasional double-vision, I focused on the tiny yellow pixelated dot – her team swim cap. I saw her ascend the block, crouch into starting position, then gracefully dive in long before anyone else – even before the signal.

Most viewing galleries have been closed since March 2020, so we COVID-era swim parents sit outside the pool, watching on our computer screens the live feed of the meet taking place just beyond a cinder block wall. Swimmers run out to see their parents between races, leaving dangerous puddles all over the floor for grandparents to slip on. Then they flit away, squealing with their friends, blind to the goosebumps all over their arms and legs as the frigid February wind blows through the door.

The officials disqualified her for the false start. Olivia came to me sobbing, furious with herself, and embarrassed. She had been having a great day, improving her times and pushing herself hard before this mistake. She had another event yet to swim in finals later that evening, and I wondered how the false start would affect her next race. What can a swimmer do when she feels discouraged but has another event left to swim? To quote Dory, the wise regal blue tang of Disney fame: just keep swimming.

Olivia started swimming several years ago when her instructors at Dexter Southfield Summer Camp, John May and Hayley Houston, alerted me to her talent. As contented doggie-paddlers and poolside loungers, my husband and I are particularly awestruck when we watch our little fish cut through the water. Missing her meets feels like missing the golden days of her childhood. We’re missing the gift of watching her grow up. But when COVID complicates already baffling parenting challenges, what other choice do we have? We keep driving, feeding, planning, hugging. We just keep swimming.

The same was true for Olivia’s whole team, Greenwood Swimming, when they recently heard that their beloved coach, Don Lemieux, had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Teens, pre-teens, young swimmers, and alumni making a special trip home from college all convened at his funeral to remember him.

What does a little fishy do when she loses her coach suddenly and tragically? How does she find the belief within herself that he had in her? How does she keep training, pushing, pulling, stretching, reaching without him watching so attentively from the pool deck? Just keep swimming.

What’s the best way to get through a challenging situation that you cannot change? Just keep swimming.

Girlfriend dump you? Just keep swimming.

Senioritis? Just keep swimming.

Deferred from Early Decision? Just keep swimming.

Don’t understand last night’s Chemistry homework? Just keep swimming.

About The Author

Amy Christie, M.A.