Many, many years ago, when I was in my late teens, my friends and I swam out to a dock on a lake. Everyone was diving off and I just sat and watched. I hadn’t dove before that night. And I was pretty scared to do it. Dumb, right? My friends were demonstrating proper positioning, giving me pep talks, and showing me just how easy it was. It wasn’t until everyone just gave up and started swimming back to shore that I jumped in after teetering on the edge for a while. I pulled off a pretty unimpressive belly flop, but hit the water head first nonetheless, and one of my girlfriends and I dubbed it, “the summer I learned to dive.” To this day I suck at diving, but manage to do it at least once a summer.

Credit:  Australian National Maritime Museum via Flickr Commons

Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum via Flickr Commons

Fast forward many, many years later and I still consider myself a big chicken. I unnecessarily worry sometimes about things. I over-apologize. I apologize for things I don’t need to apologize for, things that aren’t even my fault. I get nervous in front if people sometimes. I worry about what people think of me. I carry around guilt and self-doubt for no good flipping reason. When I meet chatty, nervous, over-sharers, I immediately breathe a sigh of relief that I have found someone like me.

I was getting ready to go to a picnic with my husband recently and I wasn’t going to know most of the people there. It was a hot day and I knew most of the girls were going to be all put together and looking cute. And of course I immediately hated all of my clothes. Additionally, I have a sizable tattoo on my leg and felt like people might judge me. I know, I know. I’m not that important, but bear with me. Being my husband’s work friends, I asked if he would be embarrassed by it. I know, I know. So lame of me. He looked at me and after 10 years of having to listen to me get ready and waffle over what to wear, he said: “Tara. Half of your life is over. Who cares what anyone else thinks?” OH MY GOD. Reva-fucking-lation. Are there people out there who really, truly, feel like this? I want this. I want to chew this up and eat it and breathe it and make it part of my being. I want my daughter, who I have watched hang back from the crowd, nervous and shy and doubtful of herself, to believe this too. To know this is a thing.

And so, as I rapidly approach my 40th birthday this year, I am vowing to practice this principle. To care less what people may think about me. To wake up to the fact that most people aren’t thinking anything and that it’s much more likely that I’m just falling prey to my own lousy self-talk. To put the focus where it belongs and breathe in peace. To stop apologizing when there’s nothing to be sorry for. To try something new and to keep practicing the technique.

More than 20 years later, this will be the summer I relearn to dive.