The student news site of Rye High School in Rye, New York

The Best Thing I Learned This Year

June 14, 2019

The group shot from my lifeguarding course.

The group shot from my lifeguarding course.

When Mr. Frabizzio asked our Web Journalism class, “What was the best thing you learned this year?” I’ll admit, I had no idea what to write about. The first thing I did was jot down a list of things I had done from the start of junior year to now. Looking at the list, I asked myself what each of these things has taught me, and my mind came up completely blank. But one of the things that stuck out to me was something I had learned about myself.

I have spent most of my life telling myself that I can’t be a doctor, nurse, or EMT, but I love science, particularly biology. Part of the reason I have also thought I can’t be a doctor is because I feel light-headed at the sight of my own blood, and I almost passed out during the heart dissection freshman year. Long story short, the heart squirted on me, and then next thing I know I’m in a wheel chair headed to the nurse’s office.

Despite these instances, my first epiphany that maybe I could go into the medical field occurred while doing a Red Cross Lifeguarding course. The head lifeguard and supervisor of the course, let’s call her Danielle, was probably the most intimidating person I have ever encountered. Adamant that I had walked in late on the first day of class (it was 11:26 and the class started at 11:30), she immediately started barking out orders like a drill sergeant, demanding that we properly wrap each other’s wrists in bandages. Every kid in the room (there were 24 of us) pretended to know what he or she was doing as Danielle scrutinized each wrap with a gaze so sharp it could kill.

“That’s wrong,” she snapped.

“Do it again.”

I rewrapped my partner’s arm three times before I finally made it out, but at least I hadn’t been the last one.

Heading back to the locker room, I thought about how if I hadn’t been confident about my lifeguarding abilities before, then I was feeling even less confident now. One girl, we’ll call her Madison, delved into how her sister had done the course before. The other girls and I listened in awe as Madison described the most physically grueling lifeguard saves we would need to perfect in order to pass the class.

“[Danielle] is crazy,” she added, eyes wide.

The first thing we learned after walking onto the pool deck was how to hold the lifeguard tube. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, unfortunately, I forgot to hold onto to the tow line, which meant everyone would have to repeat the “skill” of picking up a tube at least five more times until Danielle decided we were competent enough to move on. And I was just thinking, well that was really embarrassing, and now Danielle thinks I’m really stupid, and this is already going really terribly.

We were then divided into two groups, the group that didn’t know much about lifeguarding, and the group that knew even less than the group that didn’t know much about lifeguarding. I was in the latter, which meant I would be stuck with Danielle. Great. Here’s where I was beginning to question my life choices.  What I am even doing here? Why did I ever think I was capable of saving someone’s life? It was about 12:00pm on a Saturday morning in March, and I was having an existential crisis.

For whatever reason that I can’t remember (and even if I could I still wouldn’t know why), Danielle started taking a liking to me. One boy, we’ll call him Johnny, was clearly her favorite, but I was probably her second favorite. I was being picked for every demonstration, and I was nailing all the saves, and I was put into the group with boys going first to “show the girls how it’s done.” And Danielle was yelling at all the other girls except me for doing the saves wrong, which was probably only due to the fact that they had to save boys who were all at least 6 foot 2 and close to 200 pounds. But I was only saving the girls, so I was starting to think, hey, maybe this lifeguarding thing isn’t so bad. Maybe I can actually do this.

Flash forward to Day 2 of the course one week later: CPR day. I was feeling maybe a bit more confident than when I had first walked into the course the previous week. We were then divided into groups where we would each have to three different skills: CPR for an adult, CPR for a child, and CPR for an infant.

It was my turn to do CPR on an infant. All eyes were on me in my group. I remembered the steps, checked the scene, tapped for a response, and then attempted to open the airway by tilting the dummy’s head back—to my dismay, it was stuck. I pretended to take its pulse and check for breathing anyway when Danielle stopped me abruptly and told me I needed to tilt its head farther back. Clutching the plastic head in my heads, I jerked the head back a little too sharply. The head popped off with a snap, and I found myself in the middle of a group of people with the plastic head of a baby in my hands. Danielle was shooting daggers at me with her eyes.

“Must have been loose,” I laughed nervously. I made a pathetic attempt to screw the head back in, but before I could click into place Danielle snatched it from me impatiently and fastened it back in. My group just stood there in awe, probably suffering from second-hand embarrassment from my heinous mistake. I thought I was going to die of humiliation.

And then it hit me: I was going to pass this course whether Danielle liked me or not. During this course, for the first time, I felt confident in my ability to help someone in an emergency.

What that lifeguarding class taught me is that attitude shapes reality. Because I used tell myself that I couldn’t be a doctor, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy (a.k.a. the heart dissection incident).

But I’ve realized that in order for people to accomplish what they want in life, they need to let go of their subconscious beliefs about themselves and recognize that, more often than not, the only thing standing in the way of their dreams is their own self-doubt. So if something is calling you to be a lifeguard, or a doctor, (or a singer, or pilot, or professional football player), then go ahead and do it!

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