Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Sink Or Swim (MY Eng #20)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden' and 'the devil is in the details'.

What's the best way to test whether you're good (or bad) in something? Simple, really. Just take the plunge. Dive into the deep end of the ocean.

Too scared? Sure, it's normal to have butterflies in the stomach or suffer from stage fright (two idioms in one!) when trying something out for the very first time. Need more preparation? Sure, you need to take some time doing some homework, research or training before even attempting some bold daredevil stunt.

But often times, we dally and delay too much. We spend way too much time obsessing over the finest details, and stressing over every single scenario where things can go wrong. Fear holds us back from even taking the leap. In the end, we shy away altogether from the challenge, and left thinking over for years after on the 'what ifs' and 'how life could have turned out differently'.

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But why live in fear and regret for the rest of your life? As a popular sportswear brand succinctly puts it: JUST DO IT! If not now, then when? If not you, then who? Just take the jump already. Sink or swim!

As I've said one too many times before, life is about pushing your limits. Don't be afraid of failure. So what if you fail? As a romantic saying goes: it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. That advice should extend to live as a whole. It's better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all.

Opportunities come and go, in a blink of an eye. A big part of striking gold comes being at the right place at the right time. So it's down to luck? Partly, yes. But most of us get lucky on a constant basis. What seperates success and failure is the courage to capitalise on our strokes of luck. To make the right move, whenever we find ourselves at the right place at the right time.

Of course, rejection is a terrible feeling, in love and in life. We start to question our ability, purpose, and even self-worth. Rejection can easily spiral into depression. The worst part of swimming is actually sinking.

* * *

But we're not alone. Lifeguards are everywhere. Even as we sink to the murky depths, a hand will reach out to save us from drowning.

Let's be honest. We're afraid of taking the plunge especially when there are friends and onlookers around because of the fear of embarrassment, more than anything else. It's not so much a matter of life and death, but pride and prejudice. We're afraid of people outwardly or inwardly laughing at our pathetic attempts to stay afloat.

You can have as many practice sessions with your inner circle of friends. You can prepare for months in private. But eventually, you'll need to summon the courage to brave the challenge, in full view of public scrutiny. That's where the true test lies - when the stakes and pressure are highest.

Some of us swim like a fish, whilst some sink like a rock. Regardless, hitting the water is the only way to find out whether we're cut out for swimming.

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