Amazing Kids! Magazine

Diving Terrors

By Cathy Yan, Amazing Kids! Adventures Editor


I, like many kids, took a ridiculous amount of swimming lessons when I was younger. The paddling, kicking, and diving filled my lazy, summer days. I took a lot of pride in my abilities; often, when I realized I had beaten my best time, a euphoric rush would consume me, expanding my heart three times bigger. However, it was not just the strokes that held my respect – for the longest time, I swam in awe of the high-diving board and all the brave souls that dare approach it.

I had always been a scaredy-cat deep down. However, I always tried to quash the fearfulness, disguising it with hot-headedness and pure insanity. Going on the rollercoaster until I threw up, diving all the way to the bottom of the pool despite my aching ears; yeah, I was that kid.

The high-diving board, however, was an entirely different matter. I would watch other children slowly climb up its steep ladder, knuckles white from fear and exertion. They would walk to the edge, never daring to look down. Once they got to the end, their bodies slowly tipped over, hovering motionless for a split second before dropping like a stone to the dark waters below. I could never have done that.

Because the high-diving board at my pool was on maintenance for many years, I had the perfect excuse to never jump off of it. “I’m not being a baby; the board is broken!” For many years I told myself that, never allowing myself to face the terror I felt inside.

Last summer, a group of construction workers came, clicking their hard shoes on the linoleum floor and sweating in their blue overalls. I watched in paralyzing shock as they took the closed sign off of the diving board. That was when I knew that the jump was inevitable.

The next day, I debated over whether to go to the pool at all. Fight or flight – that was the question. In the end, I chose to be brave. For once in my life, I was not faking recklessness for an audience; I was being courageous for me.

Walking to the pool took almost everything out of me. The closer I got to it, the heavier my breathing became. Once I got there, I changed, started my warm up, and swam the few lanes I usually did. That day, however, I didn’t immediately fall into my usual routine. Instead, I cautiously lifted myself out of the water and towards my childhood terror.

The ladder was steeper than I could have ever imagined: over twenty wobbly rungs. My feet were dragging the whole way up. The board was worse. Each step I took sent tremors through it, shaking my very core. The world seemed to be crumbling away beneath my feet.

At the edge, I made a fatal mistake: I looked down. The water seemed so far away; the people in it so tiny and insignificant. My face blanched and I took a hurried step back, fully willing to admit cowardice and failure.

But there were kids looking up at me, just like how I looked up to the older kids when I was their age. A sudden wave of responsibility overwhelmed me. I had to set the example, to tell those kids to face their fears with courage and determination. My sense of duty refused to let me go.

With that in mind, I set off once again for the edge. This time, however, I didn’t let my fear hinder me. Mustering all my confidence and will, I threw myself off of the edge.