Last summer, we paid for our middle son to take swim lessons. For the second time.
The first time through, we could tell that it was really more about making him comfortable in the water and not so much actually swimming confidently on his own. He was only four at the time, so we felt it was still worth it knowing that we could enjoy family outings to the pool. This past summer, we expected to see real results. Not back flips off a diving board, but enough progression that we could trust him in the water without any sort of flotation device. It’s difficult to constantly watch three kids at the pool with two parents!
Things started off a little slow, but by the end of the lessons, he was happy and confident that he could push off the sides or steps and swim a good distance out into the pool. We liked his teacher so much that she even started babysitting for us on occasion. He officially graduated from floaties and was having fun with his friends.
Now, fast forward to this summer. The first time that we decided to head back to the pool, he said that he had completely forgotten how to swim. We reminded him that he KNEW how but that it might take a little practice for him to feel comfortable again. We encouraged him by talking about all the progress he had made last year and how proud he was of himself when he could swim without holding onto anybody else. It took about 30 minutes of gradually getting braver and braver (with the occasional figurative push from his dad to try swimming farther and farther) before he had a huge grin on his face.
The next trip to the pool was the same thing all over again. He wanted to hold onto a pool noodle and didn’t want to venture far from the steps. Until we made him try something challenging, he was content to just hang back and not really experience swimming. I mentioned to a friend of ours that I hope this won’t be a lifelong struggle for Rhys: him not feeling confident that he can do something until he is already doing it. And my friend wisely replied, “Isn’t it pretty much that way for everybody?”
And it hit me: I am in the middle of that exact scenario.
I changed jobs a few months ago. I left a job where I felt very confident in my abilities. I had a great mentor who empowered me to make decisions and work on challenging issues. I had enough years of experience that I could answer the majority of questions and handle most situations on my own. I enjoyed being a problem solver for other people and felt appreciated when my hard work was recognized.
However, my new position offered me a chance to learn a whole new branch of the field that I am working in. I was honest with my new employer about the growth opportunities that I was looking forward to. But what I am painfully learning now is that even if you are an intelligent, hardworking person, there is never an easy way to start back at the beginning. You feel like an idiot some days. You forget that you were once very capable and that you certainly can be again one day.
You are going to forget that you know how to swim.
In the same way as my son, I am going to need reminders now and then that I have learned to do hard things before. It is fine to need a little assistance in the beginning. When you start a new chapter—whether it is a new job or a new eating plan or a new family budget, etc.—it can feel like you are in over your head pretty quickly. When I shared my discomfort with a few close friends, they reminded me that it is understandable to be frustrated when you are used to being in control. They acknowledged that my feelings were valid while reminding me that I am fully capable of learning and adapting to any circumstance.
I must be willing to put in the work to become better every day. I must be willing to accept that I won’t know all the answers immediately. I must be willing to say, “I don’t know, but I will get you the answer to that as soon as I can.” And little by little, I will get into my rhythm again. My colleagues who saw potential in me in the first place will be glad they chose someone who was tenacious enough to keep going. I will settle in to this new role and find my way forward. I may not realize that I am capable of doing the hard stuff until I am already doing it.