To anyone who has ever felt burnt out doing the thing that they love.
When I was 10, I spent an entire summer learning how to swim. It was a surprisingly rare feat for someone in my immediate family, considering the fact that my dad was the only one who could do more than dip their feet in the shallow end of the pool. My parents enrolled me with a swim instructor in my neighborhood pool where I would grudgingly wake up every morning at 6 AM and spend numerous hours in the pool. I learnt free style, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. My instructor was an eccentric man who always taught the strangest phrases to remember how to swim. My personal favorite was the term “bobbling” when referring to breathing underwater by letting out bubbles. He would send me under the water and yell at me to “Do bobbling!” in order to cement an instinct in me to breath.
To his defense, it worked. I didn’t die.
The lessons began as enjoyable to me but, like many long term engagements I would get into, I began hitting a burn out towards the tail end of my summer. I was getting tired, irritable and longing for a summer of sleeping in till 11 am and wasting time away in the burning sun. Rather than that, I would find myself in the pool, bobbling and swimming along the long end of the pool. I would ask myself, what was the point of all this?
Eventually, this irritability began to show and it became harder to keep my head above the surface. I would spend less time under water and kept popping up for air. My instructor was very mad at me. After all, the point was to learn how to swim without needing air every five seconds. Everytime he would follow me as I freestyle back and forth, he would watch me pop my head up for air, even if I didn’t need it. I would apologize but proceed to do it again. And again. And again
He gave up with me but not without leaving me with a sentence that would follow me through life. It was during the 40th lap I was undertaking. We were both exhausted, tired from the sun and ready to get the day’s lesson over with. I stopped myself from my unbreaking freestyle stroke to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t do it.”
My teacher sighed, “Why are you not trusting yourself? What is scaring you?”
I realized that I had no answer. I had nothing to be afraid of.
The entire summer, I had spent with my breath. Breathing in the salt water, 6AM wake up and watermelon juice my babysitter would make for me after practice. Breathing out anxieties of sore muscles, no time to see my friends and tight swim caps that would suck all the blood out of my head.
But after weeks and weeks of constantly holding my breath in, blaming exhaustion for my fears and nerves, it was time for me to let it go. Exhale the feeling of burning out and get back in touch with the reasons why I fell in love with swimming in the first place. The feeling of freedom, having no control over my body but also being hyper aware of every movement my muscles made.
As my instructor would say, I had to let out all the bubbles and
just simply breath.