Two weeks ago Carmen, a single mother of 5, got into a YMCA pool for her first swimming lesson. It took all of Carmen’s courage to do it. I was there to witness it with her 10-year-old daughter Marisol.
But Carmen told me she was determined because she’s spent the last 7 years daring herself to change her life, to turn it around after a terrible mistake.
She did 5 years in prison for selling drugs.
She admits it was stupid. She admits she succumbed to pressure and her environment. She says prison was a nightmare.
She could have “drowned” behind bars, sinking into the worst version of herself. Instead, she promised herself she’d pull herself up to breathe fresh air, create a new life where she didn’t have to hide or lie; create a life where she could be a role model to her children.
Today, Carmen is about to be the first in her family to graduate from college.
She’ll have a Bachelor’s in criminal justice. She volunteers, visiting female inmates, telling her story and inspiring them to do what she’s doing; moving courageously toward change.
She just quit smoking. She’s working on creating a healthier diet for her and her family.
When she saw the Independence Blue Cross Fearless First Contest Carmen said she entered on a whim. Learning to swim was on her “to-do” list. Marisol pushed her. It was no surprise to her, her mom was picked. Her mom is her hero.
I was just there to coach and inspire. I knew nothing of Carmen’s history before I met her. When I told her I did something new every day for a year, she shared all the new things SHE was doing in HER life. I was so moved by her passion and her determination, her story.
“You can tell my story”, she said.
“I have nothing to hide.”
Her biggest challenge now? To find a job in criminal justice despite her criminal record.
That does not get washed away despite all of her good deeds and achievements. I’m hoping; okay maybe I’m asking for someone reading this to give her a break.
All I can tell you is it felt like a gift, to watch Carmen fight her fear, lean back into the arms of an instructor and float on her back for the first time in her life. She felt courageous and I felt inspired.
Swimming lessons? I think I just got one.