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Advancing through adversity

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Each Tuesday and Thursday for six months of the year, my mornings begin at 4:45 am. Each Tuesday and Thursday, the strident sound of my alarm wakes me, beckoning me to yet another morning swim practice. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I dread the moment when my body is chilled to the bone by the cold, chlorinated water of the Forest Hills Aquatic Center.

This great feat that I must conquer every morning could quite possibly be one of the hardest obstacles for me to overcome in my day-to-day life. While it may not seem like much to some, each plunge into the depths of the pool deteriorates my mental health one morning at a time.

It is likely that many people are experiencing something like this in their lives. Whether it be a stressful job, a difficult class, or simply a commonplace struggle of the average teenager, lots of things in life are tough. Challenges are ever present in everyday life, but there’s one thing that getting up before the crack of dawn has taught me: all bad things have two sides to them, and that opposite side is inherently good.

It all comes back to the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang: the daunting inseparability of all things opposite. This principle, dating back to 3rd century BCE, provides me with a sliver of comfort during my cold and early mornings. This idea that all bad things must eventually reveal themselves to something beneficial allows me to think of my morning swims not as a punishment, but rather as an opportunity for growth.

For example, studies have shown that cold water boosts the immune system, increases circulation, releases endorphins, burns more calories, and lessens stress (although, I’m not sure about that one). All of these exemplify how the seemingly tortuous routine of entering the cold, overly chlorinated, cyan water can be turned into a journey of bettering my health and wellness.

Although not everyone is able to relate to my poolside struggles, each and every person can derive a common lesson from these teachings. For me, this means knowing that as I roll out of bed to swim, I am bettering myself through this arduous challenge. For others, this meaning could differ; however, the collective messages remain the same: look into the face of adversity with courage and hold tight to the knowledge that better things are on their way.   

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Advancing through adversity