A New Beginning–Change

Today, I went to the Grinnell College swimming pool for the first time.

It was 8:20PM, 40 minutes before closing time. I walked from my dorm to the Bear Athletics Center wearing my sweatshirt, sweatpants, and flip flops, gritting my teeth as the cold air pierced my face. I changed into my swimsuit and walked towards the swimming pool.

As I got closer to the glass doors to the pool, I realized there was nobody there. The pool was absolutely empty—the water was smooth, no ripples. I peered in once more, just to make sure—nobody was there.

I started fidgeting in the hallway that connected the locker rooms and the swimming pool.

It’s right before closing time, maybe it’s weird to come to the swimming pool this late.

I don’t want to go in and swim alone. 

I mean, nobody’s here. I should just leave and come back tomorrow morning or something.

I looked down at myself, fully dressed in my black speedo swimsuit, hat and goggles in hand. Then I looked at the glass door between myself and the swimming pool.

It’s not too late to turn back. 

To most people, my hesitation to go into the empty pool probably seems absurd. But having been brought up in a very collective society, the idea of if-nobody’s-doing-it-don’t-do-it has been embedded into my mind—and something as small as going into an empty pool is subject to that way of thinking.

But Grinnell is different. Everyone is different. People have unique hair colors, different passions, original ideas—and that’s what makes it great. I’ve only been here two months and I can already tell that “not being like the others” is not frowned upon like it is in Japan. And I guess in the two months I’ve been here, Grinnell has rubbed off on me.

Because I decided to go swim in the empty swimming pool.

The Me-before-Grinnell would have turned back and gone home.

But I didn’t.

There is a quote in Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Grinnell College is already changing me—one swimming session at a time. And I hope after four years here, I can go back to where I came from and have changed enough to see the world differently.

If you’re willing to come on this journey with me, please keep reading our blog posts.