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Drown or Swim?

To the memory of Bryony Cawley

There I was – a 24 years old recent graduate in Egypt. I had arrived in Cairo quite spontaneously: tired of the routine back home and willing to change something. At first, everything was shining: a new country, a totally different culture and food, palm-trees greeting me on every corner; I thought I was in a paradise when not even two months passed, and I had quit two jobs realizing that none of them was something that I liked doing. I was confused about how to go on about my future.

After days of misery looking for jobs and sending CVs, I was introduced to a British friend who offered me something that I would have never dared to think of. “Why don’t you teach English?” she asked me, herself being an English Teacher. I found the idea insane. I was not a native speaker like her. How would I just go there and teach? “It is easy,” she kept telling me and arranged a job interview with the manager of the centre where she was working.

In the interview, I realized that even managers could hardly speak English, so without checking my CV, I got the job immediately. It did not fade away my fear though – it was still me who had to go out there and teach. Moreover, the centre wanted me to prepare the students for the IELTS and TOEFL exams which I had not passed myself.

“I can’t do this!” I complained to Bryony. “How am I supposed to teach this?”

Bryony did not allow me to pity myself. She simply said: “Well, it’s either you drown or you swim.”

At first, I did not like to hear that. I thought it was easy for her to tell me something like that. At the same time, I felt a lot of power and encouragement in her statement. It made me decide distinctly: I will swim, and I will swim well. I will work hard, I will prepare my classes, and I will teach them English.

That’s what I did.

Sometimes we feel weak in front of challenges, because we are afraid to fail. I did fail many times. I did not know one or another word or could not explain one or another English grammar rule. Yet I continued swimming and continued believing in myself. Moreover, I was enjoying my work.

Bryony is no longer among us, yet I keep remembering her valuable lesson each time when I am confronted with a challenge. This I how I kept swimming in India while teaching English to Indian kids born in the United States and speaking American English fluently. I kept swimming when after less than half a year living in Spain, I opened my meditation sessions in Spanish hardly being able to speak the language but willing to share my mission to the local people. I keep swimming every day, because this is the way to be – to swim through your life challenges, to learn to swim better and to do it happily while you are still able to.

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