Sink or Swim

In my parents’ time, there was one way to learn to swim: someone threw you in over your head and yelled, “Sink or swim!” Unfortunately, life can be full of sink or swim moments, and you usually find yourself in the deep end with not much, if any, prior warning and no life jacket within reach.

We face those moments when we feel in over our head at the customary turning points in our lives. That moment when a teenager walks across the stage at graduation and realizes that the world is his for the asking, if only he can decide what to ask for. Sink or swim. The perfect man asks you to marry him, but still you wonder, “Is he the perfect man for me?” Sink or swim. A new job, a move to another state, a baby on the way, a terminal diagnosis? Sink or swim moments for sure.

We also face those moments in our everyday lives. Making any of the hundreds of daily decisions that determine how the next few minutes, the next few hours, the next few days, or even the next few months will ebb or flow can frequently make you feel like you are barely treading water. Facing down a cranky toddler when you are sleep deprived and hungry and anxious yourself?  Butting heads with your strong-willed teenager when you really just want to say, “Because I said so…” and hope it’s enough.  Contemplating writing a scathing email to that coworker who just lied to your boss and managed to make you look bad and increase your work load? Sure, you’ll feel better in the short-term, but will mouthing off at a coworker ultimately hurt or help your career? Wondering if you should have the cheesecake? What about that five pounds you just lost? Putting on your jogging shoes while simultaneously praying it’s raining? Sink or swim.

Sink or swim moments are coming. You will be hurled into the bottomless depths with no life preserver. The question is not whether you will dog paddle or execute a perfect butterfly stroke. Either will get you to safer waters.  The question simply is will you sink or will you swim.