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Head Above Water

Drowning to Succeed

I was the kid that parents dreaded having-the one that when you are considering having kids your friends tell you about. I never stopped moving, talking, or really just never stopped. It was most likely the need for my parents to get a break that resulted in them enrolling me in swimming lessons-well before most kids could even run. I also think that the fact that my face would be in the water brought delight to my parents-as it was a couple of minutes of no questions being asked. I spent my youth involved in swimming-always on a team and always competing. Being on a team you learn life skills that sometimes your tween brain is unable to process until it is 20 years later sitting in a room with complete strangers trying to figure out how to connect with them and it hits you “that was what my coach was talking about.”

When I first started to swim, it was all about keeping my head above the water-trying to not drown-that terrifying feeling of drifting to the bottom of the pool nagging at me, yet also motivating me. Being a swimmer all my life you would expect that my fear would not be drowning, but it is. The thought of being completely helpless, vulnerable in a situation that I know I have the skills to conquer terrifies me. I often think-would I know if I was drowning, would someone notice, and would I ever admit to myself that I needed help if I did think that I may need to be rescued. What would people say about an accomplished swimmer that needed to be “rescued” after nearly drowning?

The feeling I have about drowning is one that I see every day in my job. Working in the field of child welfare is stressful and complicated. It takes years to hone your skills and experience to master being a child welfare professional—and until that time—they are treading like crazy to keep their head above water-frequently in silence. Some stay, but most leave before they even really get started.

Somewhere along the way we lost sight of how we all got to where we are today. We lost sight of the fact that we did not just jump in feet first and take off down the lane swimming. No-we struggled, we swallowed a lot of water, we may even have had the lifeguard fish us out a time or two-but eventually we could keep our head above the water. We did not do this on our own-there was someone there watching, encouraging, and motivating us to keep going-whether that was a teacher, coach, family, or friend. They did not let you drown!

So, as bosses, parents, friends, family, or just human kind we need to quit watching people drown and throw them the life preserver! Be the encourager, the motivator, the life guard! Let it be ok to be rescued….and not seen as a sign of weakness-but of one of strength. Strength to know and accept that we are not there today, but tomorrow is a new opportunity. Hold fast to the belief that we are all learning along the way and that mastery takes time-no matter the task at hand. We are all just trying to keep our heads above water a little longer every day. 

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