Swimming Without Floaties


Rian Ratnavale

Rian Ratnavale

I vividly remember my dad trying to teach me to swim when I was 5 years old without much success. Although I could hold my breath for a long time, I wouldn’t get anywhere when I tried to swim without floaties. I cried to my dad, telling him “I could never swim without help” because I wasn’t confident in my arms being strong enough to pull me across our backyard pool.

This year, I planned to take another plunge into the water and go somewhere that I have never been before: Homecoming Formal. In my sophomore year, I was too scared to go. Admittedly, I was terrified at the prospect of taking a girl to homecoming. What would I wear? Would a girl actually have fun with me or just fake it to pass face? Would I look stupid on the dance floor? Would anyone even say yes to me? While I really wanted to go to formal, I couldn’t overcome my insecurities, and I stayed at home.

After seeing all of my friends having a ton of fun at formal last year, I immediately regretted not going, and I promised them that I was definitely going to go to next year’s dance, have fun and not worry about what other people thought about me.

Before I knew it, I got an email from Prefect Council, auspiciously titled “Save the Date,” and within a day of that, I already had my ideal Homecoming Formal laid out: which friend I wanted to take, how I would ask her, you name it. I could already imagine myself happy, and having a good time at the dance.

I do realize that success doesn’t always come on the first try or on the first ask. Just like how my dad wasn’t able to teach me to swim the very first time, my first try at going to formal ended in disappointment, and another night at home for me this upcoming Saturday.

My ask didn’t work out, and after that it was hard for me to find another person to go with. Still, I don’t regret anything. Although I’d be lying if I said it won’t hurt me when I see and hear pictures and stories of my friends living it up on Saturday, I’m glad that at the very least I tried my best to go the way I wanted to, and for one moment, I wasn’t scared about whether anyone was judging me or not.

I’m going to try again next year, and I know it won’t end in the same disappointment, because I won’t let it. As students, as friends, as people, we have to have confidence.

Yes, there are going to be risks; she’s not always going to say yes, and he’s not always going to serenade you with a big bouquet of red flowers or ask you to the dance with a big, elaborate proposal.

Still, we have to be confident that we can bounce back from disappointments like these, otherwise we won’t be able to enjoy the opportunities we get at Harvard-Westlake. It’s better to try with confidence and fail than to not ask at all because at least by trying we are giving ourselves hope for that next dance. Looking back, I guess I put too much stock into going to formal this year, but I’m happy that I got to mature from this experience.

In terms of next year, I think I’m almost there. I have jumped into the water, and now, floaties are useless to me; I’m confident enough to stay afloat without them. It is time for me to swim.