When you’re a young child and your parents take you to the swimming pool, they might start you out in the kiddie pool – it’s shallow, it’s warm and feels good and it’s safe for you. You can splash around there and the security of mommy being nearby is reassuring. As you grow older you eventually step over the little wall that separates the pools and enter the big pool. Still you stay down at the shallow end. The water is deeper and maybe you can actually swim a little now; however, it is comforting to know that if you tire, you can put your feet down and stand up.
Still later in life, most eventually venture into the deep end. Maybe you have floatees or swim noodles on the first time into those uncharted water, but you soon cast those off, embarrassed to require them now that you are swimming with the big boys. In the deep end, you must be able to swim because you can no longer touch the bottom with your feet. It is in this end that you can get into real trouble. It is in this end that your struggles and panic can drag others down with you. This is the deep end. This is life.
People grow and mature in body and mind at different rates, especially when looking at emotional maturity. The swimming pool experience provides a good metaphor for life. Some never leave the kiddie pool emotionally or perhaps don’t venture any further into emotional relationships than the shallow end where they can safely stand up and walk back away. A few never want to lose track of mommy and some cling to their emotional floatation devices forever. Listen to groups of teenage girls or even women
talking about their relationships and you’ll soon hear a litany of descriptions of boys and men who are still in the kiddie pool emotionally or who refuse to go beyond the shallow end in their relationships. These are usually frustrated women who are looking for guys who are willing to commit to the deep end of life with them, ready to discard their insecurities (and floatees) and commit to swimming together with them in a deep commitment to life together.
Sure they could go back to the shallow end and enjoy some meaningless physical relationship and maybe even have some fun for a time. Some do from time to time. And maybe they’ve had an experience with an insecure partnert clinging to them and trying to drag them down when they ventured into the deep end and struggled to keep afloat. Eventually one finds that partner who is not afraid in the deep end and who provides the mutual support to help keep both of you afloat. That requires an ability to let down one’s guard and to be emotionally open. Like the game where you turn around, close your eyes and fall backwards, trusting that your partner will catch you and not let you be hurt; swimming in the deep end means swimming together with that level of openness and trust. That’s a hard, hard thing for many guys and for many women, too.
As you assess where you are in life emotionally, especially if you are in a relationship that is at that step-off point to the next level; ask yourself if you are ready for the deep end with this person? Are you willing to take off the floatees that you have been comfortable with – the guarded independent image that you have of yourself, the rock, the island image (Simon & Garfunkel had a song about that) – and instead open your heart and your mind to allow the new experiences that wait in the deep end of life. One cannot truly experience life until he can let go of “me” and fully embrace the concept of “we”. That’s what defines the deep end of life. Once you have tasted life at its fullest in that end of the pool of life, the shallow end will never be anything but that – shallow. Dive into the deep end of life!