The Deep End

Photo by Matthias Cooper on

I think by the time you reach a certain age, you’ve had a few close calls with death. The first time I brushed past the Grim Reaper was when I was about seven.

It was summer time and my day care center had bused us all to the community pool. The kid to adult ratio was probably about 20:1, so it was a little lawless that day. I was playing a game with some friends in the deep end, where someone would throw a toy to the bottom of the pool and everyone else would dive in to get it. On one of those dives, I was the last one to push off the bottom. I had almost reached the top, when I felt someone sit on my shoulders.

I knew who it was – an older girl named Jessica. I had accidentally hit her in the head with a ball ten minutes earlier, and Jessica had been lurking nearby ever since, glaring at me each time we made eye contact. Now she was getting her revenge by holding me below the surface of the water.

I squirmed and kicked and pinched her legs, but she only wrapped her feet under my armpits and squeezed her thighs tighter around my head. My lungs ached and my vision started to grow dark. I lost the will to fight her, and I remember thinking, I’m going to die. And then she slid off me. I floated up and broke the surface. I threw my arms over the edge of the pool and limply held on as I coughed up water. A couple of my friends watched nervously from a few feet away. I didn’t blame any of them for not helping; none of us were any match for Jessica.

One of the teachers lay in a lounge chair just a few feet away. I waited for her to do something – to see if I was ok, to help me out of the water, to punish Jessica, anything. But she just lay there, and eventually I recovered enough to get out of the pool on my own.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had to pull yourself out of the deep end at least once in your life, and you’ve also had to fend off a few Jessicas, or accept that you won’t be getting any help from people whose sole purpose should be to help. I hope you’ve learned self-reliance, not bitterness. I hope you’ve learned how to stand up for yourself and for others. And I hope you’ve become someone who refuses to stay lying down, waiting for problems to go away on their own.

I’m just trying to be a good person over here at

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