I started lifeguarding the summer before my senior year of high school at a local YMCA. I went to one school all of my life, so this was the first time that I was forced to make friends since pre-school. I always loved swimming, but more I loved the pool deck where I made a new best friend, met my first boyfriend, and another boy —but only in passing— who would later become my current boyfriend.
Us forty-some lifeguards morphed into a giant family. That was the summer that I really talked to boys for the first time. And for another first time in my life, I felt sexy. But I can’t say it was all because of that red swimsuit. It was confidence —the confidence to flirt with boys, to deal with angry patrons, and to protect every person in and around my waters.
But Texas summers are brutal, and it isn’t newfound confidence that gets you through the day to day. It was people watching. I love to watch people. How parents choose to discipline their child, how a kid can come up with the most creative games in the water without a single toy, how one sibling would tell another to watch them do an underwater trick, and how a father would play with his child. It was all so grand, all so happy.
My last couple of years of college were not so great when I was forced to learn about the people of my generation. I told my mother that I no longer enjoyed my major, which was Communication. Why, my mom asked. And I replied: Because I have fallen out of love with people. It was a wave of depression that I had not yet experienced. The bubble of justice, true curiosity, genuineness, and the yearn to do good that I learned from my first alma mater had vanished when I entered the realm of college. I did not want to live in the real world. But then I watched, carefully.
As of May 2016, I have a college degree, and I am still a lifeguard, but I am not just a lifeguard. I am somebody who has the ability to let a mother exit the pool with a happy and breathing child. I am somebody who has the ability to prevent the very worst, and I will continue to do so. Tomorrow, I may get the phone call that my job application has landed me an interview for my potential career. But today, I am falling back in love with people. I am exactly where I need to be at the moment.
This article was written May 2016.
ALL THE FEELS