I am losing my battle with nature. My strength is ebbing, and I am quickly reaching my limit. I feel myself being slowly pushed backwards by the strong current of the river. I squeeze out the last of my strength and surge ahead; but a second later, I am thrust back against the current, more tired than before and with no hope of making it out alone. I learned how to swim at four and had been swimming for five years before making my way to this river.
I never really understood how people, especially grown adults who knew how to swim, could succumb to what seemed to be a placid surface of a flowing river or changes in an ocean tide. In my naivety, I failed to see how quickly currents can change and how what lies beneath the surface can unleash a power that men cannot handle alone. Just as my limbs and lungs begin to scream out in pain, my father’s strong hands grab me and drag me back to the riverbank where our tent stands. A mere few dozen meters away from my struggle, I can see the deadly current whipping around large borders at breakneck speed. I crumple to the ground, cringing from the pain of my cramped limbs. As I lose focus, my tired eyes watch the river flowing by, unstoppable and oblivious to the strife of a mere mortal child.
My arrogance almost killed me that day on our camping trip. I was confident in my swimming abilities, and I ignored my parents’ warnings of avoiding the deep sections of the river while they were setting up our tent. I thought I could swim out easily. I was terribly wrong.
I still enjoy swimming and even went out of my way to get certified as a lifeguard two years ago, but I no longer view rivers and oceans the same way. The incident taught me to respect the power of nature and to acknowledge the fragility of human life in its hands. Now, it’s second nature for me to watch out for the safety of those around me. Whether I am working as a lifeguard at a local river or pool, a dorm prefect for eighth graders at Groton, or an assistant at a local children’s center, I now keep an eye on everyone around me by habit. One frightening experience as a child provided me with a lesson in judgment and caution that will last a lifetime. Perhaps this caring and watchful approach is why many Groton faculty and their children like me as a babysitter.
More importantly, I am now more humble and careful than I was before. I know when to take risks and when to be cautious, and I prepare myself for the numerous adversities in my life rather than plunging headfirst into them. The river gave me wisdom that extends beyond using caution when entering the water; it taught me the importance of looking out for those who have not yet learned the same lessons that I did.