It was the last lap, my heart was pounding, my back muscles were killing me and I still had about 10 meters to swim in order to finish the last lap. I was giving my best to reach the end of the pool and at the same time worrying I wouldn't make it in time and just as I was thinking about that, the referee ended the 2016 Swimathon edition. A few seconds later I touched the pool's wall, got my head out of the water and found out that my lap was counted after all. I was wet and cold, my whole body was aching and I enjoyed every moment of it. I was proud to have lived it and finished it together with my colleagues and friends from Code932: Andrei, Speedy, Lazucu, Alex and Liviu. We did 45 laps together in one hour and we managed to raise a considerable amount of money which went to charity. This is one memory I will cherish until dementia will set in.
Flash back 2 years before...
I was going up the stairs to my apartment on the second floor panting and sweating. I opened the door, came in and sat on a chair in my bedroom to rest from such an "ordeal", I lit up a cigarette and felt sorry for myself. I was a mess, always tired from just the tiniest amount of physical activity, lazy as fuck, low self esteem and going nowhere. I spent most of my days coding for fun, watching TV shows and day dreaming of a better future - which wasn't going to happen just by imagining it (spoiler alert: "The Secret" is full of shit). Going out was a stressful activity due to my social anxiety, and as such I was avoiding it at all costs, unless I was hanging out with close friends which made me feel safe, so meeting new people and trying out new activities was a "no go". As you can imagine, that present was looking pretty bleak from where I was standing.
I wanted a change but I didn't have a clue where to start and how to do it. One of the few joys during that time was work. I was fortunate to be working in an environment which made me laugh most days and made me feel like I was worth something. People were listening to my ideas and gave a damn about the knowledge I had acquired up to that point. One day during the summer of 2014 I came to realize that some of the people working there weren't just my colleagues, but also my friends.
Some of them were talking at one point about swimming at a local pool in Iasi and bragging about how many laps they made that morning (I think it was Remus - which ironically wasn't even working for Code932 but was hanging around the office enough time to consider him part of the company) and got me thinking about the fact that I love water and swimming. Even though I wasn't very good at swimming, the thought of it gave me hope that I could face some of my fears at that time and start going in the right direction. So one day Andrei told us he got a discount which we could use at that pool and I said: ”fuck it! I'll do it.” I was really anxious about it since this was the first time I was trying to do something new by myself.
That autumn I signed up for a full year membership along with Speedy and one morning I got up really early and went for a swim. I remember anxiously walking to the pool and meeting Bogdan on the way, he was going to work early that day. Then came the dread of changing in my swimming suit in the locker room which was full of strangers and finally going to the pool. It looked huge to me, even though it had only 16 meters in length and the smell of chlorine was overwhelming, but I was excited; I got in right away and started to swim "freestyle" - that's what I thought at that time, but in reality I looked like a freshly decapitated chicken which was struggling in its own blood. Nevertheless, I was feeling a sense of accomplishment and I was happy. I barely swam two laps before being completely tired and had to rest, but I enjoyed every moment of it; all in all, I guess I swam only 160 meters during that one hour session but I was determined to keep going and get better at it.
During the following 3 months I was swimming for at least 2 days a week and spending nights watching swimming lessons and tutorials online so I could improve my technique and swim longer and faster. I could swim an easy variation of breaststroke for many laps but I struggled with freestyle and that was were I wanted to improve. I remember telling myself that until I mastered freestyle swimming I wouldn't be telling many people that I knew how to swim.
Time passed and those two laps of freestyle turned into four and instead of resting by the pool I was doing breaststroke in order to catch my breath. Needless to say I saw progress, and that small progress gave me the boost of confidence I needed to do some more changes in my life.
I quit smoking and started working out 3 times a week: push ups, pull ups, crunches, triceps dips were my weapons of choice, along with other exercises which I could do at home without weights: calisthenics they call it. Then I added weights to my program: 2 dumbbells which I used for biceps curls and a really heavy backpack which I strapped around my back while doing triceps dips between two old armchairs in my bedroom.
The weight of the backpack was coming from the spare change I saved while buying cigarettes - years of smoking made me save around 400 RON (almost $100) in spare change. Finally smoking paid off.
A few more months down the line and things were looking good: I was feeling healthy, swimming 10 laps of freestyle without a break and my attitude towards life changed for the better and some people noticed this and encouraged me to continue on my path to self development. This had a snowball effect which grew my appetite for self improvement.
At this point I have to pause the story and mention the fact that my progress was a direct result of the environment and the people I was surrounded by. Roxana Raducu started weekly meetings about self development, Andrei opened my appetite for reading and Daniela helped me a great deal with my anxiety issues. From my perspective, at that time most of us wanted to better ourselves professionally and personally and as a result Code932 grew with us and through us. Up until then I held the belief that I didn't need other people to help me improve my life, but I was wrong. I'm sure there are individuals who manage to get their life in order without outside help, but surrounding yourself with people who share the same goals and moral values sure does help a lot, and I'm thankful to have met such people.
Now back to the story...
In 2015 I found out about Swimathon, a charity event for amateur swimmers. Anybody who could stay afloat could join, raise money for the charity projects involved and swim. I was bad at the money raising part but I was getting good enough for the latter. So that year I set a goal for 2016 to join and be part of that experience. I trained at least two times a week, doing technical and endurance drills and I got to a point where I could swim 1.5 kilometers in a single swimming session mostly freestyle. Things were good.
2016 came and I pitched the Swimathon idea to Andrei and we joined: myself, Andrei, Speedy, Liviu, Alex and Lazucu. We trained a few times together at the pool where the event was going to take place and Speedy who was the team leader devised a strategy on how to tackle the laps and rest in between so we wouldn't all tire ourselves. The training and the event itself were a fun experience, especially the barbeque after the race, courtesy of Dragos.
Swimathon became a tradition in Code932, we participated in the 2017 edition as well, and I expect us to continue to do so this year as well.
I won't end this story with a happy ending, because life is not perfect, my interest in swimming has decreased in the recent months, and I postponed my goal to participate in a triathlon. I started smoking again, and I'm not happy about it, but I sense a new change is coming and it won't be long until I make that happen again, given the fact that I’ve been through this before. I picked up other interests like mountain biking and flying quadcopters and since I started this path of change I have met a lot of interesting people who made me reshape my view of the world and life in general.
Change is within you, all you have to do is think positive and surround yourself with people who share the same values and can help you make it happen.