A wave crashing over your head and filling your ears, diving down to touch the very bottom of the ocean, a seemingly never-ending expanse of blue to explore. This was my childhood. Rain or shine we were down the beach and more importantly in the sea. Days full of handstand competitions, body surfing and races to the buoy. I still remember the magic of those days. The freedom I felt exploring the sand and sea.
I was lucky enough to be a confident swimmer so the sea to me was never scary or uninviting. It was warm (sometimes) and endlessly tempting. It drew me in with whispers only I could hear. For a daydreamer like me the sea held all my secrets. I lay on the surfaces and let my heart pour out of me because the sea would never judge and of course would never tell. Hours passed and fingers became wrinkled, often only the sun calling an end to the day would cut our time together.
At 18 I left the sea and headed to the big smoke (well, Twickenham) for university and tried to cope with the lack of sandy toes and salty hair. I replaced my beach loves with late night parties, new friends and the pulls of city life. Most of the time I was able to forget my seaside home. I went to the theatre, ate delicious food, stayed up all night, travelled across the city that never slept. I loved the thrill of the lights and noise. Until the heat descended - with no release. Pub gardens and grassy parks were not enough for me. I silently longed to be back in the place I called home. It wasn’t cool to be homesick, better to play the part.
My heart took me to the Cotswolds. Then a stroke devested our lives. Suddenly the fear I had started to feel in Twickenham grew in my stomach. I saw the world for what it was – a place of potential disaster. I saw everything that could go wrong. Our world became smaller and smaller. My heart and head blackened with risk calculations and constant vigilance. I was not free, the world no longer good.
Years passed and we were lucky enough to marry and start a family. The final push for us to return to my home, return to the sea. Having a child bought more fear, more risk, more worries. My body was no longer my own and its size and wobbles consumed yet more space in my head. This summer I started dipping my toes back into the sea. Little by little, step by step I remembered. I invested in goggles, a hat and finally my flippers. With their help I remembered the freedom, weightlessness and unburdening of secrets to my sea. Swimming for the sake of swimming. Swimming because I love it. Swimming because I am a swimmer. Swimming helped me remember – me.