It was my first swimming lesson at our local YMCA (and by local I mean it was thirty miles away.)
I was terrified. In my short life I had not been around much water and I didn’t even know how to doggy paddle.
But what really exacerbated my fear was my swim teacher.
She was a large, elderly angry woman with frizzy red hair who wore a pink floral swimsuit with ruffles around the hips.
In other words, the perfect person to instill the terror and shame needed for children to be excited about getting in the water.
For our first lesson, as our little bodies were perched on an underwater dock to keep our heads above the three feet of water, she instilled this little gem of wisdom:
You are absolutely prohibited from plugging your nose underwater. If you do plug your nose you will look stupid and everyone will make fun of you.
Like I said, the perfect woman to teach a group of terrified five-year-olds.
As I stood shivering on the edge of the dock trying not to look my instructor in the eye, my left foot slipped off the slippery surface and before I knew it I was in the water.
I went under like a rock, flailing and crying and choking on the chlorine. As my head bobbed to the surface I heard the instructor – who had not moved an inch from her spot in front of the class – yelling at me as if I was an annoying insect.
SWIM! SWIM! KICK YOUR LEGS!
As my head bobbed to the surface for the last time I thought I didn’t need an instructor– I NEEDED AN F’ING LIFEGUARD.
As I sank below the water I began to think this was probably it. That my little life was over and that because of a heartless woman wearing a very out of date swimsuit, I would never get to build those cool rockets in the fifth grade.
Suddenly, my father, who had been watching from the sidelines, jumped into the water and scooped me up from the bottom of the pool.
I had never been so glad to see him – other than maybe the time he woke me up from a terrifying dream about the Bernstein Bears.
I clung to his neck and after regaining my breath shot my teacher the most hateful look my five-year-old self could muster.
She smirked back.
My father tried to pull me out of the pool but I stopped him.
NO. I would not let this women win.
I clung to the side of the pool and worked my way back to the dock. I stood up, took a deep breath, looked my teacher dead in the eye, and puffed up my little chest as if to say:
IT’S ON BITCH.
The next year that woman was fired.
And many years after that I became a lifeguard.
In other words – I don’t like being challenged. I don’t like being told that I can’t do something.
And lately, that’s how I’ve been feeling about Los Angeles. Like the city is trying to keep me from succeeding.
But I am not going to let Los Angeles win.
I came here to do something great. I came hear to succeed.
I will not drown. I will cling to the side and try again.
But hear this LA – I’m not going home yet.
You can take your three feet of bullshit and your pink ruffled roadblocks and put them somewhere else.
Because I. Am. Swimming.