While posing with a fake smile in front of a seated audience (complete with friends and family), before a panel of trained judges (with clipboards), with your hair cemented into a tight bun by gobs of gelatin, gaudy make-up covering your face, a clip clamping your nose shut thereby forcing you to pant out of your dry mouth, wearing nothing more than a tight sequenced bathing suit- it is hard to feel confident.
Waiting for the routine to start with a pounding heart, waiting eagerly for that first note of the routine to chime in your pounding ears, waiting basically breathlessly and knowing that every single movement of the routine, its exacting execution and nun-like precision was to be critiqued by professionals, was introspective
To add to this already highly uncomfortable predicament, it gets worse- it’s not just your movements and grace alone, you have to coordinate with 7 other girls. Movements must be executed at the same time and in a precise manner without hesitation, with the ease of an astronaut- while actually blindly struggling to look traverse a large body of water.
Performing a synchronized swimming routine was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Not only was I categorically judged and video recorded while trying to essentially dance in water- a scenario where your ears, nose, and eyes are rendered useless by the dominating assault of the water- I was competing against teams that were far, away, and utterly beyond above my amateur skill level. Our team was one of the most inexperienced (hence worst) in the competitions, but still we walked tall and danced our hearts out in cold, deep water.
It’s impossible to stand on pool deck, confident in what is to come when you know your skill level is sub-par, that anything but the worst marks would grant a smile from the coach’s face. It would be a whole day of waiting to perform for a few minutes, watching the success, grace, and pointed movements of the other teams before that cold plunge into the deep pool before stern stares.
Maybe that is why being interviewed on live television wasn’t that scary. At least I didn’t have to look like a clown in a bathing suit pretending to be a mermaid while also trying to dance. I suppose I am embracing my new-found penguin half, and its wobbled dance.