Ever since I taught myself how to swim I’ve always prided myself on my talent. Well, maybe talent is to strong a world. More like my ability to survive any potential drowning misadventures I may encounter. That is something that was put to the test once and provoked a lesson I quickly learned.

My family has never been the kind to take yearly vacations, even when we had the money to do so. We occasionally went to the zoo or Sea World, but driving somewhere and having an extended stay of fun was not our typical MO. Which is why–when I was nine–I was excited by the news that we’d be vacationing at the beach. Location: South Carolina.

The trip took several hours on account of the fact that we lived in Augusta, GA. But we did get there. We scored a room that was on the side of the hotel and you could see the water if you stepped out onto the balcony and leaned over the railing. My brother and I did just that much to our mother’s displeasure. I brushed off her concerns. Even then I understood she had a fear of heights and felt that this unduly influenced her desire. Or maybe not. Looking back at it with hindsight–twenty stories is a long way down.

We spent the entire day either in the ocean, or the interior pools. We had to leave mid afternoon of the next day which is why–at the crack of dawn of that morning–we went back out to the water. Now, I wasn’t, nor do I think I’ll ever be a sea expert. But even I had a basic understanding of high and low tide and how you needed to be careful with those. I even knew that this even occurred in the morning. Was I careful? Did I stay in the shallows until a sufficient amount of daylight had expired? Nope. I swam heedless of my surrounding and it nearly cost me.

My first clue that something was wrong was when my dad yelled at me to get out of the water. I looked around and realized that I was a long way from shore. A very long way. The tide had been pulling me out and I hadn’t even recognized it.

I did as my dad instructed and swam to shore, or tried to. The current was a stubborn thing and my progress was slow. Salty water splashing into my eyes and my slight frame getting bombarded by waves didn’t help matters either. Eventually, I came up with a solution. Rather than swim straight to shore I swam diagonally. It worked and I made it to shore a lot faster and with far less effort than my previous method to get to safety. Suffice to say, I called it a day and learned a valuable lesson.

Unless I wanted to imitate a scene from Jaws, I’d better mind the tide.

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Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.

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