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So this is what it feels like

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“This is a very positive influence, a time when your mind will be stimulated as never before. New ideas, new techniques and new approaches to life will continually come to you. Radical ideas that you would never have entertained before seem perfectly all right now, and you are able to use them positively.”


Sleep-deprived and trying not to drop any balls. And it’s only the start of September O_0

Went for my first appointment at HDB on Tuesday and have met with 3 renovation/design companies so far. Have also been spending a lot of time and late nights looking up ideas for interior design and furniture.

With 2 nights gone every week because of the coaching course, I’m barely finding time and energy to train at the pool. But I’ll do what I can.

Work just keeps on coming AND the pace is picking up.

But you know what? I haven’t felt overwhelmed, or scared (not yet, anyway). I do get a little worried and stressed — about finances and work, but I’m taking everything in my stride and approaching them in a fairly calm manner. In fact, it’s almost as if I welcome the challenges! Weird, huh?

So, I’m just looking forward to each new day. I’m feeling good about myself and my life. It’s a novel feeling, and I’m loving it :-)


Bedroom - White brick walls













Written by The Intimate Stranger

September 12th, 2014 at 1:02 am

When it rains, it pours.

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It looks like the year-end dive trip cum New Year celebrations is going to be really interesting, if not entertaining. We might have 3 (or 4) new additions to the party. Am crossing my fingers that G will come along. Otherwise, rooming arrangements might get a little awkward with The Little Primate — or Cock Block, as G calls him. Laugh. Yeah, Cock Block is the term alright. Mutter darkly. AND, especially after his ridiculous tantrum at a recent outing. BOYS. Roll eyes. Sigh.

Invitations were sent to the other 2 during a casual conversation about holiday plans. Since Uncle was particularly interested in the make-up of the group and how the lone male was related to me, I thought, hey, you know what, why don’t you and the Swede come along to help me out with the awkward situation eh? Plus, Uncle clarified that the Swede wasn’t attached afterall. The territorial Chinese chick who showed up at the pool several weeks ago was just an interested party.

Anyway, we’ll see. Checking on the availability of extra rooms now, and in case something else starts biting at my line again. Grin.

* * * * *


Have secured my housing loan from the bank and exercised my Option to Purchase. Am now gathering ideas for renovation and furnishings while waiting to meet (and evaluate) my first ID contractor next weekend, and to attend the first appointment with HDB in 3 weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, I’ve obtained my Lifesaving Award of Merit certification and my coaching course resumes in September with twice weekly sessions, ending November.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve not started serious training for the Masters swim in mid October. Oh well. It’s all for a good cause :-D

And oh yes, a dolphin (albeit a small one) has joined Club Ink ;-)

Changes are also afoot at work with yet another reorganisation, and this one will affect me somewhat. Waiting to receive more details at next week’s briefing but certainly, the workload will increase — hopefully, in a positive way.

So, the next 6 months will be crazy, and I’ll need to keep it all together!


Bedroom - Glass doors













Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 17th, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Taking flight

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“I’m walking away
From the troubles in my life
I’m walking away
Oh, to find a better day”

~ Craig David


I used to have a fear of crossing busy roads. The relentless onslaught of cars hurtling towards me was terrifying. And if I was crossing with company, I absolutely hated being left behind when I didn’t seize the ‘right’ moment to cross. Well, I’ve learnt that it’s fine to wait calmly at the side or middle of the road, and to watch the cars until I was sure about crossing. I’ve also learnt to cross the road more decisively. And if I was alone, I would use pedestrian crossings.

I don’t like being left behind very much, literally and figuratively. I have abandonment issues; or maybe the Arian in me simply hates to lose. Shrug. At some point, it was so bad that I even got stressed about missing out on checking off travel destinations or holidays with friends — it reminded me of how much I’ve fallen behind in the rat race, and life. And it doesn’t help when people remind you that you’ve fallen behind. (Just saying.)

Obviously, if I don’t want to be left behind, I’ve better catch up AND keep up, and I’ve to learn to do it on my own steam. But more importantly, I also need to believe in myself, that I’ve what it takes — probably the hardest part of all.

I also have to accept that sometimes I won’t be able to keep up, and that is fine. (Be kind to yourself.)

Finally, I learnt that I could set my own goals too. Hey, hey! MY game, MY rules, MY targets.

If I’m always waiting for someone else’s cue, I’ll be missing almost every ‘right’ moment.

If I don’t have my own goals, I’ll end up mindlessly following other people instead of pursuing my own happiness.

But goal-setting is not an easy task. For most of my life, I simply didn’t know what I wanted. I thought I had no dreams; perhaps I convinced myself so, resigned that my dreams would remain woolly sheep, and that people would disapprove of or ridicule what I wanted to do. Practically speaking, I also didn’t know how to plan and execute the process of achieving a goal. At the same time, I also had to be ready internally to meet the challenges ahead.

I keep reminding myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” – 6 important words that my therapist taught me to say to myself.

Post-midlife-crisis and thoroughly shaken to my core, I started swimming again to fill the spaces that had always punctuated my life, while I figured out what to do with myself. Through my new company’s social club, I also started looking for other sports to take up, organised outings with friends, and worked on filling up my diary and keeping ‘busy’. Work was just work and I entertained myself by pursuing interests outside the office.

Then I got into competitive swimming after the company’s annual meet last year and things started to move a lot faster (ha ha). Part of it had to do with spending so much time at the pool and on the sport itself that I had little left for anything else, and so life did feel quite rushed at times.

I enjoyed swimming as a teenager but I hadn’t expected the same, if not greater fervour the second time around. Pursuing this passion has helped me to re-examine, unlearn and learn many things about myself. It has also opened a door that has been closed for too long.

* * * * *


I was contemplating my life and the lack of a lifetime companion — particularly how every potential encounter always fell apart so quickly that it felt uncanny.

I thought about my daily routine of going back home, walking straight to my room and staying in that part of the house for most of the time. This room which holds all my belongings; this room which has become a symbol of my life; this room represents the stasis of my life. Whatever path or turn I’ve taken still brings me back to this room — alone — at the end of each day. This room is my ’50 Shades of Grey’ — sadly, the G-rated version.

I got it into my head sometime last year that to change my life — my destiny – I would have to stop returning to this barrenness lest I become the 51st Shade of Grey.

I had to get out.

Towards the end of last year, I quietly made a resolution that in 2014, I would move out. When the decision was made, I had somehow managed to build up just enough savings to finance the cash outlay of getting my own place; the housing market had started to slow down; and I was mentally ready and prepared for this major life event.

My efforts were sporadic at best throughout the first half of 2014 but things really picked up speed (an understatement, ha ha) early this month, triggered by a friend’s concern that I hadn’t made much progress on my resolution. The past few weeks moved so fast that I didn’t realise that it’s still July.

As I already had some ideas about where I would like to live, I got onto a popular property portal to check availability. I drew up a shortlist of preferred estates and blocks, and tabulated details and prices. Another friend provided his housing agent’s contact and I texted the latter the next day.

The agent promptly got me to apply for an In-Principle Approval from one of the banks to ascertain how much I could borrow. A week later, I got to view the first batch of 4 units in Estate A on a Thursday night. I was pleasantly surprised that they were all corner units (I was prepared to stay in a corridor unit) on higher floors (a stated preference) and a couple were bigger than the standard 3-room and hence quite spacious. I didn’t know what to expect as these were resale HDB flats which had been lived in for about 30 years. But during the actual viewing, I was relaxed and I could even see myself living in a couple of the units.

The BFF came along for the second viewing on Saturday afternoon which included 2 more flats in Estate A. There was also a repeat viewing of a shortlisted unit (A1) from Thursday so I could see it in daylight and get a second opinion. I shortlisted another flat (A2) from this trip — it was similar in size and layout to A1, slightly farther (but easily manageable) from my desired amenities, but on a lower floor and facing shops. On the plus side, A2 and the neighbourhood felt ‘brighter’ and more breezy, and there was a more positive vibe overall. It was also slightly cheaper (negligible when you spread it across the years) and the kitchen ceiling looked less dodgy — the other place had noticeable deformities and flakings due to spalling concrete.

The next morning, I checked out both neighbourhoods on my own, and looked out for shops, residents, estate maintenance and noise level (particularly for the lower floor A2). I also wanted to ascertain how I ‘felt’ about each place.

A third viewing was arranged the following Monday night for 2 units in Estate S and 1 in Estate B. They were all corridor units on the second or third floor, smaller and slightly more expensive. None of them appealed to me though I tried considering the Estate B place since it was my first choice.

So in a week, I had viewed 9 units. I deliberated if I should continue to view more houses and to look outside my initial shopping list (because you never know what you might be fine with, or otherwise) — I liked the 2 flats in Estate A; I could see myself living in either place; I was comfortable with the asking prices and seriously contemplating an offer on either one. Admittedly, 9 is a small pool to choose from and a week is a short time. But how many and how long would be enough? More buyers are also returning to the market and there are only that many corner units in each block which are for sale AND satisfy my shopping list.

Still, I held back from making a decision — not wanting to be told later, AFTER I had exercised the Option to Purchase, that I had been hasty or that there were better flats or that the price was not low enough, and being plagued by those nagging thoughts in my own head. Besides, I wasn’t in a rush and could wait a few months.

Then it came up during a talk with the BFF that I was withholding making a decision for the wrong reasons — not so much that I wasn’t certain about my choice, but because I didn’t trust myself and cared too much for what others thought.

Instead of taking personal responsibility for the purchase of a house that ultimately *I* would be living in, I was choosing to let other people who would NOT be living in the house ‘decide’ for me.

And so it was that I contacted the agent on Tuesday morning to make an offer for A2. That same evening, I went down for a repeat viewing, wrote a cheque for the $1000 deposit and left the negotiation to the 2 housing agents representing each side. The agreed price turned out to be between my negotiable offer price and final offer price, which was a pleasant surprise even though it was just an additional savings of $3000. And then I laughed when I saw the purchase price — it was my month and year of birth :-)

On hindsight, it was a good call to make my quiet resolution known to my social circle. A few people actually checked in on me regularly. And others were happy and ready to help in various ways. It felt so good to be able to talk openly about my plans and not be held back by what anyone would think. Talking about getting my own place made it REAL for me, and no longer just a dream.

Of course there’s since been several surprised comments that I made my decision within a week. All I did was smile and said “I liked the place.” And then the conversation would move on without missing a beat. Heh.

As fast as things moved in the last few weeks, it helped that I have been thinking seriously about moving out for more than a year, and I did do a little research on and off. But more importantly, I never felt I was rushing into a decision. Yes, things moved and are still moving very quickly, but I generally feel relaxed about the whole thing and the stress is mostly the good kind of happy-stress. Call it a gut feel — everything feels like it was meant to be. 

This is the right moment, and I’m crossing the road — with a grin on my face ;-)

* * * * *


The morning after, I was enduring a delayed and jerky train ride when The Mad Scientist texted that The Professor wanted to “get to know the sporty and capable-looking woman at the outreach event better”.

That didn’t deliver a jolt though I was taken aback at the odd timing. My immediate response was that “he’s married” which The Mad Scientist promptly and firmly corrected. (I must have read the news article wrongly. Shrug.)

I wasn’t surprised about The Enquiry itself because I remembered the event held earlier in the month. In fact, it was just a day after I resolved to get off my procrastinating ass and work on getting out of my parents’ place. I had seen The Professor around a number of times at work events but had never made an effort to interact with him (because not-cute-lah and I assumed he had to be married) until the outreach. When he joined our table during the breaks to chat with the scientists, I listened and joined in occasionally. Notwithstanding my initial impressions, I had always been a little curious about him. Besides, he didn’t have any airs about him and seemed like a nice person. I reckon I made an impression with my little suggestion when he was explaining why the sun always rose in the east even in space. I remember teasing him later in the day during the networking dinner and the expression on his face as he moved eagerly towards me — and I quickly broke contact and walked away BECAUSE I really thought he was married. (Sigh, dumbo.)


We’ll see :-)

* * * * *


I stopped seeing The Numbers some time after I realised there was no monster under my bed waiting to jump out at me. Interestingly, they went away around the time just before I entered my Third Pinnacle.

I hadn’t expected to see The Numbers again.

“This is the time to step into your empowerment.”

How apt.
















Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 31st, 2014 at 3:33 am

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

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“You should have moved out long ago :-)”


OF COURSE I should have.

But I didn’t, for various reasons — reasons that no longer matter.

And you know what? I resent the pressure. I resent it. And I resent that I was made to ended up feeling bad about myself — being reminded again and again that I had ‘fallen behind’ the pack, and that I was inadequate. It was not a good feeling, I can tell you that.

The pressure is still there. Perhaps lesser. Perhaps not. The difference now, is that I deal with it differently.

People can say what they want. People will say what they want.

But it’s MY LIFE, and I can, and I shall, live it as I can and as I shall.

So things didn’t happen Long Ago — because. Of course Long Ago could have happened very differently. But the reasons no longer matter. Whether they were Good Reasons or Bad Reasons or Silly Excuses is not the point.

The point is, I accept that Long Ago happened. And I will not allow The Past to hold me back.


“I don’t think I would have known how to cope being on my own then. But the last few years, some things have changed for me, and in me. And the idea of moving out is less scary now.”


Well, some of the things which held me back Long Ago are still an issue today. But like I said, I deal with some things differently now. Interestingly, my friend quickly brought up the fact that going into competitive sports in the past year has changed things for me. I agree very much, though obviously the ‘system shock’ a few years ago kick-started everything. Heh. But more another time, on how swimming has helped me to fight for what I want and to build mental resilience.

I decided around the start of the year that I would get my own place and move out in 2014. I was distracted the first half of the year but I’m making an effort to get back on track — I’ve contacted a housing agent and am in the process of determining my loan eligibility. And I’ve gotten my friends in on the excitement — it’s like A Party! Laugh.

But really, all that matters now is that I’m ready :-)


Beautiful stained glass door made of hundreds of pantone swatches by Italian architect Armin Blasbichler.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 11th, 2014 at 1:43 am

In theory

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So, I’ve received news today that I’ve passed the theory component of the coaching programme. (But of course — it was easy.)

Unfortunately, I also found out yesterday that the second run of the technical course might not happen in September because of the launch of the new coaching syllabus this August. This means that I have to wait for the NEW technical course which will only be run in March next year, AND since it is based on the new syllabus, I might also have to re-take my theory. SIGH!!

I’m now waiting for the organisers to get back to me about their plans for my cohort. Twiddle thumbs.

Oh well. Guess I’ll have at least 6 months to concentrate on getting my own place. I’ve been distracted enough the first half of the year, and it’s time to get back on track!


Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 10th, 2014 at 12:10 am

And the student becomes the teacher.

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The idea of being a teacher, or to teach, had never appealed to me. I couldn’t imagine myself standing before a class of 40 young faces and talking for hours, much less knowledgeably and confidently in front of an A U D I E N C E. Shudder!

I did however give tuition while I was in school — to earn extra pocket money. I didn’t enjoy it after the initial novelty and the realisation of the practical issues and realities, and it became a dreadful chore. I decided that teaching was just not for me.

When I started working and had to attend various training sessions, I would always feel a little annoyed when the trainer was incompetent, or just bad. I reckon my negative experiences reinforced my ambivalence about teaching. I’ll’d find myself enduring an ineffective trainer and run through the list of do’s and don’ts in my head. (Yes, I’m judgmental like that.)
















It started with me getting back into swimming and constantly looking for ways to improve. And — I didn’t realise this until later — my interest (and obsession, even) was evident to others whenever I talked about swimming. And not a few people suggested that I should teach.

I don’t know at which point my views towards teaching changed. Having more positive experiences helped — I remember going away from a few training courses thinking that was a well-spent break from work that I was sorry to see come to an end; and I was also inspired by great speeches and talks on YouTube and TED. (So, I’m always instinctively judging. Ha. Ha. But you know what? Critique is essential to coaching!) And I thought how nice it would be if I could engage my class the same way.

And over the past decade, I’ve changed as a person. I became less shy about speaking up and sometimes even enjoyed expressing myself, particularly when I saw a ‘wrong’ and just had to make it a ‘right’. While this is certainly a positive change, I think I also need to know when to zip it (ha. ha.) and remember that listening is just as, if not more important. As an aside, I’m working on tempering my eagerness and zeal. While I don’t consciously and intentionally set out to upstage anyone, it can seem insensitive to interrupt another person and make them look lesser, or worse, feel bad about themselves. And I ought not to assume or impose my viewpoint on others especially in situations where it really isn’t about getting things ‘right’ — who’s to say who’s ‘right’ anyway, eh?

I also realised that my ambivalence about teaching was because my thinking processes tended to focus on the negative (my glass was always half-empty) — the inconveniences and difficulties (perceived or otherwise) of teaching, like managing students/strangers, having to spend all my free time preparing for classes, and self-confidence issues.

These negative thoughts still come to me — perhaps it’s just how I’m wired. But I now make an effort to challenge them. And then I think about how to get what I want; the process of planning takes me farther away from my doubts and closer to my goals. I’m enjoying being able to be so passionate about something because I’m not held back by my doubts; I’d rarely been passionate about something (do crushes count? ha. ha.). It’s just wonderful to feel so alive, and to look forward to each day.

Come to think of it, having gone through this process of overcoming my doubts and challenges systematically, was already a form of coaching — with myself as student! It’s funny how life works out.

So, I signed up for a sports coaching programme, hoping not only to become a certified swimming coach, but also to improve my own swimming at the same time. Preparations began late last year — looking up the requirements, planning what needed to be done and how and when, sorting through a few hiccups, getting re-certified in CPR, going back to lifesaving training, working on refining and perfecting my swimming strokes, and registering for the actual coaching programme. I’ve been attending twice-weekly 3-hour lectures after work the past month and will be taking the theory examination this coming Tuesday. Mid-July, I’ll be going for my lifesaving Award of Merit. Sometime in August, there’ll be a selection process in the form of a swimming skills test, to determine who would be accepted into the September intake of the technical programme. And all this is just to attain Level 1 certification, which would enable me to coach sports novices in the community. At the higher levels, coaching would include managing competitive athletes.

It’s keeping me really busy but I’m learning a lot of useful stuff that’s also applicable to other parts of my life, and enjoying myself while I’m at it. And each day, I’m getting closer to my goal :-D


Written by The Intimate Stranger

June 22nd, 2014 at 2:02 am

No limits

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I’ve had 2 lessons of free-diving (2 more to go) from a former competitive free-diver who is now based in Singapore. I’m hoping it’ll help with my breathing, or rather, breath-holding, during sprints. It’s been an interesting experience so far, including learning (or rather, being reminded) that the urge to breathe is due to a build-up of carbon dioxide and not so much (sometimes anyway) the lack of oxygen. And how does this help me? Because I now have a clearer picture of what’s happening with my body, it gives me the ability and confidence to do what I need to do, and to push myself harder, for that extra edge during sprints. And once again, I am struck by how one of the take-home messages always goes back to pushing my limits — you never know what you can do until you try. Obviously, it’s a lesson I’m still learning.

In preparation for renewing my lifesaving certification to qualify for the NCAP, I’ve also done my time trials for the timed tows, and all within less than an hour: Bronze Medallion 2:30 (0:37, 1:53) (non-contact with flotation device); Award of Merit 4:30 (1:35, 2:55) (non-contact with clothes); Distinction Award 5:48 (1:36, 4:12) (contact). I completed the items within the time limits; but I was more pleased about the times I did for the 50 m and 100 m sprints at only about 85% effort, and how I still had enough steam left for the tows. My breathing is much improved for the freestyle and my general endurance (with the consecutive BM, AM and DA sets) is better.

2 more months to go before the swim meet :-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 22nd, 2014 at 11:23 pm

What do you have to lose?

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The point of competition is to compete. It’s to take on the biggest challenge. When you compete against the very best, it makes you better; I don’t care if someone is twenty times better, or one-tenth better. I want to race the best.

I hate to lose. But I was not afraid to lose. I am never afraid to lose.

~ No Limits: The Will to Succeed. Michael Phelps on why he wanted to race in the 200 free in the 2004 Athens Olympics, against world-record holder Ian Thorpe and defending champion Pieter van den Hoogenband. It was not his best event and would jeopardise his quest to win 7 golds.

* * * * *


I will miss the breezy days and cooler temperatures when the Northeast Monsoon ends. Already, the nights have gotten a little warmer and I no longer need to pull on an additional sweater (or 2, at times!) to sleep at night. And the last few days have been gorgeous — blue skies, sunny weather and lovely, oh so lovely, breezes.

But I’m really glad I no longer have to swim in cold water :-P

Yesterday’s swim was a welcome return to more tolerable temperatures after a couple of sunny days. The pool was relatively empty; it was Day 2 of the Chinese New Year and there was maybe slightly more than 10 people there to tan or swim.

And I got paced during my set of 1000 m freestyle.

I had started my set about half a lap behind him. Shortly after, he changed his pace and caught up from behind; he stayed just slightly ahead, and at the turns, he would pause a while underwater, feet planted on the wall and facing my way, eyeballing me before he pushed off. He increased his pace after a few laps and widened our gap to a body length, and then two.

It’s not unusual for stronger swimmers or regulars to get paced by (or pace) strangers at the pool. Swimming is largely a solitary sport and it can get dull at times, especially if you don’t incorporate variety, or some kind of challenge, into your work-outs. Sometimes though, it’s just nice to have some ‘company’ or something else to focus on during long swims.

I’ve seen him around in the evenings, doing laps. His strokes could be neater, his streamline and kick could be improved, and he’s not in the best shape, but he’s strong, and he’s tried pacing me before.

I didn’t meet his challenge yesterday. My right palm was starting to cramp (??!!!) and my back was stiff and sore. And I didn’t want to lose. 

So, I chose not to pull harder and faster, or to increase the tempo of my kicks. I chose to swim at my pace and he gave up trying to pace me.

I conceded, by assuming defeat. However, to me, it would never be a definitive loss. Or so I’ll’d like to convince myself. You can say I’ve already lost by not even trying but in my warped psyche, an alternative reality in which I triumph remains to be proven otherwise. I hate losing. But more than that, I fear losing. I am afraid of facing failure — my failure, proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

* * * * *


When I got home and downloaded the swim data from my Garmin watch, I saw that I had swum each lap more than 2 seconds slower than my usual pace. Hmmm. I reckoned that my strokes and streamline must have been off. And I also realised that I could have kept up with the stranger.

And even if he had then cranked up the pace, which he seems to have the capacity for, so what if I lost?

What is there to lose? Indeed.

This was just an inconsequential, impromptu race at a swimming pool. But it is a symptom of something much bigger — my fear of losing, and not knowing how to deal with failure. I take myself too seriously. (Burden of the first-born?)

As I look back at the many times in my life that I’ve backed off from a challenge, or anything at all, I realise that I really had little, if not nothing to lose. There is no shame in losing. There is however, regret in never knowing for sure, and how far I can go. The loss is not (always) an end in itself.

There are certainly worse things than losing. It’s not seeing and realising my ability to rise up to a challenge, the courage to dream and dare, and belief in myself — that a loss does not define me but it is how I respond to it that does; and more importantly, that I can win, for real.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 2nd, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Old flames

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50m breaststroke 0:?? (gold)
100m breaststroke ?:?? (gold)
50m freestyle 0:?? (gold)

50m breaststroke 0:49.5
100m breaststroke 1:50

50m freestyle 0:36

6 Apr 2013:
50m breaststroke 0:49.1

27 Oct 2013:
50m breaststroke 0:47.26
100m breaststroke 1:46.93
50m freestyle 0:35.09

17 Nov 2013:
50m breaststroke 0:46.02
50m freestyle 0:34.81


* * *

I started swimming regularly again around the beginning of 2011, what with all that free time in between jobs and not knowing what else to do with myself. That respite helped me to regain some stamina, which I had lost over the years — I could barely swim a few laps continuously, and only on the breaststroke. By April 2011, I had pushed myself to 60 laps, before exhaustion and pain took me out.

Soon after, I found another job. I continued swimming but only sporadically because I could not sustain the interest. Instead I did a lot of yoga, finding comfort in the meditative practice as I tried to regain my footing in life. I also did some modern dance but stopped after some months because I just couldn’t remember the moves and it just wasn’t me. Trying to stay ‘busy’ and distract myself from less happy thoughts, I picked up Muay Thai next, which I still do, as well as roller-blading on weekends.

Perhaps it was the excitement of the London Summer Olympics in July-August 2012 that got me thinking again about regaining my old form. I was already looking out for adult advanced classes but the only coaching available was one-on-one. Then a friend from diving, who is also a part-time swimming/first aid/scuba-diving instructor, started a small adult class of 4 for mixed levels in October. We worked mostly on fine-tuning techniques, and it improved the efficiency of my strokes significantly.

On 1 January 2013, I completed 100 laps of breaststroke. It was surprisingly easy and marked the start of a very productive year in the pool :-)

In late February, there was a call for swimmers to participate in the annual inter-agency meet. I signed up, with much trepidation, for a single event — the 50m breaststroke; I couldn’t yet swim the freestyle comfortably (which frustrated me greatly), much less sprint a whole lap without possibly just dying halfway. I submitted a personal best of 0:52, which was the third fastest time in 2012 for the Women’s Veteran category. So I figured I wouldn’t do too badly, just as long as I didn’t come in last! And that, was my very simple goal for the meet. Heh. And I had just 1 month to train.

So I swam, almost everyday. There were a couple of group training sessions with the team from my agency — 5 guys, one of whom used to be a school swimmer. He had been participating in the annual meet for several years and was in his mid-40s. And, he was still fast enough to win races. Wow, huh. There was a former national swimmer and a dragon-boater who had also competed in previous meets. The other 2 were new to the agency and the annual meet, like me. A sixth guy who swam the year before, was a no-show as he was training for a biathlon.

On the morning of the meet, I languished for almost 3 hours before my event was called. There were 10 entries for the Veteran Women’s 50m breaststroke and I was scheduled to swim in Heat 1 with last year’s winner, a former national swimmer. By then, I was thoroughly worn out by anxiety. The resulting hyperfocus narrowed my field of vision and blunted my sensory perception — I remember jumping in and surfacing and not seeing anyone… ???… !!!!!… okayyy… and swimming in this strange vacuum of sound. I also remember fighting to hang on past the 25m mark, the ragged gasps for air, and the awlful, awlful pain as I struggled to keep kicking and pulling, even as I weakened rapidly. I finished second in 0:49.1, more than 5s behind the leader. But I didn’t know yet if I would get a medal; I managed to beat Heat 2’s winner by 0.88s for a silver, and was only 1 of 2 who swam under 0:50.

Winning a medal — and the silver — ignited the Arian in me. I was amazed that I had improved on my time of 0:49.5 back in 1988. Wow. This gave me the momentum and motivation to continue swimming. I knew that I could do better and I was already thinking about the next annual meet.

There was no turning back from then on. Half a year later, I went on to swim in 2 more races and picked up 2 more silvers, 1 bronze and 2 golds.

But even as I made steady improvements in my times, I realised just how slow I was when I was younger! No wonder I didn’t get far! Laugh. I blame it on poor technique and lack of mental preparation before races.

Of course it’s been harder in some ways. The challenge is mostly physical. I am more than twice as old, and the body takes a long time to recover. As a working adult, I can’t train as much as I would like, though for someone who needs to work for a living, I’ve been really fortunate to be able to spend as much time as I have at the pool.

But, older, wiser and more self-reliant now, I’ve been proactive about getting back into competitive swimming and looking for races to gain experience. While my parents were happy about my swimming, their support stopped there. Come to think of it, I am now the same age as they were when I swam in my first school meet.

The internet has made training videos and other useful resources really easy to get hold of. (Thank you, internet!) Regular yoga has given me better breath control, flexibility and body intelligence, which help with fine-tuning technique. It also doesn’t hurt that I can afford nicer gear (grin) and regular massages which loosen tight muscles, and help with recovery of overworked bits.

In a way, I’m resuming ‘unfinished business’. I stopped competitive swimming after the first year of junior college. The swim club wasn’t particularly active and since the girls’ relay team didn’t have enough swimmers, it wasn’t possible to continue participating in invitational meets organised by other schools. My JC was also more known for its track and field. Not surprisingly, it didn’t have its own swim meet. But what really annoyed me was how this reared its ugliness in our Physical Education teachers’ disinterest in the weekly PE classes if it was swimming or even gymnastics, both of which I enjoyed. Quite a number of swimming classes were cancelled because of rain but when it was time for running, we were made to continue!

While I could have continued on my own, I didn’t know how and was too shy to ask around or grab the few opportunities that did come my way. And, with the A-levels looming and important life-changing decisions to be made, my depression also got worse and I became more withdrawn.

When I finally got into the University, I joined the Lifesaving Club and being in a team again was good. I can’t remember when I stopped but there were many distractions — the online community and gaming.

I’ve always thought about racing again but didn’t think there were opportunities for older non-elite swimmers. I had missed the one window to explore my potential and I thought that was that. Well, it’s certainly a case of better late than never!

I don’t know if I could have gone back to swimming much earlier (read: younger and stronger). Who can say, eh? In my 20s, post-graduation, certainly not. Work kept me occupied and I was in a relationship that went nowhere and I was mostly in a rut. Sigh! In my 30s and newly single, I was just coming to terms with the earlier wasted years, doing things I would never have done, enjoying new experiences, people and places, and finding myself. Along the way, I fell back into a rut again. What can I say, it’s a nice and cozy rut. Grin. I was also gaming, too much. I did start getting more regular exercise though — yoga, mostly.

Then the mid-life crisis sent me rock-bottom. It took a while to sort out the mess and work on unresolved issues. But life is okay again — the rut still looks mighty cozy but I’ve learnt to climb out more often. Baby steps.

I haven’t been this passionate about something for a really long time, and I’ve certainly not sustained an interest for as long as I have (me and my short attention span). Having a goal to work towards, to know what it feels like and what it takes, has made me think about the other things that I would like to do, and to improve my life. I like to think that I’ve swum my way out of the rut :-) Getting back into swimming has meant I’ve less time and this has forced me to be more selective and thoughtful about how I spend my time. I’ve started reading again by setting aside proper pockets of uninterrupted time. And I’m writing regularly once more. As the writers will tell you, practice is important, and never stop writing. Swimming is also helping me to manage my anxiety and confidence issues. So hey, many birds, one stone. What’s not to love? ;-)

Honestly, I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this. It’s certainly taking up a lot of my time and energy. I suppose for as long as the flames are alive, or until some other goal drives me in another direction…

Wherever my dreams shall lead me :-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

December 31st, 2013 at 11:59 pm


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I have no New Year Resolutions for 2014. Or goals. Or whatever people want to call it just to extract something out of me.

I answer only to myself.

I’m just tired of making/announcing resolutions that I mostly do nothing about, and then getting upset as the year comes to an end and I have nothing to show. Or, having my resolutions judged for that matter. Seriously??

But I do know what I’ll be doing in the months ahead.

I want.

And so I do.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

December 28th, 2013 at 2:33 am