by Katelyn June Kaiser, Guest Author

Last week, I did something crazy... I regretted it halfway through and I thought my heart was going to explode in front of hundreds of people. Men would have to rush out into the pool and pull my wet carcass out and lay me like a beached whale on the concrete. But I didn’t die. I came in last place and had to be helped out the water by a very nice and extremely strong man, but I didn’t die.

I decided to join the Lorraine family swim team this year. My reasoning was a nice mix of nostalgia and wanting to do it to help shed some pounds. When I would think about doing it, though, I would make excuses why I couldn’t do it. I did not have the time or the right suit or sometimes, I would just make a noise and a weird face and that was enough reason for me NOT to sign up. I would see moms and dads with their kids on the team and would envy them for their bravery and the memories they were making with their own kids as I sat on the side watching mine. I let my thoughts slip out in front of my 10 year old daughter. She immediately exploded with excitement and told me I “had to do it” after practice one night. I asked a woman who was there with her kids, who would continue to be so encouraging and kind to me. She told me that I should definitely go for it, that it is so much fun and it is such a great experience with the kids. So, I went to get a swimsuit that was appropriate for a team. THAT. WAS. TOUGH.

I am extremely self conscious about my legs and stomach, and a racer suit is tight and does not come with a flowy skirt that covers those stretch marks and cottage cheese. I wore it around the house the entire next day under my clothes just to get used to the feeling of it. Then, I went to my first practice. I lost count of how many times I apologized for being in the way as I shared the lane with five other adults. I lost my breath between every lap and wanted to give up so many times, but I would look over and see my kids and suddenly, the energy would come back and I would keep going. Before I knew it, it was time to compete.

Katelyn June Kaiser
Katelyn June Kaiser

The morning before the meet I reluctantly signed up and placed a check in the “100 Breaststroke.” Hours later, I was standing in the baby pool area with ticket in hand, awkwardly listening to people have their conversations while I obsessed over the “what ifs?” and how I was going to look bent over before diving into the pool. We walked to our designated lanes and I watched the groups before me swim. I listed to the crowd and noticed other adults who were competing that did not have perfect bodies and were not as fast as the others. What I did not see was people snickering and I did not hear anyone saying anything negative. I heard cheering. I saw people patting each other on the back, giving high fives, and smiles on so many faces- even when it came to the last swimmer to finish.

Now, it was my turn. Take your place, take your mark, listen for the sound and dive in. The water felt incredible as it surrounded me. I was already in last place, but I didn’t care. I thought about quitting, but my kids were right there. My daughter, who is my rockstar and cheerleader, and my son who was already so worried about not making it without stopping himself. I was not going to give up on their watch. I made it. And on one side of me was my mom, sister, and Aiden’s grandparents smiling. The other side was my kids and husband jumping and clapping. I high fived a few people and received some pats on the back.

I swam 100 meters (4 laps). It was the first time I swam competitively since I was 16 and shamed and embarrassed by my team members for being fat and slow. I overcame my issues with that and got back in the water after years of telling that voice in my head “no” and “wait until you are skinny.” I am 33 and bigger than I have ever been... even pregnant. I still got in that water in front of all of those people and in a bathing suit that doesn’t look like a dress... and I didn’t die. I feel freaking amazing!

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