I suppose it’s cliche, but it all seems so small. The lifeguard stands. Only a few steps up. But I guess they didn’t need to see that far — were the buoys always in that close?
The risks were real though. For some reason, it didn’t seem that frightening. The signs were clearly marked — “Swim at your own risk,” but in we ran, past the lifeguards, without a care.
I carry those words with me, even today – “Swim at your own risk.” Because that was the real lesson. I learned it early. We were all on our own really. Even with the lifeguards in their stands. The chances we would take, our own. But with them came the greatest rewards. Mostly confidence and joy. When I think about it, the real joy, (and I’m talking belly-full of buoyed kind of joy) came only from taking the chance.) That’s how I want to live. Forever.
She asked me if I thought everyone was an artist? Yes, I said. But people don’t believe it, she said. No. I guess mostly they are afraid. To allow yourself to be that vulnerable, that open, that means taking a chance. A big chance. But children can do it. Yes, I said. And I see it now, so clearly. Maybe children can do it because everything seems so big. The giant lifeguards in their giant stands. They seemed huge — it all seemed so certain. As we get older, bigger, we see the things put in place to “save us” aren’t really that big at all — actually quite small. And the certainties seem few. So we think smaller. Take fewer chances.
But I don’t want to live like that. I climbed into the lifeguard stand. I would be asked to save myself, again and again. I am a swimmer. And an artist. I am going to be scared, sure, but I am going to be buoyed by the pure joy of taking the chance! Belly-full!