I once went through a job interview where we applicants were required to tread water in the deep end of a pool for 20 minutes, while fully clothed. For most ‘swimmers,’ that wasn’t a big deal. If you weren’t much of a swimmer, but your muscles were in shape, you could ‘gut’ your way through it with determination and frantic paddling. Out of the group, only a few were dragged from the pool like wet towels. (Treading Gloomy Waters)
Next, we were left in the pool and told to grasp our hands behind our backs and tread water again. If your hands slipped, or you drowned, you were hauled out of the pool and told to ‘go home.’ Treading water without use of your arms and hands is a tricky matter, entirely. Most of the applicants were in excellent shape; their muscle mass to fat ratio was lopsided. The natural buoyancy level of athletically inclined people is about 4 feet under water, so floating on your back is not an option. Feverishly kicking your feet for 20 minutes was also not a practical technique.
But, like most things in life, once you figure out the ‘golden path,’ it gets easier. The trick to treading water without the use of your hands is to not tread water, but sink. Sinking to the bottom of a pool when your fully clothed in a drenched uniform and boots, happens quickly. But once there, you only need to hang out until you are out of breadth. Then jump, or kick your way, to the surface to get another lungful of air, and sink. Repeat this process for 20 minutes, and you’ve achieved your goal.
This technique is not natural, it’s not intuitive, but it works. To survive, you have to remain in control of your emotions, your breathing, and all of your actions. An intense focus on the task is vital. While at the bottom of the pool, you can see the light up above and know your going to be there again, but only for a few seconds before descending back to the dark, cold bottom where it’s just you and your fears.
But with this technique, every time you surface, you’ve overcome your temptation to lose self-control; and you’re a little closer to your goal. Lose your focus, suck in air at the wrong time and panic will set in. You’ll be pulled from the pool and told to ‘go home.’ But, if you retain your focus of purpose and control your fears, you can emerge from the pool and move on to the next stage of the interview, all while in a ‘Zen-like’ state of mind. That day our mixture of ‘Zen-like’ trances and ‘Go Home’ recipients was about half and half.
Solving problems from the Bottom of the Pool
This past three months in Big Lake have felt like being thrown into the deep end of a pool and treading water with my hands tied behind my back. Panic and failure was not an option; the stakes were too substantial. Failure, in my mind, was tantamount to the slow, degrading, and indignant death of a family member – literally.
There was no one else that was going to help, and my brother could not really assist in his own interests. Every day was filled with dark moments, sinking to the bottom while watching the light fade further away. But with a constant eye on the light and proper orientation, one could slowly bounce their way to the surface, and in the direction of more shallow waters. After three months of short gasps of breath, we’ve bounced to the shallower end of the pool.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to get out of the pool and move on to a more desirable stage of existence, but at least the waters are shallow enough to breath easier, and the ground beneath is stationary enough for him to live in his stable (relatively) damp future. This is what success looks like; I’ll take it.
Happier days are here again! And now, it’s time to return to Austria to resume our ‘Year in Vorarlberg’ adventure. My Schengen Zone banishment is about to run out and it’s time to start the in-country clock for another three month Euro adventure with Ursula and the cats.
I’ve been looking forward to this since I left. It’s time to make up for lost time with them.
- Interested in the ‘Treading Gloomy Waters’ Blog?, Link here to our Year in Vorarlberg Series
- See our ‘Best of Photos’ from this a adventure and from the Rhein’s Lands
- Care to comment on the Blog or Adventure? Jot down your comments in the form below – thanks