The Power of Water – Honorable Mention, 9th Annual Essay Contest

By Mary Wu

the power of water - 2011 essay

My father once told me, “The Chinese believe that the strongest substance in the world is water. Water appears innocent, but it’s the only substance that can transform into another product, depending on its environment. When frozen, water turns into ice. When melted, water turns into liquid. Water has the power to destroy an entire population with tsunamis. Water has the power to turn into ice storms that can kill. We can’t live without water. Water has a strength that no one could ever guess.”

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of and fascinated by swimming and water. When I dipped my feet into the cool water for the first time and my curious reflection stared back at me, I knew I had to swim. My older sister was an avid swimmer who easily flipped and turned in the water gracefully. I watched her with envy, wishing that I could swim, but my greatest wish was for a different life. All I had known since I was 3 years old was my chronic kidney failure, which revolved around dialysis, uncontrollable bladder issues, multiple procedures, hospitals, doctors, needles, nurses, and medicine. I was blessed to receive two kidney transplants, at age 6 and then at 12, but the health experiences never ended. I thought, “If only there were another world free from anything related to my health.” That world was water.

I was 8 years old when I first tried to swim. I wore an inflatable lifesaver in the shape of a swan. My sister held my hand when I stopped into the water for the first time. The cold water numbed my body with excitement at what would happen next and made me forget anything health related. My sister tried to teach me to kick and hold my breath. She took the lifesaver off me when I told her confidently that I could swim without it, but I started to sink. As much as I flailed my arms or tried to thrash my legs to kick, the power of the water and the chlorine attacked me. My sister grabbed me. I surfaced to catch my breath. My parents yelled at her, “Her legs aren’t strong enough to kick or swim yet!”

Then, when I was either 10 or 11, I was invited to pool parties by a couple of my classmates. Those parties ended in disaster when I nearly drowned. My legs were still unexplainably weak, and I couldn’t kick. I was frustrated: “How come everyone else can swim and kick and I can’t?” Swimming and the water were these forces that I desired to face and overcome. If I could swim, I could turn anything that seemed impossible to possible.

When I was in my teens, I became close friends with a girl who was visually and hearing impaired. She was absolutely in love with swimming. Her impairments didn’t stop her from plunging into the water from the diving board and doing front and back flips without goggles. I was mesmerized by her aquatic abilities. If she could swim, then so could I.

In the summers, she invited me to the swim club she belonged to so she could teach me how to swim. She taught me to lift my legs and kick in a fluid motion. We dunked our heads together under the water to hold our breath. She showed me how to slice my arms in and out of the water. Under the water was a whole other world of bubbles and blueness that I wanted to stay in forever. I understood why my friend and my sister loved swimming so much because water brought you to this magical place. The first time I swam a lap, kicking my legs and slicing my arms methodically, I squealed with joy and this overwhelming feeling of freedom filled me.

Swimming is still more than just a hobby to me, and I simply have to do it at least 3 or 4 times a week. Swimming keeps my mind, body, spirit, and soul balanced and clear. When I’m in the water, I forget about my health because I’m comforted, relaxed, and stronger than I could ever be and then empowered enough to overcome anything with my health when I’m outside of the water. When I’m in the water, I hear my father say how powerful water is, and I believe that I am water.